How (and Why) to Stop Drinking Soda

soda

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Sustainable weight loss is rarely a quick fix. Aside from getting proper nutrition and regular exercise, there is another important factor to consider that can make all the difference in the long term. Quitting soda will not only help you to lose weight but will also improve your health. When consumed on a regular basis, sugary soda and other high-calorie drinks can lead to obesity and even chronic disease.

Calories in soda add up quickly, regardless of the brand you buy. The calories in Coke, for example, are fairly straightforward if you drink a single can. There are 140 calories and 39 grams (10 teaspoons) of added sugar in a single 12-ounce serving. That means Coca-Cola provides about 12 calories per ounce. Most brands of soda have calorie counts that are similar. For instance, the calories in Canada Dry Ginger Ale are about the same and the calories in Pepsi are slightly higher.

Soda calories might not seem that bad when you're just looking at the numbers, but the amount of added sugar in a single 12-ounce can of soda (39 grams) already exceeds the recommended daily allowance, which should be limited to less than 10% of daily calories. The American Heart Association advises that adult women and children over 2 consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day and that adult men limit their intake to no more than 36 grams.

If your soda habit includes a super-sized drink from a fast-food restaurant or convenience store, that means you can easily gulp down several hundred calories and more than 100 grams of sugar in a single sitting, without even consuming any food. Not only can quitting soda promote weight loss, but you'll reap a ton of other important health benefits, too.

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How to Cut Soda and Cut Calories

Weight-Loss Benefits of Quitting Soda

So how much weight can you lose when you stop drinking soda? Calories from soda can quickly add up without adding any valuable nutrition. Compare the numbers in the table below to how many calories you need daily to lose weight. Note that each calculation assumes that you don't replace soda calories with other food or beverage calories.

Serving Size Daily Calories Yearly Calories  Yearly Pounds 
50 oz. (1 7-11 Double Gulp or 4 cans) 600  219,000 60 
40 oz. (1 7-11 Super Big Gulp or 1.2 liters)  480  175,2000  50
30 oz. (1 7-11 Big Gulp or a large soda at McDonald's) 360 131,400 37
20 oz. (1 7-11 Gulp) 240 87,600 25
16 oz. (1 medium-size soda at McDonald's) 192 70,080 20
12 oz. (1 can of soda) 144 52,560 15

What About Diet Soda?

Replacing your regular soda with a diet soft drink is a controversial topic since research shows an association between diet soda consumption and weight gain rather than weight loss. Even low-sugar drinks still have calories.

Artificially sweetened drinks are linked to increased risks for metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. In addition, a recent preliminary study on soda consumption among overweight or obese adolescents found that artificial sweeteners contain potentially addictive properties.

Other studies have shown that eating sweet foods, whether they are naturally or artificially sweetened, increases appetite. So if you replace your regular soda with diet soda, you might be eliminating calories only to replace them again when your sugar craving kicks in. Experts who study artificial sweeteners recommend that it's best to avoid them entirely, if possible, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Health Benefits of Quitting Soda

Cutting back on sweetened soda (and other sugary drinks) not only drastically reduces your intake of added sugar but can improve overall health. Research suggests that overconsumption of sugary drinks is associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes. The science-backed benefits of cutting back on soda include:

  • Better sleep
  • Better dental health
  • Improved energy (especially if you replace your soda with water)
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Improved heart health and/or blood pressure
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis
  • Decreased anxiety, nervousness, and/or depression

And of course, one of the greatest benefits of quitting the soda habit is weight loss. Research shows that reducing soda intake decreases the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

It's not just the calories, extra pounds, and health risks that accumulate over time. A soda generally costs between $2–$3 when you buy it at a fast-food restaurant. While that doesn't seem like a lot of money, it still adds up to about $730-$1,095 over the course of a year.

Calories in Other Sugar Sweetened Beverages

Unfortunately, you're not off the hook if you skip soda but still continue to consume other sugary beverages. There are some soda alternatives that provide just as many calories and just as much added sugar as a sweetened soda.

