The Better Beverage Challenge

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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The Better Beverage Challenge

If you’ve ever run into a convenience store to grab something to drink, you’ve probably been faced with an overwhelming wall of soda, juices, sweetened teas and energy drinks to choose from. If you wanted plain water, chances are you had to hunt  for it. Unfortunately for us, our surroundings make it all to easy to quench our thirst with sugar-laden beverages rather than water—a habit that makes up a large portion of the excess sugar and calories we consume.

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Benefits of Taking the Better Beverage Challenge

By trading calorie-laden drinks for smarter hydration choices, you’ll:

  • Feel more alert and energized from being well-hydrated
  • Consume fewer empty calories—and maybe even lose some weight!
  • Have more calories to fuel up at mealtimes
  • Save some cash—see how all of those trips to the drink machine and coffee shop add up!

Whether you want to cut back gradually or go cold turkey, we have a plan for you. In one month’s time, you’ll be making better beverage choices without even thinking twice.

3 Steps to Get Started

  1. Figure out what beverages you want to cut back on. Take a look at your food diary and decide which drinks are the highest in calories and sugar, and start with those. If you don’t track, think about your current beverage habits and where you might be able to upgrade your drinks.Some examples of high-calorie beverages include:
    • Sodas
    • Fruit juices (this includes 100% juice—some contain just as much sugar as soda!)
    • Sweetened teas and lemonades
    • Flavored milks (both dairy and non-dairy)
    • Coffee beverages (hot or frozen)
    • Sports and energy drinks
    • Alcoholic beverages: Not all boozy beverages contain sugar, but they’re all sources of empty calories, so feel free to cut back on these as well
  2. Decide whether you want to scale back gradually or go cold turkey. Then, check out the guide below to put together your personalized plan.
  3. Find some refreshing alternatives. Science has shown the best way to ditch an undesirable habit is to replace it with a better one. Stocking your fridge with a few healthier go-to drinks will set you up for success. For some thirst-quenching inspiration, check out some of these helpful articles with low- or no-calorie drink ideas:

9 Simple Drink Swaps to Cut Back on Sugar20 Life Hacks for Drinking More Water | So You Want to Stop Drinking Your Calories | 7 Healthier Drinks Under 150 Calories | So You Want to Stop Drinking Soda | 6 Ways to Slash Sugar from Your Smoothies

Better Beverage Challenge Plans

FINAL gruadual plan

FINAL cold turkey plan

For the Ultimate Challenge Experience

Drink mostly water, aiming for at least 64 ounces (just shy of 2 liters) per day. When water won’t cut it, aim for beverages with fewer than 5 grams of sugar per 12 fluid ounces (350mL). Sodas, juices, energy drinks, etc. should be an occasional treat. Tip: It helps to think of these sugary drinks as dessert.

Set a few hydration goals, not just one. Two liters of water is a lot if you only drink one or two glasses during the day, and then try to squeeze in the rest before bedtime. Break your daily hydration target into morning, afternoon and evening goals. This will make it more achievable, and ensure you’re adequately hydrated throughout the day.

For example, aim to get in 32 ounces of water by lunchtime and another 32 ounces before dinner. By the time your evening meal rolls around, anything extra is bonus hydration.

Invest in a water bottle. Or two! Have one at home to take with you on errands, or when you travel, and keep another one at work. Simply having a cold glass of water on my desk is enough to remind me to drink throughout the day. The key is to fill it up again as soon as it’s empty.

Recruit a friend or family member to get on board. It’ll be more fun, plus the added accountability will help keep you motivated all month long—maybe even longer.

For those who are motivated by money (and who isn’t) … Set aside the cash you would have spent on those sweet sips to see the monetary rewards from purchasing fewer high-calorie drinks.

Keep track of the trades you make. Spend a few minutes each week tallying up the calories and sugar you save, then share with our community on Facebook!

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

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