Why Giving Up Diet Soda Should be Your New Year’s Resolution

soda

 

With 2018 right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. While it can be tempting to commit to as many positive changes to your lifestyle as you can imagine, it can be overwhelming to try and address too many areas of concern all at once. Instead, set manageable goals, stay focused and take one resolution at a time. Doing so will be of benefit whether you’re someone who gets excited by the idea of making resolutions — or someone who lowered your New Year’s expectations a long time ago.

A Great Resolution to Get Started

If getting healthy is one of your main goals for 2018, we suggest starting with a New Year’s resolution to give up soda — specifically, diet soda. While diet soda may appear to be a healthy choice on the surface, it’s actually quite the opposite. Below are some of the main reasons you should remove diet sodas from your diet.

Artificial Sweeteners Have Negative Effects on the Body

Artificial sweeteners possess a greater intensity of flavor than real sugar. Consuming products that contain artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda, can gradually dull our senses. The result? Naturally sweet foods, such as fruits and vegetables, stop tasting as appetizing.

Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been shown to have the same effect on the body as sugar. Like sugar, these artificial sweeteners trigger the release of insulin, sending your body into fat storage mode and leading to weight gain.

Drinking Diet Soda Can Lead to Weight Gain

Just because diet soda is calorie-free doesn’t mean it will help you in your weight loss efforts. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas found that, over a 10-year period, diet soda drinkers experienced a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink diet soda. Even worse, study participants who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced a whopping waist circumference increase of over 500 percent.

Drinking Diet Soda is Associated with an Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that drinking just one diet soda a day can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 36 percent. Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a group of conditions — including high blood pressure and elevated glucose levels — that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Diet Soda Has Zero Nutritional Value

In addition to not consuming any calories when you drink diet soda, you’re also not putting any nutrients into your body. And your body needs nutrient-rich foods to stay healthy and function optimally. Replace diet soda with beverages that offer actual health benefits, such as antioxidant-rich green tea and mineral water.

Conventional wisdom to the contrary, there’s nothing healthy about diet sodas. Stop relying on their empty promise to help you slim down and stay fit. Make avoiding diet sodas your number one New Year’s resolution. You’ll begin feeling better before you know it. And, with those improvements, you’ll be that much more prepared to take on your other resolutions — one by one.


Smart Healthy Eating Strategies to Get You Through the Holidays

healthy eating

 

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to plan your healthy eating strategy for the season. Because most holidays are food-focused, they can cause a large intake of calories and throw your otherwise-healthy lifestyle off track.

Prevent the holidays from sabotaging your healthy lifestyle by putting a plan in place for handling all the extra food and drinks that will come your way during the season. Follow the tips below to celebrate guilt-free!

Plan activities that don’t center on food

Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering or going to someone else’s house, keep some activities in your back pocket to take you away from the snack table. For example, bring a few favorite board games or set up some simple physical activities that children and adults can enjoy, like a bean bag toss or a relay race.

If you enjoy running or walking, sign your family up for a local 5K event. There are always a ton of turkey trots, jingle bell 5Ks and other holiday-themed races at this time of year. If you’ve never done one, you’ll be hooked after your first race!

Not only will these ideas get your mind off food, but they’ll give everyone something fun to do together. And isn’t that really what the holidays are about?

Avoid skipping meals

Many people make the mistake of skipping meals on the day of a holiday party to “save” their calories for the event. Skipping meals is unhealthy, however, as it leads to poor food choices and often results in overeating.

Instead, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite controlled. When you get to the party, you won’t risk derailing your diet because you’re starving.

Practice mindful eating

The most important thing to practice is being mindful about your food choices and portion control. When you’re mindful about selecting your food, you’ll choose a satisfying portion instead of piling your plate high. You’ll take a small amount of an “indulgent” food to enjoy and balance it out with healthier foods, rather than filling your entire plate with unhealthy choices.

The best part of mindful eating? When you pay attention to what you eat, you’ll actually taste and appreciate your food! Eating mindlessly, on the other hand, always results in the realization that you didn’t enjoy the ton of calories you just consumed.

Make food swaps

As you make your holiday cooking plan, choose your ingredients carefully to keep your dishes on the healthier side. For example, prepare traditional stuffing with whole wheat or whole grain bread rather than white bread. Make a cauliflower mash in place of the traditional mashed potatoes. Substitute whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour in your favorite baking recipes.

Limit your cocktail consumption

The empty calories in alcoholic beverages add up. If you want to enjoy your favorite cocktail occasionally throughout the season without overdoing it, add some mineral water or seltzer to it to keep it light.

