Here's The Best Way To Wean Yourself Off The Diet Soda Habit

Diet soda fandom comes in a few flavors. Some people love it because it's close to the real thing without added sugar or calories, and some simply prefer the taste of it to standard versions. It's surprisingly easy, however, to become dependent on the caffeine and taste of diet drinks and turn to them as a primary source of hydration rather than water. "If Diet Coke — or any diet soda — was a new pharmaceutical product and we were testing it for whether people are getting addicted to it, we would be very concerned," Ashley Gearhardt, the University of Michigan's Food and Addiction Science and Treatment Lab director, told The New York Times.

While it's debatable that the artificial ingredients and colors in zero-calorie pop are harmful to your health, there are other reasons to kick the cans to the curb. For one, major beverage distributors like PepsiCo Inc. have implied that their prices are set to rise. "I would be surprised if there wasn't more [price increase] over the course of the next year," PepsiCo chief financial officer Hugh Johnston explained to Reuters. Using the current market price at Walmart for reference, even a modest Pepsi drinker can expect to spend over $165 annually if they purchase a 6-pack of Diet Pepsi at $3.48 each week.

Whether a casual diet soda drinker or a champion at crushing cans, you might be ready to explore cutting back. We're not saying it will be easy, but there are a few simple changes that can help.

Tips and tricks for cutting back on diet soda

By now, you're probably aware that water is your best bet for staying hydrated, and you should know that there's no advantage in substituting diet soda for the fully loaded version. According to research from the American Journal of Public Health, sipping on diet soda is even associated with consuming more calories at mealtimes versus drinking regular soda.

Fortunately for you, the beverage industry is competitive, and various alternative drinks have hit the shelves to vie for diet soda's place. While you may be content to trade in flavored seltzer as your fizzy beverage of choice, there are some exciting new releases you might enjoy. A notable contender is Olipop. One can of Olipop contains 45 calories and only two to five grams of sugar, sweetened by stevia and natural fruit juices. "I think they taste more soda-like. [It] definitely isn't a whisper of flavor like La Croix. It has a pretty strong artificial sweetener taste, though," says Redditor thedinosaurgoesrowr.

You can create your own flavored drinks if you're not missing the tang of sugar substitutes. Try combining sparkling water with cut fruit and herbs for a subtle twist on flavored water. Some flavor profiles that work well together are strawberries and basil, lime and mint, and pineapple and sage. You may be battling caffeine withdrawal if you're still struggling to wean yourself from soda. In this case, work on improving your sleep habits, and don't feel bad about the occasional dose of caffeine in the form of milder drinks like tea or kombucha as you taper off from diet soda.

What to expect after reducing your diet soda intake

You may still need to monitor your intake of artificial sweeteners and acidic drinks to receive the full benefits that come with dropping diet soda. Once you manage to cut back, you'll inevitably start to see some positive changes take place.

The first is that your dental hygiene will improve. Even without sugar, diet soda can lead to tooth enamel erosion due to the acids it contains (via Colgate). From there, you may start to notice you have fewer urges to snack on sweets. Research published by the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine has linked the regular consumption of artificial sweeteners with increased cravings for sugary foods and drinks.

Some studies point to diet soda's negative impact on your overall health, but many of these claims require further research. For example, a 2017 study published by the journal Stroke showed that drinking diet soda is connected to an increased risk of stroke and dementia. Still, more information is needed to understand why.

The best method to determine the effects of quitting diet soda is to try it yourself. You could discover you're not as sensitive to artificial sweeteners or caffeine as others, but there's certainly no harm in swapping diet soda out for a healthier change. You might even find you prefer water after all.