By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau
No doubt you’ve noticed all the soft drinks, flavored water and sports drinks today. They’re everywhere.
While eating at a favorite restaurant the other day, I was faced with so many choices, my head started to spin.
You can’t walk into a supermarket or convenience store without bumping into the many drink offering displays either.
And flavors. Wow.
Just think of some taste you desire – fudge malted gumball, cheese yogurt yummy or silvery satin strawberry. It’s out there and you can buy it and drink it down.
Without question, the best part of these drinks for me is the packaging.
It’s unbelievable. And the creativity? Almost too much for one to digest.
Anymore, I don’t even care what’s in the container. I just want to hold it in my hand, caress its coolness, admire its latest, unique logo and look good doing so.
While many are content with the multitude of diet sodas; and flavored waters like blackberry blush, my drink of choice is chocolate milk. I really enjoy it by the way. I have since I was a small child.
Today’s explosion of new soft drinks, flavored waters and sports drinks has one major worrisome aspect I cannot help but point out.
Pitchmen, women and kids are filling our heads with the idea these flavored drinks can be part of a well-rounded, balanced diet. Their ads and infomercials are as numerous as the products they’re selling – and they’re working.
The most alarming part of this sales pitch is that so much of it is aimed at our youth. In case you haven’t been in today’s schools, this drink deluge is very much a part of the contemporary scene.
Soft drinks have no business being considered part of a balanced diet at our schools or anywhere else. These drinks have little, if any, nutritional value.
Look at the ingredients in a soft drink the next time you pick one up. Most people wouldn’t have a clue what these ingredients are, myself included.
If students or adults want a treat – something out of the ordinary – that’s where soft drinks play a part. To be part of a balanced diet, a food product must have nutritional value. I believe soft drinks have such a negligible amount, they cannot be considered as part of any “balanced” diet.
Unlike water, soft drinks won’t even quench your thirst. They leave you longing for a tall, cool glass of water.
Talk to a nutritionist or physician and what do they tell you we’re supposed to drink at least eight glasses of?
That’s right. Nature’s own liquid – water.
What about that wonderful white liquid chock full of calcium we call milk? Where does it fit in our daily diet?
Milk belongs in almost everyone’s diet. Nutritional research has stressed that men and women between the ages of 11 and 24 need the equivalent of five servings of dairy products daily. This can be milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and a whole array of other good-tasting dairy foods.
Juice from oranges, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries and other fruits is another item that belongs as part of a balanced diet. Food products from natural primary crops – not always secondary, highly processed food products – are essential to our youngsters’ diets. We owe it to them and their good health to provide these.
Other vegetable drinks made from tomatoes, carrots, celery and other vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Vegetable drinks also belong as part of our daily diets.
But let’s return to soft drinks. What a brilliant stroke of marketing, linking soft, sports and flavored drinks with a well-rounded, nutritionally balanced diet. Infer something often enough and people will begin to believe. Soft drinks linked with a balanced diet and nutrition is about as palatable to me as the drink manufacturers laughing all the way to the bank.
There is no substitute for healthful, nutritious food in our daily diets. Students and adults should reach for a tall glass of water, juice or milk the next time they’re thirsty. These are truly nutritious products that belong in a daily balanced diet.
If you need to treat yourself, add chocolate to the milk. Mix a couple of the fruit juices together or just drink water. You’ll be doing yourself a favor and you’ll be supporting farmers and ranchers who supply these fresh, tasty, nutritious drinks.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.
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