Kicking the soda habit … Kicking the soda habit … Photo provided by Lori GardinerLori Gardiner, a registered dietitian and author Kyle Peveto| firstname.lastname@example.org Comments … can be tough, said Lori Gardiner, a Baton Rouge dietitian who specializes in weight management. Gardiner, the author of “My Little Black Book for a Healthy Non-Diet Lifestyle,” offers a few tips to cut back on soft drinks and rid your diet of empty calories. Count the calories Many dieters ignore the calories they drink, which is a big mistake when trying to lose weight. Sodas can add hundreds of calories to your diet each day. While Gardiner does not advise Coke lovers to completely quit their sodas — the depression over losing the fizzy stuff can derail a diet — she does not allow dieters to drink more than one can a day. But if you have one a day, make sure you are not piling on calories in other areas. Count the calories from sodas and find another place in your diet to make cuts. “If it’s your splurge, you better love it, and it better be worth it,” she said. Replace the fizz “When people are big on soft drinks,” Gardiner said, “I find they are big on carbonation.” To find another source for the fizz, Gardiner suggests mixing sparkling water or club soda with a splash of fruit juice. Cranberry juice is an especially popular choice. But, she cautioned, fruit juices contain nearly as many calories as sodas, so use them sparingly. “That’s really a lot of calories, and I’d rather you eat the fruit,” Gardiner said. Mix it up Diet sodas offer the bubbles and the caffeine of regular soft drinks but with zero calories. But the artificial sweeteners alter the taste significantly. “It’s a big deal, the taste, and you can’t assume everybody will be OK with converting to diet,” Gardiner said. An easy fix is to mix half a glass of diet soda with half a glass of regular soda. It cuts the calories in half and tastes more like sugary soda.