Sports drinks, for example, seem healthy on the surface. But many of them are full of calories. In fact, consuming a sports drink after exercise can undo the calorie deficit that you worked hard to create. In some cases, however, exercisers do benefit from some ingredients in sports drinks such as electrolytes.

Endurance athletes may need more sodium and potassium. Instead of purchasing sports drinks, you can make your own fluid replacement drink by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a small pinch of salt to a cup of water.

Juice is another high-sugar, high-calorie drink that may lead to weight gain and other health concerns. Juice provides calories that come from natural sugars found in fruit, but fruit juice doesn't provide as many health benefits as eating whole fruit. In some cases, a glass of juice containing added sugar provides just as many calories as soda.

Juices with lower nutritional value include apple juice, white grape juice, and pear juice. Juices with the highest nutritional value include orange juice, purple grape juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, and vegetable juice. Lower sugar juices include tomato juice, vegetable juice, and some cranberry juices (although not cranberry juice cocktail drinks).

How to Stop Drinking Soda

Like many habits, quitting soda can be difficult—even when you know that drinking it is really bad for you. Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can try to help you kick the habit for good and take charge of your health.

Switch to Diet (Temporarily)

Switching to diet soda might be the most gentle step down if you're used to having a full-calorie soda during the day. If you’re accustomed to drinking a Big Gulp of Coke, try having a smaller-sized Diet Coke and several bottles of water instead.

Taper Off

You can gradually decrease the amount of soda (diet or regular) that you drink by gradually increasing your water intake. It may be helpful to slowly taper off rather than going cold turkey. Depending on how much soda you're drinking, you might reduce the amount by 1–2 ounces per day.

For context, a 12-ounce can of soda per day is 84 ounces of soda per week. If you're already drinking less than that, you might try cutting back a percentage of your usual intake instead. You might also try drinking your soda with ice. You'll take in less sugar and calories this way.

Make Water More Appealing

Not a huge fan of water? It becomes easier to switch to an all-water habit once you find a beverage you enjoy that can still feel like a treat. Learn how to make water taste better: add a few berries or lemon or lime slices and fresh herbs like mint.

Since there are no calories in club soda and you prefer a little fizz, you could swap still water for sparkling. Unsweetened teas can be just as refreshing when served over ice. Opt for herbal teas if you're trying to limit your caffeine intake.

Replace and Reduce Caffeine

There is a place for caffeine in a healthy, balanced diet, for many people, but overconsumption of caffeine (more than 400 mg per day) can cause an upset stomach and contribute to anxiety and insomnia.

If you rely on soda as a source of caffeine, you may want to transition to black tea or coffee and then start to cut back gradually. Otherwise, quitting caffeine abruptly can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, nausea, and vomiting.

Determine Your Soda Cues

While old habits can be hard to break, it is possible. Charles Duhigg, author of "The Power of Habit," explains that undesirable behavioral patterns become habitual when there is a trigger-routine-reward cycle. The "trigger" signals a routine or behavior, which is followed by some kind of reward. Duhigg suggests that in order to break a habit, the cue, routine, and reward must be identified.

Because the habit (drinking a can of soda) is usually more obvious than the trigger or reward, it can be harder to pinpoint. But once you determine the reason why you reach for that can of soda and the reward associated with it—whether it's pleasure from a sugar rush or a jolt from the caffeine—you can start to implement small daily changes (such as reaching for lemon-flavored sparkling water instead) to eventually break free from the cycle.

A Word From Verywell

Drinking a sweetened soda, iced tea, or sports drink once in a while is probably not a major concern for most people. We all love to indulge in a sweet treat every now and then, but when it becomes a regular habit, it can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other chronic health concerns.

If weight loss is your primary goal, cutting soda from your diet can be a powerful way to reach it. Just be sure you kick the habit gradually rather than replacing one vice for another. If you swap sugary soda with other high-calorie drinks or foods, you could find yourself back at square one.

By committing to a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can eventually quit your soda habit for good. While it may not be easy in the beginning, try to stay focused on implementing small changes each day to cut back on your intake. Eventually, you’ll start to feel better, have more energy, and be motivated by the positive changes you made to improve your health for the long term.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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