 

While food and drinks are certainly a great part of the festivities, holiday celebrations are not just about eating. Focus on the joyous, giving spirit of the season and enjoy spending time with your family, friends and colleagues.


Artificial sweeteners are not as sweet as they seem

artificial sweeteners

For years, people have used artificial sweeteners to lose weight. Once they begin a diet, they switch from consuming sugar to using products such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and steviocide (Stevia) in hopes of satisfying their sugar cravings without interfering with their weight loss efforts.

But do artificial sweeteners really help with weight loss? According to a recent ABC News article, they don’t. In fact, studies show the opposite: Over time, artificial sweeteners are actually linked to weight gain.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Thirty studies from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that followed groups of people using artificial sweeteners over several years have recently been newly reviewed. The new analysis of these studies looked at the long-term heart health, stroke incidence and blood pressure levels of more than 406,000 people who said they use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.

Instead of finding that consuming artificial sweeteners had positive effects, the analysis found that regular consumption of these sweeteners was associated with:

  • Modest long-term increases in weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Higher risk of stroke

Even people in studies that took place over a shorter period of time did not show any consistent weight loss after six months.

Why Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help Weight Loss Efforts

In the ABC News article, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief women’s health correspondent, states that any sweetener can trigger the same response from the brain, whether it’s regular table sugar, honey or an artificial sweetener. Ashton says that all sweeteners trigger the reward centers in our brains, ultimately leading us to want more — so we end up eating more.

When people use “diet” products like sodas, food or sweeteners, they tend to eat more calorie-heavy foods as a “balance.” The medical world has known for quite some time that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain, and some experts believe that the chemicals in artificial sweeteners may create a reaction in the human body that causes weight gain.

What does this mean for people looking to lose weight? It’s pretty simple. Forget the “diet” foods and drinks and focus on learning proper portion control and eating a healthy, balanced diet.


Which vitamins and minerals does your body need?

vitamins and minerals

We all know that one of the most important parts of any weight loss program is diet. Eating healthy, whole foods in the right amounts is crucial to weight loss.

It’s very important to make sure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly and stay healthy. Below are the top vitamins and minerals you need to maintain good health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is extremely important to the health of your eyes, as well as red blood cell production, immune function, skin health and embryonic development.

Vitamin A can be found in fortified milk, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots.

B vitamins

B vitamins include B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and folic acid. These vitamins play a critical role in your body’s ability to create and release energy. B vitamins are also responsible for creating red blood cells, which allow oxygen to move throughout your body.

B vitamins can be found in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, seafood and eggs.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is particularly important when your body is under stress, including the type of stress that can often come with dieting: food deprivation, calorie reduction and cravings. Vitamin C helps your body maintain a healthy immune system and correct any damage done to your body by stress. It also works as a disease-fighting antioxidant that keeps your cells healthy.

Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruit, orange juice, kiwis, guavas, red and green peppers, cabbage and tomatoes.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps maintain the tissues in your body, such as your liver, skin and eyes. It also prevents the pollution in the air from causing damage to your lungs and works with the B vitamins to create red blood cells.

Vitamin E can be found in egg yolks, sardines, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, almonds, peanut butter and some oils.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for bone health. As a matter of fact, 99 percent of its role is to keep your bones and teeth strong, supporting skeletal structure and function. Calcium is also important for cell signaling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.

Calcium can be found in dairy products, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) and some fish (like sardines, salmon and rainbow trout).

Magnesium

Magnesium helps develop and maintain bones, maintain normal nerve and muscle function, support a healthy immune system and maintain a steady heartbeat. It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and aid in the production of energy and protein.

Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, milk, bananas, dried apricots, avocados, halibut and other fish.

Potassium

Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce the effects of salt and maintain regular digestive and muscular functioning. It may also reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones and possibly decrease bone loss.

Potassium can be found in tomato paste and puree, white beans, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, soybeans, bananas, potatoes and fish (such as flounder, sardines, cod and salmon).

Regardless of what type of diet you’re following, be sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of these vitamins and minerals every day to avoid deficiency and keep your body healthy and functioning at its best.

If your specific diet doesn’t allow some of the food sources mentioned for a specific vitamin or mineral, talk about taking supplements with your doctor.


Universal diet: Why there is no diet that works for everyone

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Have you tried diet after diet, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t lead to the weight loss and better health you hoped for?

You are not alone. Most people have felt discouraged when the latest fad diet didn’t deliver on its promises. While there are many theories about which diet plan is the best, there is no one diet that works for every single person. Put simply, a universal diet just doesn’t exist.

Why one diet doesn’t fit all

Why can some people eat nuts or dairy products without any issues, while others need to avoid them due to allergies or other problems? It’s because genetically, every person’s body is different and we all react to food differently.

