Free yourself from sugary drinks!

HOW’D YOU DO?

We can’t believe it is already July! With a new month comes a new nutrition challenge, and this month, in 4th of July fashion, we’re declaring our independence from soda and other sweetened beverages! But first, how’d you do with last month’s challenge to make the switch to whole grains? Did you find a product to switch or a new grain to try? We want to hear all about how you’re completing your challenges, so be sure to share with us on social media or in the comments!

THIS MONTH’S CHALLENGE

Okay, so back to this month. I challenge you to decrease your consumption of sweetened beverages. Now, for some of you, this challenge might be easy if you only have the occasional soda. For others who drink it daily or multiple times a day, this may be quite a challenge, especially if you have a small dependence on caffeinated beverages. If this is you, try cutting your consumption in half for the first week of July, and then go cold turkey the rest of the month! I know you can do it.

We’ve been talking about soda, but it’s is not the only beverage driving up sugar consumption. You might be surprised by how much sugar is in other popular beverages, like punch, lemonade, sports drinks, and energy drinks. You might feel like choosing a electrolyte sports drink is a better option, but unless you’re using it to replace fluids during an hour or longer workout, it’s just adding unneeded sugar into your day.

THE BENEFITS

There’s a lot of research on this topic, but we’re just going to summarize it for this article. According to the Center for Disease Control about half of adults, age 20 and older, consume at least one sugar-sweetened drink on any given day. These sugary beverages are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet. While one sugary beverage doesn’t seem like a big deal, they’ve been associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more. Now, this is an association, and I’m not saying the occasional soda is going to destroy your body. In fact, I love soda, and especially enjoy Italian sodas on special occasions, but it’s all about the amount. I love the saying, “The dose makes the poison,” and I think that pertains to sugar. It’s the daily consumption over years that may lead to health problems. So this month, break your dependence, so that in the future, you can enjoy the occasional sweet drink and not be dependent on them daily.  

What about 100% fruit juice? I think moderation is the key, again. While the sugars from fruit juice are natural and are accompanied by vitamins and minerals, they don’t provide all of the nutrients that whole fruits provide, like fiber. I recommend eating the entire fruit, and if you do consume fruit juice, keep it around 4 ounces per day.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

Now some people (like my husband) don’t like plain water. They’ve grown so accustomed to flavored drinks that plain water doesn’t taste good to them. If this is the case, there are ways to flavor your drink without sugar. Some of my favorites are lemons, limes, cucumbers, and cinnamon sticks (not together!). If you love the bubbles (so do I), try sparkling water. We want to see your ideas, so be sure to share how you’re completing this challenge on social media with #ifitnutritionchat. Go ahead—take the challenge and break your dependence on sugary, sweetened beverages!

Megan Ostler, MS, RDN