5 easy ways to banish your bad habit—and improve your health in the process.

By Tiffany Tse
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Cracking open a can of diet soda instead of regular pop may seem like a good idea at first, but research continues to show a disturbing link between diet soda consumption and weight gain. And though the sweet, effervescent drinks may taste good, they're certainly not good for your body. "Diet soda may not have the sugar or calories of regular soda, but it's chock-full of other health-draining chemicals, including caffeine, artificial sweeteners, sodium, and phosphoric acid," says Marcelle Pick, member of the American Nurses Association and co-founder of Women To Women. It is possible to ditch your diet soda dependency, however. Read on to find out how!

1.Get your fizz on elsewhere. It tastes good. We get it. With its bubbly fizz and sweet flavor, soda makes for one lip-smacking beverage. But you can trick your mind-and taste buds-into thinking the same thing about a number of different drinks such as sparkling water or naturally carbonated, sugar-free fruit beverages. Keri M. Gans, a New York-based nutrition consultant and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, offers a refreshing alternative. "Drink some seltzer with a splash of juice for a little flavoring." Adding chopped-up fruit such as lime or watermelon to water will also boost flavor in a perfectly healthy way.

2. Find a caffeine substitute. It's late afternoon and you've lost your pep. You're craving caffeine. Your first instinct is to race to the vending machine for a carbonated diet drink. But rather than sip on something laced with hard-to-pronounce artificial sweeteners, explore other energizing options. And creamy, sugary coffee drinks won't cut it. Turn to green tea, fruit smoothies, or a variety of other healthy creative alternatives to power through the afternoon

3. Change your attitude! It's normal to believe that gulping down a can of diet soda, instead of regular soda, will shave calories off your daily intake, but that kind of mentality will get you in trouble. After observing the association between diet drinks and weight gain, Richard Mattes, a nutrition scientist at Purdue University, says that most diet-soda drinkers assume they're allowed to indulge in more calories. "That's not a fault of the product itself, but it's how people chose to use it," he tells The Los Angeles Times. "Simply adding [diet soda] to the diet does not promote weight gain or weight loss."

4. Hydrate with H20. Though diet soda doesn't cause dehydration, those who habitually guzzle it down tend to use it as a replacement for plain old H20. Try to keep a refillable water bottle handy at all times and take a long swig before you drink anything else. "Water is probably your best bet to stay hydrated," says Katherine Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic nutritionist. "It's calorie-free, caffeine-free, inexpensive, and readily available."

5. Don't quit cold turkey! If you're a diet soda lover, it won't be easy to swear off the pop right away. And that's okay! Wean yourself off slowly and be prepared for withdrawal symptoms. It will get easier over time. In fact, you may soon find that you prefer other, healthier drinks.

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