The same is true for diets. While one diet may work great for one person, it could be a complete flop for the next person. Don’t beat yourself up if your friend is seeing results on a certain diet plan and you’re not. Your bodies are different and don’t respond the same way to the same foods.

Supporting research   

study done by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science found that even if people all eat the same exact meal, the way their bodies end up processing the meal is different from person to person.

The study found huge differences in the rise of blood sugar levels of different people who ate identical meals. Eran Segal, a co-author of the study, says that these research findings show why “personalized eating choices are more likely to help people stay healthy than universal dietary advice.”

Basically, what works for one person won’t work the same way (or at all) for another person.

So which diet is right for you?

Now that you know why diets you’ve tried in the past haven’t worked, how can you figure out which diet plan is right for you?

There isn’t one quick and easy way to find out. You can try one (or a combination) of these options:

Trial and error: You will need to experiment to find the right diet for you. Try starting with a high-protein, low-carb diet option, since this type of diet tends to have higher success rates for more people than some other types of diets.

However you decide to start, it’s best to stick with one type of diet plan for at least six weeks to find out whether it’s working or not. A shorter period of time isn’t long enough for your body to adjust to the new diet.

Consultation with a doctor: The number of calories you should eat is very personal and unique to you. A doctor can help you create a personalized diet plan for you based on this number, as well as other information like your medical history and current health status.

Work with a nutritionist: A nutritionist can also work with you to develop a personalized diet plan and coach you through the process, providing guidance and support.

Whichever path you choose, be sure to pay attention to how you’re feeling along the way and write down as much as you can in a log book or journal. A doctor or nutritionist can help you start one and show you what type of information you should track.

Don’t give up

You will learn a ton of information during this process. You’ll get to know your body and learn what works for you and what doesn’t.

Just remember that, no matter which type of diet you follow, it needs to be sustainable for the long-term for any changes to last. Don’t think of healthy eating as a temporary diet, but as a permanent lifestyle.

Keep at it and don’t give up!


Spices with health benefits

spices with health benefits

Do you use spices regularly in your cooking? If not, you should start. Here’s why.

The Benefits of Using Spices

Not only do spices add a ton of flavor to your food, but they offer great health benefits. Here are a few ways spices are good for your health:

1. Aid Weight Loss

Spices can help to increase your metabolism, helping you to lose weight. For example, studies have shown that capsaicin (found in chili peppers), may cause the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after eating.

2. Improve Heart Health

Research has shown cultures that eat spicy foods have a lower rate of heart attack and stroke. This may be because chili peppers can reduce the damaging effects of bad cholesterol (LDL). Additionally, the capsaicin in chili peppers may fight inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

3. Protect Against Cancer

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, capsaicin has the ability to kill some cancer and leukemic cells. Also, turmeric (a spice found in curry powder and some mustards) may slow the spread of cancer and the growth of tumors.

4. Protect Against Diabetes

Inflammation and high blood sugar levels both largely contribute to diabetes. Spices can improve blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, helping to prevent or improve diabetes.

5. Improve Your Mood

Spicy foods increase your body’s production of “happy” hormones, like serotonin, which can help lessen stress and mild depression.

How to Get Spices into Your Diet

Small amounts of both dried and fresh spices can provide health benefits, so don’t worry if you’re not a spicy food person!

Below are some easy and delicious ideas for using spices in your cooking:

  • Put some slices of ginger or a pinch of cumin in a cup of hot tea
  • Add chopped chili peppers to soups, stews and chili
  • Coat shrimp in cumin and coriander and then sauté
  • Grate fresh ginger into vinaigrette
  • Add red pepper flakes or chopped ginger to stir-fry dishes
  • Make chicken curry
  • Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots
  • Add cumin to brown rice or red lentils
  • Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce or add to quick bread batters
  • Sprinkle turmeric* on egg salad, add to a chicken or seafood casserole or add to water when cooking rice

*To absorb 2,000 percent more turmeric, pair it with black pepper

Start with the suggestions above and then let them inspire you to experiment with your own ideas. In no time, you’ll be a pro at using spices in cooking and will enjoy the great taste of your food, as well as the added health benefits.


Are you getting enough vitamin B12?

vitamin b12

Remember when your mother told you to take your vitamins? Well, she was both wrong and right.

She was wrong because it’s actually best to get your daily vitamins by eating a nutritious diet. Nutritionists agree that vitamins are the most effective when we get them naturally through food.

But your mother was also right, because while a healthy diet is the best way to consume vitamins, most people can’t eat a perfectly healthy diet 100 percent of the time. That’s where vitamin supplements come in.

