Even if you watch what you eat and exercise regularly, clinging to your daily soda habit can quickly torpedo your weight-loss goals. Each can or bottle you drink packs on a surprisingly high amount of calories, while giving you little nutrition or sustenance in return. While it's possible to drink soda daily and still lose weight, you'll find it easier to achieve your goals if you make soda an occasional treat and opt for healthier drinks, such as natural fruit juice, unsweetened tea and water.
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For most people, losing weight boils down to consuming fewer calories than your body uses, forcing it to pull energy from fat storage cells. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that, in order to lose a pound or two per week, you need to cut 500 to 1,000 calories out of your diet per day. The average 12-ounce can of soda contains 150 calories, and a 20-ounce bottle contains about 250 calories. Even if you drink only a single soda every day, cutting it out gives you a good portion of the way toward reducing your calories as needed for weight loss.
A single can of soda has the same amount of calories as larger portions of several healthier snacks. Three peaches, two apples, two oranges or two cups of pineapple all are about equivalent to a can of soda, calorie-wise. If you enjoy an occasional indulgence, you could enjoy a half-cup of ice cream or two small pancakes at the same calorie cost as your can of soda. If you want to work off your soda through exercise, it will take about a half-hour of brisk walking or 15 minutes of jogging or intense aerobics to burn off a single can.
While it's possible to cut enough calories from your diet without changing your soda intake, you might find it difficult. Most of soda's calories come from sugar. A 12-ounce can contains about nine teaspoons of sugar, more than a piece of cake, a slice of pie or four doughnuts. Because your body breaks down sugar quickly, soda will do little to help satisfy hunger, so it will be more difficult for you to cut out other calories from your diet. Additionally, most sodas are made with high-fructose corn syrup. A Feb. 26, 2010, study by Princeton University indicated that long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup caused significantly more weight gain and body fat levels than consumption of the same levels of regular table sugar.
If giving up soda is too much to bear, switching from regular soda to diet soda improves your weight loss prospects somewhat. Diet sodas are flavored with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar and contain virtually no calories. Even so, you should still monitor your total caloric intake carefully and make sure you aren't using diet soda as an excuse to indulge in other unhealthy foods.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Balancing Calories
- University of Missouri Extension: Soft Drinks and Weight Gain
- KidsHealth: How the Body Uses Carbohydrates
- News at Princeton; A Sweet Problem: Princeton Researchers Find That High-Fructose Corn Syrup Prompts Considerably More Weight Gain; Hilary Parker; March 2010
- Newsweek; By The Numbers: The Truth Behind Those Scary Diet-Soda Myths; Kate Dailey; May 2009
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Rethink Your Drink