Craving a soda? What to drink instead

Craving a soda? What to drink instead

This month, voters in Berkeley, Calif., registered a first: They passed the nation’s first soda tax.

In recent years voters in dozens of other cities and states have attempted soda taxes through ballot initiatives or legislation, but those efforts were unsuccessful. In Berkeley, the measure will levy a penny-per-ounce tax on most sugar-sweetened beverages. The tax primarily targets sodas, energy drinks and pre-sweetened teas. Supporters estimate it will raise more and $1 million a year, with proceeds earmarked for health programs as determined by a panel that will advise the City Council.

Now that such a tax has been approved in one city, some supporters believe other municipalities will come on board. One advocate, California Center for Public Health Advocacy Executive Director Harold Goldstein, believes when voters in other cities learn the truth about sugary beverages they’ll support a tax, too.

But when it comes to sugar-sweetened drinks, just what is the truth? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sugary drinks have been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and, in adults, Type 2 diabetes.

The American Heart Association reports that sugary beverages contribute to excess body weight, which increases the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. In a scientific statement on Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health, the association recommends that most American women should eat or drink no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, and most American men should eat or drink no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars. For reference, one 12-ounce can of cola contains eight teaspoons of added sugar for 130 calories.

But knowing the facts and kicking the habit are two different things. Just ask anyone who has tried to quit smoking. Sometimes the urge to satisfying that craving is just too powerful to ignore. That’s where health and wellness experts can help. They can offer advice and encouragement to those eager to cut back on sodas, pre-sweetened teas and other sugary drinks.

Jamie Portnoy, a registered dietitian for Advocate Condell Wellness Services and the Advocate Weight Management program in Libertyville, Ill., says she recommends adding fruits or vegetables to water to make it more appealing.

“If you are craving something sweet, try adding orange slices or strawberries. At most it is going to add 10 calories,” she says. “Or be creative and add mint leaves, lemon, lime, different berries or spices.”

What if you don’t want to take time to use fresh produce? Portnoy has a suggestion for that, too.

“You can use Crystal Light to sweeten up your drink,” she says. “Another alternative I generally recommend in the summer is to take Crystal Light and shake it up with water, place some in a paper cup and freeze it. Then you have a non-caloric popsicle that still hits that sugar spot.”

Why is drinking water so important? Benefits include:

  • Regulating body temperature.
  • Removing waste from the body.
  • Carrying nutrients, oxygen and glucose to the cells for energy.
  • Providing natural moisture to skin and other tissues.
  • Cushioning joints and helping to strengthen muscles.
  • Promoting soft stools.

Portnoy says a person should consume half of his body weight in ounces of non-caloric, decaffeinated fluids per day up to 128 ounces. For example, a man who weighs 250 pounds should drink 125 ounces of water per day. At least 64 ounces must come from pure water.

Beverages could include water mixed with light drink mixers, caffeine-free colas, sugar-free flavored waters and decaffeinated coffee and tea. Furthermore, a person should not drink more than two cups (16 ounces) of caffeinated beverages per day, according to Portnoy.

“Aim to drink 64 ounces of water each day,” she says. “Water is part of every body cell, tissue, organ and body process.”

Portnoy suggests setting aside a container large enough to hold a full day’s recommended amount of water and draw from it throughout the day.

“See how close you come to your target,” she says. “Use a daily tracker to help keep you accountable.”

Related Posts



  1. It’s very interesting how California passed the first soda tax law, but in a way this topic will bring awareness how much sugar are in these drinks for your health.

    • You need government to levy an unnecessary tax on a product to raise “awareness’ to what it is in it??? That is why the federal government mandates ingredients and nutritional content.

      • Good point, Jefferson, but there’s more money to be had from taxes than there is mandates. And if history is any guide, sooner or later, those tax revenues earmarked for health programs will be “borrowed” for something completely unrelated. You watch.

  2. Ernst Lamothe Jr November 12, 2014 at 9:31 am · Reply

    I have known people who have lost weight just by reducing their soda intake even without exercising.

  3. Lynn Hutley

    It will be interesting to see if the tax is a deterrent or if it just increases funding for health initiatives.

    • Earth to Lynn. . . neither will happen. What Berkeley did was simply find another revenue source. See, when you tax cigarettes to the point that little “sin” tax is generating, those same anti-American ideal politicians need to find a subsequent source to pay for pet projects, even balance general operations. We all lose when government levies tax in this fashion. Regardless of whether or not it was “supported’ by voters. Sit tight. Soda tax collection in Berkeley will eventually fall as consumer purchase elsewhere. The shortfall will be made up by way of taxing a different food product. Likely candy or snack cakes.

  4. Not sure why Ms. Troher is letting High Fructose Corn Syrup off the hook, calling sodas “sugary” drinks. It’s pretty well known that pure sugar, although bad enough, isn’t nearly as harmful as HFCS. Replacing HFCS with cane sugar is starting to take hold somewhat due to consumer demand. In Mexico, and I think some other countries, HFCS is actually illegal. Imagine that! But here, in the good ‘ol US of A, lobbying keeps the HFCS well gushing profits. And besides, a healthy society doesn’t generate as much revenue for the health industry as sick ones do.

    • I like this Knickalls guy. One of the few who posts who actually turns on their brain and has the ability to critically think.

      One point, however, missing in the HFCS debates – although since we hail from Illinois – home of ADM and Corn Products International – we should really be championing said sweetener – is the how the sugar cartel in the United States presses the federal government to keep sugar prices artificially high. The effect is either sending manufacturing to Mexico or Canada (this has decimated Chicago as one-time candy capital of the world) or encouraging “alternatives” like HFCS. Classic instance of unintended consequences.
      One of several article out there that discuss this;

  5. Katie Renz

    I am a huge fan of LaCroix. It’s still carbonated and sweet like soda but doesn’t have any sugar.

  6. Interesting, but no mention of where alcoholic beverages fit in (or shouldn’t fit in)??

  7. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    I agree with Lacroix which is a good idea. Another great alternative to soda is buying some mineralwater, soda water, carbonated water, etc. and adding just a little splash of some juice, with some water added to reduce the fizz. This gives some of the bubbly satisfaction of soda without so much sugar. Alternatively, you can use the carbonated water, and add some Agave syrup (about 1 tsp or 2 = 15 to 30 calories) and some lemon juice or fresh squeezed lime, and have a better drink than the 140 calorie sprites. No need to have artificial sweeteners which leave a bad aftertaste and probably do more harm than good. Also no need for the caffeine which has a variety of bad health effects.

  8. This would be more helpful if it actually addressed what people are craving when they crave soda. For me, it’s not necessarily the sweet alone, but also the carbonation. Some people find carbonated water to be helpful. I like taking carbonated water and putting a small amount of Crystal Light in it.

  9. Well, it’s time for a wake-up. The addiction to sugar is very strong. Mostly, alcoohol is prohibit( see Illinois laws regarding drinking and driving and other restrictions age lited, etc.). See also Utah state laws… It will be very difficult to enforce “sugar rehab”. The cultures are embedded in excessive sugar. It’s a stress relief for a lot of people. Educate, educate, educate…..

About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.