Now accepting new patients of all ages!
Skip to main content

April 2024: Quitting Soda and Switching to Water

a hand holding a soda can pouring out sugar crystals with the ICHC logo at the bottom right

Tips for Quitting Soda and Switching to Water

In this post:


Introduction - Why Should I Quit Soda?

Of all the dietary choices you might be facing, you might wonder why we specifically chose to focus on consumption of soda and other sugary beverages like energy drinks. The answer is simple: if you’re a soda-a-day, or 4-sodas-a-day, or even an “I-don’t-know-probably-5-or-6-a-week-but-who’s-counting” kind of person, making the switch to water will likely be a huge net gain for your health without even getting into all the messy and confusing aspects of nutritional balance and calorie counting.

Soda is nothing but sugar, chemicals, and calories with no nutritional upside. It ruins your teeth and contributes to poor gut health, diabetes, obesity and overweightness, and a host of other health problems.

The healthiest choice you can make for your hydration needs is water. This guide is intended to take you from soda to water, with a few stops along the way to retrain your brain and body.


Why is soda addictive?

Yes, we said addictive. A lot of people have no idea that they are in fact addicted to soda and/or energy drinks. If you don’t think you are, try quitting cold-turkey for 30 days. If you succeed, you probably don’t need this guide! Congratulations – stick with it! If you fail, or find out it’s a lot harder than you ever imagined, then now you know.

Soda contains high amounts of sugar, which, believe it or not, is an addictive substance. When our brains receive sugar, they release increased amounts of happy dopamine chemicals, which triggers us to seek it out again and again to find that same happy reward.

Many sodas also contain caffeine, which is addictive on its own. Coffee drinkers are pretty familiar with that problem, as our brains become more and more dependent on the caffeine chemicals the more we consume over time. The withdrawal headaches when you go without caffeine speak for themselves.

You might also find that your brains are addicted to the convenience and ease of grabbing a soda from a fridge, drink drawer, pantry, or shelf. Humans are often creatures of habit, and the repetitive motions of a habit, combined with the ingrained mental and emotional responses to familiar inputs like the feel of a can or the sound of the pop-top and fizz, can be the hardest addiction to break. Food and drink is an emotional and sensory experience, often with social components and psychological feedback, and understanding how those affect you personally is a big part of your journey toward healthier choices.


Step-by-step Guide

The following steps are intended to provide a framework for you to adapt to your needs. No one person is exactly the same as another, and you may need more time on some steps than others. We recommend taking about a month on each step, because habits take time to form!

Personal note from one of our Quality team – this guide is based on what worked for myself and my husband. We went from a multiple-sodas-a-day-each household to fully quitting soda following these steps. We’re human (no, this is not written by AI!), so we’ve backslid a few times, but we’ll talk about why, and why that’s okay and what we’ve done about it later.

Step One

Prime your brain by banning your favorite soda and switching to your fourth or fifth choice. Imagine every restaurant, store, and takeout place no longer has your favorite soda, or your second favorite, or even your third, and pick something instead that makes you think, “Well, if that’s all they have, I guess I can drink that.”

Why is this important? Making a change, however small, is the first commitment you need to make without trying to tackle the actual chemicals (caffeine and sugar) that your brain is addicted to. Every time you open your fridge and see a less-delicious alternative, you’ll remember why you did that and get used to the small discomforts that come with making changes.

If your favorite addiction was not caffeinated, make sure not to pick a new alternative that is. You’re trying to reduce addictions, not increase them! Skip step 3 when you get there and go to Step 4.

It also helps to use this month to figure out where and how you’re getting your soda. You need the support of whoever is picking up groceries or food for this to work. If it isn’t you, make sure they know your new order and are willing to support you!

Step Two

Buy smaller cans or bottles. Switch from an extra large drink to a large, or a large to a medium, or a medium to a small. Do you buy standard sized cans of soda in a twelve pack each week at the store? They probably come in miniature cans. Buy those instead!

