The danger of Soft drinks compared to water

So you love the taste of those sugary, oh so delicious soft drinks from the cold freezer section of the gas station? Or maybe filled up in a thermos-like cup chocked full of ice cubes and topped off with a bendable straw?

Who doesn't? But here's the bad news (and you knew it was coming). Those super-tasty drinks are ohh, soo bad for you. Especially when compared to water. Most of us adults know this. Unfortunately, many American kids do not.

According to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), consumption of soft drinks is now over 600 12-ounce servings (12 oz.) per person per year. Since 1978, soda consumption in the US has tripled for boys and doubled for girls. Young males aged 12-29 are the biggest consumers at over 160 gallons per year-that's almost 2 quarts per day. At these levels, the calories from soft drinks contribute as much as 10 percent of the total daily caloric intake for a growing boy.

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Huge increases in soft drink consumption have not happened by chance-they are due to intense marketing efforts by soft drink corporations. Coca-Cola, for example, has set the goal of raising the consumption of its products in the US by at least 25 percent per year. The adult market is stagnant so kids are the target.

According to an article in Beverage, January 1999, "Influencing elementary school students is very important to soft drink marketers." Since the 1960s the industry has increased the single-serving size from a standard 6-1/2-ounce bottle to a 20- ounce bottle. At movie theaters and at 7-Eleven stores the most popular size is now the 64-ounce "Double Gulp." Soft drink companies spend billions on advertising. Much of these marketing efforts are aimed at children through playgrounds, toys, cartoons, movies, videos, charities, and amusement parks; and through contests, sweepstakes, games, and clubs via television, radio, magazines, and the internet. Their efforts have paid off. Last year soft drink companies grossed over $57 billion in sales in us alone, a colossal amount.

So what alternatives do kids have to drink? And what alternative can possibly stand up to such massive marketing efforts?

The answer is good old-fashioned water. The hard part comes in making water a viable alternative to teens. Since they are used to consuming lots of soft drinks, the taste of water may not be all that enticing.

Well, there are many ways to get more water into you or a teen's body. First, limit the number of soft drinks you consume. The sugar and caffeine have to be processed by your body and this requires water—water that you're not drinking enough of. Don't like the taste of water? Sometimes simply drinking it ice cold made tastes better. My favorite way is over crushed ice with a lemon wedge. There are water flavors that you can buy at the local health food store. Also, consider adding stevia. Stevia is a very sweet herb that is often used by diabetics as a sugar replacement. You can find it at the health food store as well.

If you're satisfied with the taste of tap water, that's great. If not, you or your teen have several options. Of course, you can buy bottled water, but if that's too pricey, consider purchasing a water filter to place on the taps at home. There are various water filters you can buy that filter out minerals and other additives the local water authority adds. The taste will improve immediately. Like anything else new, adding sufficient water to your diet requires a plan. It's not easy if you haven't grown up doing it.

Commercials are constantly peddling the latest wonder drink, and convenient snack machines sell soft drinks that make it difficult to pass up. How do you avoid some of the problems posed by sugary soft drinks? Bring your water bottle to work and devote a month to your new habit. You'll notice that nagging problems like headaches and indigestion disappear.

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