Are you constantly chugging soda or sweetened beverages like tea and sugary coffees? Maybe you like cocktails or fruit drinks. Most of these come loaded with extra sugar or calories without filling you up. Not only do the added calories add pounds but the sugar content wrecks your metabolism, which can lead to metabolic diseases like diabetes or Alzheimer’s. To add insult to injury, these confections can even disrupt your body’s natural appetite signaling, short-circuiting the chemical messengers that tell your brain you’re full and to stop eating or drinking, causing you to eat more than you would with healthy chemical signaling.
Here are 7 ways to cut back or change your drinking habits for better health.
#1 – Switch to Smoothies or Juices
If you have a sweet tooth or sugar craving, then you’ll want to switch to something similarly sweet but a bit healthier to help lessen the cravings and break them over time. Fruit smoothies and 100% fruit juices are great ways of doing this. While fruit juices lack fiber and other benefits, they’re sweet enough to satiate your sweet tooth but difficult to chug. This means you’ll naturally drink less of them. Both smoothies and juices are portable, making them easy to carry or stock.
Fruit smoothies are even better. They’re sweet, which will hit the spot, but carry a lot of their whole foods health benefits. Better, you can mix them with greens, nut butters, and so many other ingredients that you’ll provide your stomach with a fuller feeling while boosting your nutrition intake. This will also help reset appetite-signalling to your brain so that you start feeling full, unlike when chugging sodas and other sugary or processed beverages. Check out my article Breakfast & Dessert Made Simple: Smoothie Basics.
#2 – Unsweetened Teas or Coffees
If you’re addicted to caffeine, switching to unsweetened teas or coffees might be the way to go. This way you’ll get your caffeine fix without the added sugars and calories of sodas and similar beverages. Just don’t doctor them too much with milk and sugar, though milk is better than sugar if you do need to flavor them. Personally I like to add cinnamon and cardamon to my coffee grounds. When it comes to creamers, I occasionally use coconut milk or other vegan milks like oat milk or almond milk, keeping down the sugar count that occurs naturally in regular milk.
#3 – Drink More Water & Flavored Water
You could of course try drinking more water. A number of people aren’t water fans though. If this is you, flavoring sparkling water is really easy for a soda-like feel. Steer clear of the chemical-laden “flavorings” you drop into your water. Instead, use real juice. Lime or lemon juice are perfect for a Sprite, 7-Up or Sierra Mist feel and flavor. 100% fruit juices add wonderful flavors to carbonated soda water, though I’ve been known to use the left over juices from my homemade fruit cups to flavor my waters. Experiment to see what works for you.
#4 – Soups
Low calorie soups might help slow your cravings. For instance, miso soup is easy to prepare in seconds and is low in calories while actually being a probiotic. Other light soups can help you feel full. Just skip the ones laden with too much salt.
#5 – Eat Breakfast
This might seem counter-intuitive but eating breakfast might cut down your cravings, especially if you’re a person who drinks sugary coffees over breakfast in the morning or reaches for a soda pick me up around mid-morning or before lunch. Eating breakfast can help you feel full, as well as give you energy to get through the morning. Just make sure it’s a healthy breakfast based on whole foods. Refined carbs like bagels, pastries and most cereals will just put you on a blood sugar spiking roller coaster that will have you reaching for that drink once the rush fades in an hour or two.
#6 – Eat More Protein
Research shows that protein helps us feel fuller than carbs or fat. Even eating nuts is associated with weight loss, not weight gain, due to being high in protein. Eggs, beans, meat, and veggie or vegan proteins are satisfying and keep us from reaching for snacks or drinks.
#7 – Replace With a Healthy Snack
Why waste the empty or down right harmful calories on a beverage when you could give your body the nutrition it is actually craving and needing by eating something good for you. Similarly, if you’re bored and grabbing an unhealthy drink to relieve that boredom, grab a healthy snack instead. Fruit and nuts or seeds make quick and easy snacks but even chips and salsa or guacamole are probably better for you than most sugary drinks, so long as you watch their ingredients. Hummus with veggie or whole grain dippers might be a good option too. Most of these snacks actually contain health benefits, including essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and enzymes your body needs to function well. You’re not going to get that from most beverages.
One of the fastest ways to poor health is via drinking processed calories, i.e. sugary beverages like soda, sweetened teas, juice cocktails, and syrupy or sweetened coffees. Not only do these drinks give you empty calories devoid of any real nutrition for your body, they actively sabotage your health by throwing off your metabolic processes and damaging your body’s appetite-hunger chemical messaging.
Take back control by using these seven methods to cut down on your unhealthy beverage consumption. Your body – and probably your waistline – will thank you.
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