If you find that there’s not enough liquid to quench your thirst, you can try starting step 4 at the same time, so you have healthier substitutes on hand when you’re still thirsty after draining your miniaturized soda. Otherwise, you might be tempted to just open another small soda, and then start buying more of them to make up for the deficit.  

Speaking of buying, you may notice that smaller servings of canned drinks are more expensive per ounce than larger ones. What a ridiculous waste of money, right? That’s okay. Hold onto that righteous fury for later steps when you realize how much more expensive soda is than water. Especially for your health.

Step Three

It’s been a couple months. Now it’s time to get rid of the caffeine. If your miniature soda was caffeinated, pick one that isn’t. Again, make sure it’s not your first, second, or third choice!

You’re likely going to experience some discomfort, mostly headaches, from caffeine withdrawal. Make sure you have over-the-counter headache pills on hand—whatever is safe for you to take if you’re taking other medications or have health concerns. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor.

The trick here is to make sure that you don’t increase your tea or coffee or other caffeine-source consumption here. It’s okay if you still drink those things (this guide isn’t about them!), just don’t increase to compensate!

 Step Four

Start drinking sugar-free sparkling water (also called seltzer) of any size. Introduce it to your fridge, drink drawer, or shelf alongside (and eventually instead of!) your miniature, non-caffeinated soda. Try different brands and flavor combinations. Some taste great! Others, not so good. It might take a few tries to find one you like, but there are lots of options out there.

Flavored sparkling water helps you trick your brain into thinking you’re getting a soda, by keeping the fizz, convenience, and flavor but taking away the sugar and caffeine. If this is too big a step at once, even mixed with miniature sodas, try other substitutes to take it in even smaller steps. Cans or bottles of juice or lemonade let you keep the flavor, sugar, and convenience but not the caffeine or the fizz. Coffee, black tea or green tea keeps the caffeine and flavor, but you’ll probably lower the amount of sugar, even if you buy it in cans or put a spoon or two of sugar in it. Do your best, and remember it’s okay to only quit (or lower) one chemical at a time.

Water is the end goal. It doesn’t have to be the first thing you try to substitute for soda. You might have to repeat this step a few times to form new habits that will eventually get you to water. That’s okay.

It also helps to keep fruit on hand for healthier sources of sugar to combat your cravings and deal with sugar withdrawal, which can act just like withdrawal symptoms for any drug if you were getting a lot of it and now you’re not. Just like when quitting caffeinated soda in Step 3, make sure not to eat more sugar in your diet (like reaching for candy), or add more sugar to your coffee or tea to compensate.

Step Five

Buy bottled water – any size! Just like the sparkling water, this step lets you maintain your habit of reaching for a convenient drink in your favorite spot, whether that’s the fridge, the pantry, or the garage. That means you don’t have to unlearn that unconscious habit until you’re already done with the chemicals, the fizz, and the pop of a can—all things that sent signals to your brain before. Besides, water is water, and your health is what you care about here.

If you eventually want to quit bottled water for the environment or because tap water is cheaper, go ahead. You have the power now. Fill up some reusable bottles and stick them in there with the disposables. Or re-use your disposables. Whatever you want!

Other Tips & Tricks

Trick your brain! Make your healthy(er) substitutes from Step 4 more convenient than your substitute soda. Move the soda to the back of the fridge or pantry or garage and put the cans of sparkling water in the front. March that unhealthy soda further and further away and more and more out of sight. When you go to your usual spot out of habit and see a healthy substitute, you’ll probably grab that instead. The goal here is to eventually put that other stuff so far away that it’s not worth your effort to go find it, and soon you’ll start forgetting it’s there, so you won’t even drink it—or remember to buy it.

If you’re a drive-through soda drinker, occupy that cupholder with a freshly-opened drink before you pull up to the drive through. Maybe this means keeping a case of your healthy substitute in your car, and cracking it open before you pull away (just mind the disposable plastics in the heat and the pressurized cans in the cold). This will trigger that miserly part of your brain that doesn’t want to waste something you just opened, and maybe that part of your brain that hates dealing with liquid trash in your car, and stop you from ordering a huge soda.

