“Lose 30 lbs in one month by following one simple rule” reads the pop-up that appears when I log on to my home computer. I love the notion of just one simple rule, and I continue to try to guess what it might be.  I have eliminated the obvious choices such as Eat Less and Exercise More in favor of the cynical, Buy a plan that delivers a month’s supply of watercress sandwiches to my door?

The July 20 issue of The New Yorker contains a fascinating article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled “XXXL: Why are we so fat?” Well-supported by the existing literature, the article analyzes human brain size, super-sizing of portions, and marketing genius, among other factors.  Not only are Americans overweight, we are largely undernourished. What can we do to combat this oxymoron of over-consumption?

Quoting research by Eric Finkelstein, Kolbert drops the following bomb about half way through the article: “Today, soft drinks account for about seven percent of all the calories ingested in the United States, making them the number one food consumed in the American diet. If, instead of sweetened beverages, the average American drank water…he or she would weigh fifteen pounds less.” Yes, you read that right: soft drinks are the number one “food” consumed in this country.

Rather than take on McDonald’s and Burger King, each of us can do one simple thing: stop drinking soft drinks. The soft drink companies have noted which way the wind blows, and they have lots of evidence that the American public is too stupid to read labels. Energy drinks, “smart water,” and sweetened tea are not better. That twelve ounce bottle of cola has 140 calories; twelve ounces of sweetened tea has 130; and the same portion of Gatorade has 120. Pay close attention to the servings per container and the funny math. Your pancreas does not enter into debate over whether sugar from Gatorade is better than sugar from SoBe, as the soft drink companies would like you to think.

Loose-leaf tea contains NO calories. Some varieties have been indicated (and marketed heavily!) for weight loss. Caffeine levels vary from white to green to black tea, but are substantially lower in tea than in energy drinks. Brew your tea hot, give it a squirt of lemon juice (to preserve the healthy antioxidants) and refrigerate it for a cool drink.

Start a daily tea ritual with your kids, brewing up a pot of jasmine pearls at breakfast and sending a cooled jar in their lunchboxes.

The issue of soft drink sales in schools is another post. In the meantime, I’ll follow one simple rule: DRINK TEA.