Healthy choice

Can a person ever have too much of a good thing?

I believe this may be the case when you look at all the soft drinks, flavored water and sports beverage choices today. They’re everywhere.

You can’t walk into a supermarket or convenience store without bumping into the many drink offering displays.

And flavors. Wow.

Just think of some taste you desire like 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?

It’s 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. 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, yes, 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 grains of sand on our beaches—and they’re spending billions.

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.

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 seriously 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 is the ingredient we’re supposed to drink at least eight glasses of?

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That’s right. Nature’s own liquid—water.

What about that wonderful white liquid chocked 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, limes, cranberries, 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.

Other drinks made from tomatoes, carrots, celery and other vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Vegetable drinks should be included as part of our daily diets.

But let’s return to soft drinks. You’ve got to admit it’s a brilliant stroke of marketing to link 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 healthy, 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.

The occasional Coke or Dr. Pepper can be a real treat, and everyone should indulge their simple pleasures from time to time.

But the rest of the time, keep it simple—chocolate milk, fruit juices or water will do just fine. You’ll be doing yourself a favor and you’ll be supporting farmers and ranchers who supply these fresh, tasty, nutritious drinks.

Bottoms up.

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.