You might want to rethink your favorite soda

There is more to drinking soda than the delicious flavor or that tingly sensation from the carbonation.

Recently my son shared some interesting information about the difference between sodas and diet sodas. While most of us know that diet sodas are sweetened with artificial sweeteners and regular sodas are sweetened with sugar, did you realize just how much sugar you’re drinking every time you have a soda?

My son, a packaging engineer, had a chance to talk to a colleague in the food packaging industry. This engineer showed my son a picture of some broken pallets and explained that the company he worked for was trying to design a stronger pallet. The problem? It seems that a pallet of regular soda weighs 300 pounds more than a pallet of diet sodas. Three hundred pounds!

The main listed ingredient that is found in one but not the other? You guessed it, sugar.

While I do occasionally enjoy a soda, I’m not sure I would drink a pallet of soda. So that made me start thinking about individual servings. I purchased a 12-ounce can of a soda and the same size in the diet version. The diet soda weighed 13.2 ounces and the regular soda weighed 13.9 ounces. That seven-tenths of an ounce difference may not seem like much but calculated into a 24 pack of 12-ounce soda cans, it equals 16.8 ounces. That’s potentially over a pound of sugar you’re drinking every time you finish your 24-can pack.

While sugar does provide us with sweetness, it adds no nutritional value to beverages. So what could you be drinking instead? Start with water. Our bodies are made up of 60 percent water so it only makes sense that we need water to stay healthy. Try keeping a pitcher or bottles in the refrigerator. While I’m not crazy about room temperature water, I love drinking icy cold water. Don’t like the taste of water? Try adding slices of citrus fruit like lemons or lime to your water or pieces of fruit like berries or sliced veggies like cucumber.

If you’re tempted to substitute fruit juice for sodas, think again. While you will get added nutrition from the juice, fruit juice also contains sugar and empty calories without any of the fiber found in whole fruit. A serving of fruit juice is 4 ounces or a half cup and we only need one serving of juice each day. Children should only have a single serving of fruit juice (4 oz.) per day along with three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk. The rest of their beverages should be water.

The next time you’re thirsty, reach for a glass of water and leave the soda for special occasions.

For more information on living a healthy lifestyle, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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