Hear me out…
If you tool around on any of the social media platforms, you might have seen the “healthy coke” that’s gone viral combining ice, sparkling water, and balsamic vinegar.
Now, let me first say, I love balsamic vinegar. I use it in cooking, probably more than palatable to most, but whatevs…it gives food amazing flavor. Never in my life have I thought, “I wonder how I can make this into a drink?!”
Second, and more importantly: you are under no obligation to “healthy hack” anything that you consume.
In my top five things I hear from clients and consultations is some iteration of, “I’m so bad for drinking soda.” To which we do a little more investigative work:
- Why do you feel drinking soda makes you “bad?”
- Why do you think soda is bad?
- What type of soda do you enjoy?
- How much soda do you consume?
- When and where do you consume soda?
- Do you enjoy soda?
- What/how much of other beverages do you enjoy?
Soda has no moral value. You are so much more than your food and drink consumption habits. Drinking soda doesn’t make you a good or bad person–a beverage simply isn’t that powerful.
Soda in and of itself is not “bad.” It’s our habits and actions around its consumption that might be problematic due to your relationship with it, but its mere existence in any form (regular, diet, zero sugar, various sweeteners, caffeine free, etc) is not good or bad.
I only ask what type of soda someone consumes to have a little extra knowledge in how that particular beverage might be affecting their body on a more global scale. There is no right or wrong answer if you tell me that you drink regular, diet, sodas made with alternative sweeteners to cane sugar, caffeinated vs caffeine free, etc. The other reason I ask someone to share what type of soda they drink is to understand do they prefer this because it’s really what they enjoy, or they choose it because it’s “healthier” than another?
Questioning consumption is not a matter of this vs that (subtraction and restriction), but rather a question of quantity in terms of balancing soda with other beverages (adding to hydration–ensuring that soda isn’t the only beverage you consume in a day). The enjoyment factor is important because it helps to understand whether or not you’re drinking soda because you actually like it, or it is convenient, available, and/or a mindless grab.
An important piece of information is the when/where with soda drinking. Are you drinking it on its own or with meals? Having a large quantity to sip on through the day in absence of other choices? Do you use it to soothe or treat emotional or physical feelings.
This might seem excessive, but it’s actually not a long conversation, but it helps me to see where someone might be at in order to help them see that they’re demonizing something that isn’t “bad,” or help someone to process how looking at their choices differently might empower them to consume soda in a different way that helps them feel better about the choice or the physical result of what they are consuming.
Now, down to the brass tack that hits with the soda argument: diet vs regular. Personally, I don’t give a rip what you choose as long as you are consuming which you prefer taste-wise–here’s why: regular soda contains calories that can satiate hunger and contains sugar (perhaps by a myriad of different names for sugar–but it’s still sugar) and satisfies not only a craving (emotional boost), but can provide a boost physically (blood sugar spike/caffeine kick). Diet soda is (mostly) calorie-free and uses natural or artificial sweeteners/sugar derivatives that also meet that craving and physical boost (might or might not spike blood sugar depending on your sensitivity to sweeteners/caffeine kick). Spoiler alert–I’ll be breaking this part of soda choices down further in several weeks in my newspaper column as there’s much to dig into with not only caloric load, sugar, phosphates, the effect on the body, etc. At the end of the day, it really comes down to preference.
All this said–here’s my encouragement when it comes to soda consumption:
- Too much of any one thing is not beneficial. Ensure you’re balancing your soda consumption with other beverages, especially water, to foster good hydration habits.
- Explore your “why” behind soda, and sometimes that honesty factor empowers one to make different choices if they find it beneficial
- Drink and enjoy your soda independent of meals. There are so many flavors and textures that go on with eating a meal, that water or another beverage can be more satisfying. If you drink soda, drink it in such a way that you’re honoring the choice and you can consume it mindfully–enjoying the taste, experiencing the carbonation/bubbles, how it makes your body feel, etc (If one is concerned about the amount of soda they consume, these mindful consumption habits can help to decrease the amount of soda one drinks if they find that personally necessary)
I often get asked if I drink soda (which is a loaded question because what I consume isn’t necessarily an appropriate choice for you), and the answer is yes, but rarely. Years ago I drank a lot more soda than I do now, but diet soda started to have an adverse effect on me from the artificial sweeteners used and I found that I didn’t have the same problem drinking regular soda. However, my soda consumption is limited because of how I perceive it–about 6-7 years ago I began a migraine prevention medication that has a side effect of dulling one’s sense of effervescence/carbonation. Basically all of these beverages taste flat to me (it’s bizarre, I know), so I don’t really crave drinking soda because who likes flat soda? It tastes like flat, colored sweet water to me. That said, I’ll occasionally have a ginger ale or coke to settle my stomach if I’m not well, or a sprite for a fast sugar boost on a hot day after a depleting workout outside in the absence of other electrolytes, but I much prefer other beverages that taste better and satisfy me more–mostly water, but I do drink coffee (daily), lemonade, iced tea, and occasionally adult beverages.
Oh, and another note on this ridiculous viral soda-hack: vinegars are fabulous! They provide some great nutritional support in your FOOD. Drinking/shooting vinegars in excess can damage tooth enamel, interrupt the natural gut biome over extended periods of time, and cause other forms of digestive distress.
There you have it–now, enjoy your drinks! (and I’ll come back and update the hyperlinks when the extended column is available; late July/early August)