Today, we’re talking about vitamin B12. What is B12, and do you need to take B12 supplements? Here’s what you need to know.

What is vitamin B12?

The body needs vitamin B12 to perform many important functions. B12 is used to make red blood cells, nerves and DNA.

B12 is found naturally in animal products, including meat, fish, eggs and dairy. When you eat these foods, your stomach breaks down protein, releasing B12, which is then absorbed by your small intestine.

Why do some people not get enough vitamin B12?

For healthy adults, the recommended daily minimum of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms.

People who tend to be deficient in vitamin B12 include people who are age 50 or older, people who have gastrointestinal disorders, people who are strict vegans and people who take medication for ulcers and gastric reflux.

Stomach enzymes play an essential role in helping your body absorb B12. Medical conditions that interfere with the release of those enzymes can cause vitamin deficiency.

What conditions can vitamin B12 deficiency lead to?

If you are vitamin B12-deficient, you may develop the following symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Soreness of the mouth and tongue
  • Constipation
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Dizziness, light-headedness
  • Poor memory and confusion

It’s important to identify and fix B12 deficiency early. Otherwise, it can lead to severe neurological problems and blood diseases.

What can you do if you think you’re vitamin B12-deficient?

If you think you’re vitamin B12-deficient, be sure to talk to your doctor to find out if you really do have a deficiency.

After speaking with your doctor, you can take steps to boost your B12 levels, including taking B12 supplements, eating fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals and soy products), using fortified toothpaste and, if you’ve had weight loss surgery, taking B12 injections.

Eating a nutritious diet of lean proteins, complex carbs and fruits and veggies is the best way to make sure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to perform at its best.

Vitamin B12 is one of the important nutrients your body needs to work properly. If you think you may be B12 deficient, take action by making an appointment with your doctor.


5 Tricks for curbing your cravings

food cravings
Your weight loss journey is a long and challenging one. One of the biggest speed bumps along the way are your cravings for unhealthy foods and drinks.

So how do you deal with cravings and stay on track with your new healthy lifestyle?

First, think about whether your hunger is physical or emotional.

Is your stomach growling? Has a good amount of time passed since your last meal? Do you feel low-energy? These are signs that you’re physically hungry, meaning it’s OK to have a healthy meal or snack.

However, if you’re craving a specific food (like chips or ice cream), or if only a little time has passed since your last meal or snack, you may be experiencing emotional hunger, which can lead to unhealthy food binges.

If you feel a craving coming on, use these tips to combat it.

Distract yourself

One good way to curb your cravings is to distract yourself. There is lots of research that suggests that when you focus on the food you’re craving, your craving will get stronger.

Instead, outsmart yourself. Get out of the kitchen and go for a walk, take a nap or watch a movie. Do anything healthy and safe to get your mind off that chocolate bar you desperately want to nibble on.

Don’t keep unhealthy foods lying around

Don’t make it easy for yourself to give into temptation. Don’t keep candy, cookies or other unhealthy snacks in your pantry or fridge. Instead, keep healthy snacks like fruit nearby to put roadblocks in the way of your cravings.

Eat breakfast

Believe it or not, eating breakfast can go a long way towards keeping your cravings at bay. Start the day with a filling, nutritious meal — with items like steel-cut oatmeal, eggs and fruit — and you’ll be less likely to give into cravings.

Eat often

Don’t go more than three or four hours without eating. Getting too hungry can cause you to make poor eating decisions and make you more likely to give into those bad cravings you want to avoid.

Give in (a little bit)

It’s not realistic to expect that your diet will be 100 percent healthy every day. It’s OK to treat yourself once in a while, but be smart about giving into cravings. Include just one or two unhealthy items you absolutely love in your diet and allow yourself only those — and have them occasionally, not all the time.

Cravings can sabotage your journey to a healthier you. By using the smart strategies above, you can ensure that your cravings won’t derail your weight loss journey.


Healthy substitutes for pasta and other high-calorie foods

pasta substitutes

Keeping track of your calories is crucial to weight loss. Losing weight is all about taking in fewer calories than you burn.

Unfortunately, there are lots of delicious foods that are high in calories. Regularly eating high-carb or high-calorie foods like pasta will prevent you from losing weight and keeping it off.

So how can you make do without these items? One of the best options is to sub out unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones.

Here are some great substitutes for high-carb, high-calorie foods.

Whole-grain pasta for white pasta

A simple change you can make when you want to eat pasta is to choose whole-grain pastas over regular pastas. This is because whole grains are complex carbs, which take more work for your stomach to digest, so they keep you full longer.

