Will You Take the “NO SODA” Pledge?

Summer Soda

This is a guest post by Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD and was originally published here.

A month or so ago I went on a bit of a diatribe over soda consumption, rattling on about its contribution to the obesity epidemic and how buying it only adds to the problem by supporting the soft drink companies. My three children were at the receiving end of all this, their eyes glazed over seconds into my rant. Poor things.

But you never know when something is going to sink in, because an hour later, my youngest, Virginia, appeared with a clipboard and a pen, having drawn up a petition for family members to sign. It read something like this:

“I __________ promise not to drink sodas ever again. Sincerely, __________.”

She was the first to sign. I followed suit (did I have a choice?). Everyone else in the house politely passed.

Virginia stayed committed to her pledge. That is, until six hours later when her resolve crumbled under the temptation of a Shirley Temple at dinner out with the grandparents.

But I decided to stick with it, although I do love a good Shirley Temple. Granted, I wasn’t much of a soda drinker to begin with, but over ice on a hot day or at the movies, with a side of popcorn, there’s nothing better. I always felt sort of crummy drinking it, though, in part because I know better from a nutrition standpoint, but more because I was being a total hypocrite. Railing against soft drink manufacturers and hoping my kids wouldn’t develop a taste for the stuff, yet drinking it myself.

I don’t think soda is the devil. But I do know that we as a culture are downing it like water and it’s doing nothing for us but expanding our waistlines, and those of our children. According to the USDA, soft drinks, along with other sugary beverages, are among the top four sources of calories in the American diet. In their new book Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim hit the nail on the head when they write, “With nothing but “empty” calories, sodas have a nutrient density of zero. Think of them, as the Center of Science in the Public Interest does, as liquid candy. “

In our house soda has always been treated like candy, reserved for special occasions, like dinner out with the grandparents. And it will continue this way; I’m not going to impose my pledge on the kids. Making a food completely unattainable can backfire, reinforcing a child’s desire for it.

But I will throw it out to all of you grown ups. Maybe you’ll consider Virginia’s petition, even just for a week, or a month. Perhaps you’ll have a soda-free summer or no sodas on Sunday. If you don’t want to go cold turkey, maybe you resolve not to keep it in the house anymore, or reserve it for an occasional treat instead of a regular thing.

We could start a revolution.

Any takers?

Katie Sullivan Morford

Katie Sullivan Morford is a freelance food and nutrition writer, registered dietitian, and cooking teacher. She writes the blog Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, which features healthy recipes and practical nutrition advice inspired by her own experience raising three children. Katie has written for a variety of publications including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Self, Shape,and Cooking Light.



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  • http://twitter.com/HomeCookHealthy Angela Sage

    We’re in! No sodas for our family for the last 1 1/2 years! It can be done and have to say don’t miss them at all. Well, maybe a little with our pizza, but hey, self-control people.

  • Hillary

    i gave up pop at the beginning of the year. being a hardcore coca cola drinker, it was pretty hard at first, but now i don’t really miss it. i do drink them at the movies (with a 2 year old we only end up going out every once in a blue moon anyway) but its been pretty easy to nix the sugary beverage i used to take in like air. we don’t keep them in the house, but my husband still drinks them.

    it is a shame though, that there are no juice dispensers in food courts or in fast food restaurants. ive read that that pink lemonade and fruit punch has about as much sugar as a cola.

    • benjamincgessel

      Yeah, that is one of the most frustrating things about food courts, fast food, etc. No juice, I mean, REAL juice. If there is, it is overpriced, ALWAYS… So, the healthiest option (along with a healthier food court meal-(veggie-heavy Asian?), is probably water, but vegetables and water can be tough to focus on with all the meat and sugary drinks everywhere in those places. I think that is why I am becoming less fond of food courts, bit by bit. But, generally speaking, I look for the higher quality food places at these places (generally Thai, Vietnamese, sometimes Chinese, Japanese, “Mongolian”, etc. (I try to watch the meat portions unless I am STARVING), as well as sometimes Greek, Italian, German, Mexican, etc.), and get a water and a 100% fruit juice. But I’m pretty sure that, for the most part, you’re not getting truly authentic food at food courts cuisine-wise, as well as you’re probably getting some unhealthy oils with the “healthier” places… Sad, truly sad… Eh, time to go to a REAL restaurant, and just be economical about what you order… Or just make meals at home…

