Sodas, sports drinks, sweetened coffees, and other sweet drinks are the largest contributor of added sugar intake to our diets. It may be challenging to cut out sweetened drinks completely due to cravings, deeply-ingrained habits, and even caffeine and/or sugar withdrawal. If you are not ready to cut out sweet beverages cold turkey, you can still get on the right track by cutting your consumption in half.

Studies have recently found that sweetened beverages lead to weight gain because when we consume sugary beverages – known as liquid calories — we don’t “compensate” for the calories by eating less food later in the day, the way we do when we eat solid foods. Read about this, and more from the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter: Soft Drinks and Your Health.

Try not to replace your current beverage choices with fruit juice or artificially sweetened beverages. Although fruit juice may be made of 100% real fruit, it still contains a high amount of sugar. “Diet” beverages and other drinks with artificial sweeteners aren’t a good choice either because they may still promote sugar cravings and have other unknown effects on the body.

One 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar. See how much sugar is in your favorite beverage (hint: either options to convert to teaspoons — count the number of sugar cubes, divide the calories from sugar by 16, or divide grams of sugar by 4).

Tips to help you be successful

  • Make water convenient. Keep it in a pitcher in your fridge, keep a reusable bottle on your desk, and bring a refillable bottle with you wherever you go. To start the day right, try to drink 1-2 glasses of water in the morning before you leave for work.
  • Keep sweetened beverages in a place that is harder to see or reach. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • Add a slice of lemon or lime to your water, or add fruit and let chill for a few hours for an infused water (berries, citrus, mint, cucumbers, etc.)
  • Drink sparkling water if you prefer a fizzy drink. Flavor it with lemon or lime if desired.
  • Drink tea. Green tea and black tea contain caffeine, which may actually make the transition easier if you are weaning yourself off of caffeine-containing sweetened beverages such as cola, sweetened coffees, and sweetened teas. If you are ready to cut out caffeine, try herbal teas (naturally caffeine-free) or decaffeinated teas.
  • Add less or no sugar to your coffee. If you are really struggling to cut your sweetened coffee intake in half, start by cutting the amount of sugar you add to your usual amount of coffee in half. You could also experiment with a mixture of regular and decaf coffee.
  • Make a list of your reasons for cutting back on sugar. This may help you stay motivated over the next 21 days. Reasons may include reducing sugar intake, reducing caffeine intake, saving money, etc.
  • Make a list of distractions. When you get a craving for a sweet drink, utilize one of the distractions from your arsenal, such as drinking water, going for a walk or calling a friend.

See Health*Matters Resources to learn more about sugar in the food and beverages you consume.