Four ways to reduce soda consumption

Proposed ban not likely to change behaviors

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the sale of any sugary beverage more than 16 ounces in the city’s restaurants, delis, movie theaters and street carts may be well-intentioned, but Connie Diekman, RD, past president of the American Dietetic Association (now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) believes it will do little to reverse the U.S. obesity epidemic.

Changing people’s behaviors related to soft drink consumption is an important public health step, however, Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, says that banning certain sizes may make the beverages — as “forbidden fruit” — even more desirable.

“Clearly consuming too many calories from sugar-sweetened beverages, whether it is soft drinks, sports or energy drinks, flavored coffee drinks or fruit drinks, is a problem for many Americans and changes are needed,” Diekman says, “but will this ban change those behaviors or simply lead to more consumption at home?”

For those looking to reduce their sugar-sweetened beverage intake, Diekman recommends the following:

• Add lemon, lime or orange slices to carbonated water.
• Switch to fruit juice instead of fruit drinks to boost the nutrition in the calories (for some fizz, mix with carbonated water).
• Choose beverages sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners in place of sugar.
• And if you must indulge in sugar-sweetened beverages, pace them out through your day and drink slowly.

Caffeine may be an even bigger draw than sugar for some people. Intake might need to be reduced slowly if the reason for consumption is the caffeine in cola drinks. To help slowly withdraw from caffeine, stretch out intake, pace the drinks and use those with non-nutritive sweeteners.