  • sheilahwwwtrainupthechildorg

    My husband and I were just talking this morning that we wish we had made the decision to do away with sodas when our children were young and still at home – could have afforded more fruit with what we would have saved on keeping the house stocked with all those 2 liter drinks. We only treat ourselves occasionally now with a soda. Thankfully our adult children are coming to that decision on their own now and our grandchildren, 4 and 2, have never had it. Thanks for your passion to get the information out there to help us all make wise food choices

  • http://twitter.com/chucklebig mcallen
  • Jen

    When I was a hardcore Diet Coke drinker, I was spending $40-$60 a month on sodas! I quit buying them a couple of years ago, but will order one occasionally when we go out to eat. If I want a cold drink that’s not water, I make brewed unsweet iced tea, sometimes decaf. Think of all the money I saved. And I’m sure my bones and teeth are healthier for it.

  • Noel Mathur

    We are rare soda family. Rare = 1-2X a year at the max, otherwise lemonade or spiced up buttermilk goes well in the family on regular basis. Otherwise Brita filtered water goes all the way.
    Since DS started going to school and eating crap therefore, we have introduced Cranberry Juice (OceanSpray Diet variety) which is mixed 50-50 with water. No other sugary juices. Loads (literally loads) of fresh fruits are consumed every day.

  • Angle

    It has been maybe two or three months since my family stopped drinking pop and the first couple weeks were torture we had dry mouth, head aches, and flu symptoms. With that we haven’t bought pop since we instead drink sparkling water which is a much better alternative.

  • http://twitter.com/JollyTomato Jeanne Fratello

    We don’t drink soda or keep it in our house, which was great, until our then-7-year-old tried some and became obsessed with it. He would want to “visit” the soda aisle in the grocery store, and he started writing stories about soda at school (!). It was exactly as you had described, Katie – It was so much of a forbidden fruit to him that it became extremely appealing. So, even though we don’t love the idea of soda, we decided to take the middle road on it. He’s allowed soda for special occasions, parties, or dinner at Grandma’s house…and the obsession has since abated.

  • Kelli

    I’ve had maybe 2 sodas a year for at least 5 years now. I went through a heavy soda period but I can hardly handle one now. It makes me feel off. I usually just have a sip of hubby’s coke or root beer when we go out, though I try to steer him towards another drink choice if he’s had too many recently.

  • http://twitter.com/ms_munchie Ms. Munchie

    I think soda water is ok. I mix fresh lemon juice or homemade vinegar shrubs with soda water so I can still enjoy fizz.

  • SkulduggeryPotato60
  • DarkStar

    Here we go again.
    Soda is not the problem, nor is McDonalds, Ice cream, cookies, candybars, or any other food item.
    Variety and moderation is the name of the game.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Moderation is not a possibility when we our children are relentlessly marketed to 24/7.

    • Lisa

      Ha! McDonalds is a food item… Good one.

  • PJ

    Don’t drink it.

  • J in VA

    We reduced our soda consumption several years ago. Now we *might* drink one every 1-2 weeks for a weekend treat. We switched to sugar sodas from HFCS sodas as it is more filling and one can (or even a portion) is plenty. I know sugar is sugar but I can still tell the difference.
    DD went on an outing last weekend with a friend where she knew they were going to pick up food–she took her own soda because she no longer likes HFCS sodas and knew there might be little other choice.

  • Jan Blawat

    Five years ago I was drinking a six pack of Diet Pepsi a day. I finally realized it was an addiction and quit. Not cold turkey, though, I allowed myself 1 a month and made a celebration out of it. Nowdays I just don’t care about it at all. I’ve had the same unopened bottle in my fridge for a year.

  • ali

    I haven’t had soda in over 3 years, I have given up refined sugar 5 months ago. That means no sugar drinks, pastries, dried fruit (they are soaked in high fructose corn syrup), ice creams, frozen yogurt, all juices, diet drinks, coffee, etc. The only sugar I get is from mother earth, fruits!! I have been more alive then ever. Much more energized and my hair and nails grow so much faster. My skin has cleared up!! I’m glowing all around. Sugar is a toxin. It kills brain cells. Don’t do it.

