When you go out for dinner or to see a movie, do you order a soda? Do you let your children have soda at dinner at home or when eating out? Before you order your next soda or let your kid drink one, consider what nutrition a soda offers and then decide if you really want to regular consume it. Then if you’re convinced that you’d like to cut back or eliminate soda’s from your family’s diet, learn a few drinks that can make that process a whole lot easier.
NUTRITIONAL CONTENT OF COCA-COLA, SPRITE, AND “NATURAL” SODAS
You can select from a huge number of brands and types of soda, but looking at the nutritional facts of Coca-Cola and Sprite can provide a general sense of what you’re drinking when you drink any mainstream soda. It’s also worth taking a look at the nutrition facts associated with a brand of natural sodas, like Hansen’s. Often the word “natural” does not equate to “healthy.”
SO, HERE GOES:
A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 143 calories, delivers 49mg of sodium, and 39.9g of sugar. That’s it for nutritional value, according to Calorie King. A 12-ounce can of Sprite contains 148 calories, 67mg of sodium, and 38.5g of sugar. A Hansen’s Original Cola Natural Cane Sugar Soda contains 150 calories, no sodium, and 41g of sugar. Other flavors of Hansen’s Natural Cane Sugar Sodas are quite similar to the cola version.
When you hear the term “empty calories,” sodas clearly fit the definition. Lots of calories, no nutritional value.
WHEN YOU STILL CRAVE A SPECIAL DRINK
But you probably know that sodas aren’t good for you. You probably drink them because you want something special to drink—something other than water or milk. Maybe you want a drink with a hint of sweetness or a little fizz. Or maybe you want a drink that’s colorful. After all, the way our food or drink looks is all part of the experience of consuming it.
When you want to drink something special, rather than ordering or reaching for a soda, consider these options:
Carbonated water. Today, we have many different flavors of carbonated water, including berry, lime, grapefruit, and others. Instead of packing a six pack of cola for a picnic, consider packing a six pack of cans of lightly (and naturally) flavored carbonated water. Take a look at the label to make sure they don’t have too much added sodium if you’re on a low-sodium diet, though.
Better yet, save money, have carbonated water whenever you want, and know exactly what’s in your beverage by using a sparkling beverage maker from a company like Cuisinart or SodaStream. Jazz up your sparkling water even more by adding a slice of lemon, wedge of lime, or slice of cucumber. Even add a dash of fruit juice to give color and a slight bit of sweetness.
Smoothies. When you’re out and about and want something cool to drink, get a smoothie rather than a soda. Far from offering empty calories, smoothies can deliver tremendous nutrition while satisfying that need for something sweet. This recent All We Eat post discusses juicing versus smoothies and explains just how much nutritional benefit smoothies offer. While fruit juice and drinks made from juicing are high in sugar and calories, you’re still better off drinking them rather than sodas because they provide vitamins and minerals that sodas don’t.
Unsweetened or lightly sweetened tea. For many people, especially those in the South of the U.S., iced tea has long been a drink served with meals. However, the South traditionally drinks “sweet tea,” which tends to have as much sugar as sodas. Ice tea is still a good alternative to soda, but just drink it unsweetened, flavor it with a squeeze of lemon, or add just a little sugar to it to cut the sometimes bitter taste. If you want to drink ice tea at dinner, consider making an herbal iced tea or use decaffeinated black tea. That way the caffeine won’t keep you up at night.
SODAS—THE RARE TREAT, NOT THE NORM
It’s pretty evident that if you’re trying to take care of your health, sodas won’t have a big place in your diet. Consider making your own with a sparkling beverage maker and add real fruit juices or flavorings.
How often, if ever, do you drink sodas or serve them to your family? Have you found other drinks that satisfy your need for a special drink? If so, please share them in the comments section.