That said, even whole-grain pasta can be high in the carbs and calories. So while eating whole-grain pasta once in a while is fine, you don’t want to make a regular habit of it.

Veggies for pasta or rice

If you’d like to cut out pasta altogether, simply sub it out for healthier options, like using vegetables in place of noodles.

Veggies are a wonderful “blank canvas” that allow the flavor of the sauces and proteins to shine. They contain many of the nutrients that are part of a healthy diet, and they contain far fewer calories and carbs.

Shred or julienne zucchini or summer squash, and you can create pasta-like ribbons. (You can also buy a special gadget called a spiralizer to make veggie “noodles.”) Try “ricing” cauliflower to sub out rice for finely chopped cauliflower. Green beans go great with pesto sauce, and eggplant strips taste delicious with marinara.

Greek yogurt for sour cream

Greek yogurt is a fantastic protein-packed snack. But you can also use it in place of sour cream.

Greek yogurt is naturally sour, like sour cream. If you’re making a dessert recipe that calls for sour cream, you can make a 1-for-1 substitution to give your dessert a protein boost and cut saturated fat.

Or squeeze a lemon into a small container of Greek yogurt to make a great condiment for tacos. Just make sure you select plain Greek yogurt, without added fruit or sugar.

Ground turkey for ground beef

Not all proteins are created equal. Go for lean proteins, including skinless chicken breast, salmon and turkey, rather than high-fat meats like beef.

Turkey is a fantastic substitute for ground beef when you’re cooking burgers, tacos or casseroles. The consistency is the same, but turkey lacks the high saturated fat and cholesterol of red meats, while maintaining a high protein content.

It’s a quick and easy substitution, and it can go a long way towards your heart health.

Extra-virgin olive oil for butter or other oils

Extra-virgin olive oil is one of the best all-around oils. You can use it for salads, for cooking and for finishing dishes. It’s packed with the good fats you need for heart health, and it’s much healthier than butter or other kinds of oil, which can be high in saturated fats.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean cutting your favorite foods out of your diet. That can be depressing and even counter-productive. Instead, get creative by finding healthy food substitutions.


The alarming health effects of drinking soda

health effects of drinking soda

Let’s be honest: Few things are as refreshing as a nice, cold soda. But while drinking the occasional soda is OK, it’s not healthy to make fizzy, sweetened beverages a regular part of your diet — and not just because it can add inches to your waistline. Drinking soda can also cause a wide range of health problems in addition to obesity.

Soda can contribute to type-2 diabetes

There is strong evidence that shows a connection between regular soda consumption and type 2 diabetes.

People who consume soda regularly (one or two cans per day or more) have a 26 percent increased risk of developing the disease than people who rarely drink soda.

A study of 90,000 women that took place over eight years found that women who reported consuming at least one serving of a sugar-sweetened drink per day were twice as likely to have developed type-2 diabetes.

Soda can increase your risk of heart disease

Regularly drinking sugary drinks also has a negative impact on your heart health.

A study conducted over 20 years found that men who consumed a can of soda per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease than men who rarely consumed soda. Studies show the same link between soda and heart disease in women.

In fact, in the same study of 90,000 women mentioned above, women who drank more than two servings of a sugary drink per day had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease.

Researchers found that even when the women ate an otherwise healthy diet or maintained a healthy weight, the risk of heart disease lowered only slightly. In other words, soda is harmful to your health even if you’re not overweight and you eat a healthy diet.

Experts believe that soda’s high sugar content affects blood glucose, cholesterol, inflammation and metabolism, all of which can have an effect on your heart health.

Soda is bad for your bones

You wouldn’t think that drinking soda has an impact on your bones, but it does affect bone health, especially in young people. Soda contains high levels of phosphate. If you take in more phosphate than calcium, your bones deteriorate.

In fact, consuming soda tends to decrease your calcium, because you’re then less likely to drink milk, a vital source of calcium.

Soda is linked to obesity

Finally (and most obviously), regularly drinking soda is linked to weight gain. People who consume soda don’t feel as full as if they had consumed the same calories from solid food. As a result, they eat, which brings its own calorie load.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, weight gain is a simple matter of calories in, calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you’re bound to pile on the pounds.

“Soda has no nutritional value whatsoever and definitely has no place in a nutrition plan for healthy living or weight loss,” Dr. Dirk says. “Even diet sodas have no advantage.”

To avoid the many negative health consequences of drinking soda, it’s best to cut soda and other sugary drinks out of your diet. Studies show that reducing or eliminating sugary drinks from your diet can lead to better weight control among those who are initially overweight.

So next time you get a hankering for a fizzy drink, reach for a glass of sparkling water instead.