  • mdeva

    In a word; no.

  • Jim Cooper

    While the article is about sugary beverages, which have clear health disadvantages, most of the comments are about diet sodas, which do not have these problems. There really is no documented reason for quitting diet soda based on health issues.

  • Liv Marie

    You have a dedicated follower! I haven’t drank or touched a soda , sparkling water, juice, vitamin water or anything like that in years. And I’m only 17! I know how bad that kind of stuff is for your body and overall health. How do you think your body does when you put all that fake sugar and chemicals , and colors in it? It doesn’t know what to do! We weren’t created to eat , drink or live this way. Please America wake up! Stop putting poison in your body and think! Drink what we were designed to consume: WATER!

    • benjamincgessel

      Interestingly enough, I thought vitamin water was pretty good stuff. (I only get it occasionally.) And, what do you know, it isn’t THAT great… Yeah, I wish manufacturers would just stick to either 100%, minimally processed water, as natural as possible teas/herbal teas, etc., and I’ll just get my brita filters and drink water at home, rather than buying the stuff (buying water just sounds wrong, for the most part, water should be free, and should be mostly what we drink-milk is overrated too…)

    • benjamincgessel

      (100% minimally processed fruit juice that is-but even this stuff is prob. consumed in much too much quantity…)

  • Hallie

    I “gave up” pop when I was 16. I am now 33. I will say that I am not 100% though. I would say I drink it about 3-4 times a year. I have 2 kids and they rarely get it. They always want it, but usually I just don’t give them an option. We don’t have it in the house, so it’s not as accessible. I’m a strong believer!

  • katja

    I am surprised by the number of people who have commented who consider soda a treat. For some reason or another I decided I would not drink it and I don’t even remember why when I was around 16. I am 51 now and have 2 kids. We don’t have it in our house, it doesn’t go in the grocery cart and nobody asks for it. This is our normal. I must say I am a bit surprised that others have such a different normal since it is ultimately our attitude towards soda that determines what we do. if you consider soda a treat, you will probably always consider that is a hardship to give it up. if you never have it and that’s normal, then it’s no big deal.

    • benjamincgessel

      Very, very true. I think that for folks who REALLY love the taste of soda, it is important to gradually replace that craving with something they also like, but is healthier, like 100% fruit juice. A common health trend for instance: 1.) Person drinks a lot of soda and sugary fruit juice, along with milk, water, etc. 2.) Person makes transition to lower quantities of soda and only 100% fruit juice (with the exception of lemonade, etc.), along with more water. 3.) Person makes transition to rarely buying soda, with lower quantities of 100% fruit juice (lemonade is now a rarity-less sugar/more “kick” might be a “bit” more acceptable), and much more water, along with a little herbal tea, milk (if body can tolerate lactose/casein, etc.). Vitamin water is also occasionally consumed, but attention is given to drinks that have NO artificial ingredients, less sugar, etc. 4.) Person is now drinking primarily water, with a bit of herbal tea, less often milk, etc., and rarely 100% fruit juice. Step 4 is pretty much nutritarianism/being a nutritarian. And, because so many people love sweet drinks, fizz, etc., it can be very, very hard for a lot of folks to get there. But it is possible. It is SO good that you and your family have consistently not consumed soda, I think that is commendable. Growing up, I rarely drank soda, it was something more reserved for movie nights, etc. And even then, my mom diluted (it was generally 7-up or sprite) with fruit juice. I think this was a very, very, very good thing… :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarapogue Sara Thompson

    I have been trying hard to be soda free. There are times when I give in – like last night my husband got my son and himself a soda and forgot to get me anything to drink (we were in the car on a short trip). I took a drink because I was desperately thirsty but I don’t feel like it ruined my health. I’ve been brewing kombucha and keeping it in the fridge so we have something sweet and fizzy. I’ll be brewing my own ginger ale starting this week so maybe store bought soda will be a thing of the past.

  • Lisa

    While I understand that sugar and soda addictions are real, it amazes me that people still drink pop at all. Even in so-called moderation, it’s really bad for you. That would be like me saying I only do heroin in moderation, so it’s okay.