If you’re a gas station or convenience store shopper, it’s time to find a different place to do your shopping—somewhere the soda isn’t front and center. Get your gas somewhere you can leave without going inside. Go to the grocery store. Order your groceries online. Expensive? Sure. Once again, hold that righteous fury.

Last, when you’ve made the switch to bottled water and you find yourself tempted to buy soda again, go back and add up how much money you were spending on soda compared to how much you spend on water. Here’s a hint: a 12-pack of soda here in Fairbanks costs anywhere from $6 to $12.00 depending on the store and brand. A 32-pack of water costs about $4.50. If you made it to tap or filtered water, it’s even less. Now is the time to turn all that righteous fury you’ve been building up into self-satisfaction to fuel your change maintenance. Look how far you’ve come in both your pocketbook and your health!


Adapting the Guide to Fit You

Just like with quitting any addiction, mindfulness and self-awareness is the key. Part of your journey toward water will be understanding your own food/drink triggers, cravings, behavioral snags, and habits. Just make sure you keep a growth mindset about any obstacles you encounter. If you read this guide and think, “that won’t work for me because [insert reason here],” think instead, “How could I make that work for me?” or even “What else could I try instead?”

For example, some people struggle because they mostly drink soda socially, and they socialize a lot – almost every night! Those people might need to recruit their friends to help them make good choices, or even join them on their journey to quit. They might need to make a rule that they can have a soda, but no refills – only water!

(Just don’t substitute alcohol. That’s an even bigger health problem!)

And if you’ve made it through the guide in its entirety but find yourself backsliding after a couple months and drinking soda again, don’t sweat it. You can go back a couple steps, try some new things out, maybe talk to your friends about not bringing soda into the house when they come over or taking it with them when they leave (this was our real-life example, and it worked!). Most importantly, look at your soda habit now compared to when you started. It’s likely that you’ve still vastly improved, so the whole thing wasn’t a wase of time.

Sometimes change happens in upward spirals. As long as you keep working your way up, it’s okay that you pass the same couple of landmarks a few times. Awareness, adaptability, and forward momentum are the keys!



Your primary care provider (that’s us at ICHC!) is your first stop for discussions about your health, weight, and diet. If you need more help, they can refer you to a nutritionist or dietician, or get you started on a medical weight loss program. If you struggle with addictions more immediate and devastating than sugar or caffeine, they can refer you to the right help for that, too.

For weight loss, diabetes control, high blood pressure, health activity with your kids, or quitting tobacco, the state of Alaska also provides resources through the Fresh Start program. These programs are free, and many will match you with a personal coach to help you through each of these steps.

You can also join any one of thousands of online communities dedicated to healthy eating and consumption of water over sugar-sweetened beverages. The people you surround yourself with and talk to, even on social media, have a big influence on how you live your life. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with positive messages for self-growth and helpful suggestions, not people who grump about healthy decisions like it’s a personal offense.

Questions? Call us today at 907-455-4567 to make an appointment with a primary care provider to talk about your health, diet, and weight, or to make an appointment with a dentist to talk about your oral health!



ICHC snowflake logo The Quality Team @ ICHC The Quality department at ICHC brings you helpful information about your healthcare in Fairbanks and Healy, AK. We are proudly committed to ensuring high-quality "healthcare with a heart!"

You Might Also Enjoy...

blue colorectal cancer ribbon with ICHC logo and text reading "March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month"

March 2024: Resources for Colorectal Cancer Screening

For Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, let’s dig into how and where you can get screening in the interior of Alaska. Whether your concern is cost, insurance coverage, or transportation, we have suggestions for you! And still no pictures of poop. Promise.
doctor and patient with hands nested together beneath a red heart and the ICHC logo

February 2024: Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month! Learn more about symptoms of heart disease, which can go undetected before a major event like a stroke or heart attack. Regular wellness visits can help your doctor detect problems before they become dangerous!
frost-covered flowers on blue winter background with ICHC logo and the words "seasonal affective disorder"

December 2023: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Compared to the rest of the United States, Alaskans disproportionately suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “winter blues.” Learn about SAD and ways to combat it and stay healthy in the dark and cold winter nights.