    • benjamincgessel

      Yeah, it has to do with how addictive pop is, compared with drugs, along with how common it is to see it anywhere food/beverages are sold…

  • carol

    How do we define “soda”? Are sparkling juices included?

    • benjamincgessel

      I think spritzers and club sodas are different. But, still, carbonation is unhealthy, so even though spritzers, etc. are healthier because of less/no sugar content, etc., they are still far less healthy than water. But if you were choosing between pop or spritzers, and you HAD to have something fizzy, go with the spritzer (so long as the spritzer doesn’t have aspartame, etc.). Its all a question of frequency and quantity…

    • benjamincgessel

      Also, I’m pretty sure sparkling juices and spritzers are basically the same thing, more or less.

  • TwinToddlersDad

    Yep, agree completely. We are a soda-free household, but not because of a pledge (although, it is a cute idea!).

    Having said that, my position has been against a soda ban. I have written about it on my blog extensively so I will not try to defend it here!
    Since soda is not available in our household, and we don’t order it when we go out to eat, our 6 year old twins have grown up with pretty much zero soda consumption. I say pretty much zero and not exactly zero, because we also don’t try to demonize soda for our children. Soda is not bad, overconsumption is the issue.

    Kids are going to be exposed to soda and related advertising – they will grow up to learn it is cool (after all who doesn’t want to “open happiness”). Our hope is that they will reject soda overconsumption not because they have been pressured to do so, but because they know overconsumption can be a problem. As an example, we let them sample Sprite when they asked recently on an international flight. But discourage them to ask for a second time.

  • http://gigieatscelebrities.com/ GiGi Eats Celebrities

    Would you consider ZEVIA soda considering it’s sweetened with STEVIA and not sugar?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er415CO9BQE (my video about ZEVIA!)

  • benjamincgessel

    I NEVER buy pop any more. Pretty much, nope. The only time I will ever buy soda/pop EVER, now, is when I am at a place like KFC, and I get some lemonade. I might add just a little bit of something citrussy in the lemonade (orange soda), but this ratio has been decreasing in recent years, as well as how often I go to these kinds of places. Generally if on the fairly rare occasion that I’m getting a burger at Wendys, etc., I always opt for the fruit punch now, the workers always put too much fizz in the drink if I want some kind of mix, so I just get the non-carbonated stuff. And for root beer well… I suppose that is the one flavor that you can’t really find so much in non-carbonated form, unless we are talking about getting sarsaparilla root or something like that (I’ve never seen this sold ANYWHERE), but root beer is pretty much artificial sarsaparilla flavoring (along with the other stuff anyway), so… I still don’t buy root beer unless I’m going on an overnight campout or something… Root Beer is ALWAYS great with something beefy, beef and potatoes, etc. Since I don’t drink beer (or any alcohol), root beer is a good match (flavor-wise) with beef, but generally I just drink some apple/berry juice or water with the heavy foods… Yeah, pop is worse than candy, its just terrible for you, ESPECIALLY coke… But, you know, its ok, on RARE occasions…

  • Nicole Kropczynski

    I used to drink soda only for special occasions before my sister was diagnosed as a diabetic and then with Coeliac Disease. My mother was quick to realize that there were no carbs in diet soda, so it was the go-to drink for the then two-year-old.

    About ten months ago I decided it was monumentally stupid to drink something that was practically poison for me (liking regular soda over diet and being on the verge of allergic to high fructose corn syrup) and I quit cold turkey. That lasted a few weeks before I needed a drink again. I went through this a few times before a newly discovered love – and near addiction – to tea captured my taste buds. It was ridiculously easy to give up soda after that. Every time I wanted something so sweet I grabbed a cup of spicy tea. I only had two or three hiccups where I snagged a sip of my sister’s soda before I didn’t need the sugar anymore. It didn’t take me long to realize just how much better I felt.

    Now that I’ve been given carte blanche over the kids’ lunches, soda is almost a thing of the past. I hope to have it removed from the house by this time next year, if not earlier. The hardest part is finding satisfying alternatives for a thirteen-year-old with diabetes.