The Problem with Flavored Beverages

I love water. I’m certainly not a person who needs to be forced into drinking my 6-8 glasses a day. But whether you’re a water lover like me or not, I think we can all agree that every once in awhile it’s nice to throw in some flavor to that liquid that keeps us breathing.

What we might not agree on though is how that flavor is added. Skipping over the soda category altogether, there are tons and tons of beverages out there that are, for lack of a better word, crap.  Yeah, all those Gatorade-like products sound great, with Electrolytes, VITAMINS, and Low-Cal tags pasted all over the plastic bottles. Vitamin Water even boasts of its benefits right in its name, in case you miss their boisterous packaging promotions where they tag each flavor with a certain vitamin. (Although, I got to give it to Vitamin Water. There side stories written on the bottles never fail to entertain me.)

But along with the fortified vitamins you’ll take in by consuming these products, you’ll also gulp down a ton of sugar, or better yet, artificial flavoring and chemicals used to create the sweet flavor, minus the calories, that allow many of these drinks to scream Zero Calories!. They don’t tout this bit of information on their package, do they?

As for fruit juice, I’d rather eat a piece of fruit than drink down a glass worth the same amount of calories, a glass that’s also happens to be missing half the nutrients and fiber of the fruit it contains. Don’t get me wrong, a glass of juice every once in awhile isn’t going to kill you. I admit it’s one of the healthier options, and I myself certainly enjoy a glass every now and then. But it’s also a sugar trap, and shouldn’t go down like water.

What about that beverage the dairy industry’s practically forcing America’s kids to drink at school? You know, the one that also comes sugar-laden in flavors like strawberry and chocolate. The one that we’ve grown up hearing is the preeminent source of calcium. Yeah, that one, the one that comes from cows and is designed to be fed to baby calves. Well, let me tell you, there are far better ways to get your calcium. And that omnipresent beverage, well, that one will also up your chances of getting cancer and a bunch of other diseases, something that politics helps to keep hidden under the rug. But don’t take my word for it. For proof, just read the China Study. It will fill you in. Leave the mustache making to soy milk.

Trust me, I’m not perfect either. I eat the occasional piece of cheese, or sometimes top my fruit with real whipped cream, or make brownies with a whole stick of butter. Or two. But even more so than juice, I definitely don’t think milk should be drank as if it were water. And it should not be the standard for school lunches…but that’s a whole other topic.

So I’ve pretty much poo-pooed every drink except water, right? Rest assured, there are some flavored options out there that I absolutely love.

Here are my go-to’s:

  • Tea
  • Kombucha
  • Sparkling water with lemon, lime, oranges, raspberries, etc.
  • Coffee- Go for decaf, or do half-caf.
  • And as I said before, the occasional glass of juice…carrot juice is one of my favorites!

Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing one of my latest favorite zero cal, zero preservatives, zero artificial ingredient, two thumbs up beverages. And surprisingly, it can actually be bought in the store. What are some of your go-to beverages when you want a flavorful, yet healthy refresher?

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  • Reply
    Simply Life
    February 19, 2011 at 6:50 am

    I love adding lemon to water!

  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    February 19, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Hmm, well, once again I Agree with most of the things you say, but I highly suggest you branch out and read some other studies, other than just the China study. IN fact, Today’s Dietitian has a great article in their February issue all about the benefits of cheese. Everything form heart disease to cavity prevention. People shouldn’t be afraid of milk, but they need to remember that it’s easy to drink too much. No more than 3 glasses a day (small glasses) and you should be fine. Many Americans can drink a gallon a day, which simply isn’t good.
    As for the other beverages? I drink those when I’m sick (Gatorade) or REALLY working up a sweat. INTENSE sweat only!

    • Reply
      Grace Dickinson
      February 19, 2011 at 9:47 am

      I have read tons and tons of other literature on the milk issue. I quote the China Study simply because it’s one of the latest books I read that is a familiar name to many. However, I grew up in a milk-less household, with a mom who was always reading alternative nutrition information. For instance, a small, simple book written a handful of years ago by the former physician-in-chief of John Hopkins Children’s Center called “Don’t Drink Your Milk.” He states, “both Africans and African-Americans consume less calcium and milk, and yet have greater bone density and less osteoporosis than Caucasians in America. While Americans get 807 mg. of calcium each day from drinking milk, the average citizen of Ghana gets but 8 mg.” And then goes on to debunk this myth that milk should be put on a pedestal. But that “Good Calories, Bad Calories” book is next on my list!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Years ago, I used to drink lots and lots of diet soda. Now I can’t believe I ever did that… I stopped drinking diet soda all together several years ago and never drink any other “flavored” drinks. It’s just not worth it to me to drink all the sugar and chemicals. I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and green tea, herbal tea, and water (often with frozen lemon or cucumber slices) throughout the day. I also like to make green juice several times a week.

    When it comes to milk and dairy, I have cut back a lot. The China Study is actually next on my reading list and is patiently sitting on my bookshelf. I have read quite a bit about the book and also some of its criticism, especially that a lot of it is based on correlation. I really look forward to reading the book. I agree that there are many good (maybe better) sources of calcium other than dairy, and I try to get a lot of my calcium that way. For me it’s not all or nothing. I eat some Greek yogurt pretty much every day and also have some cheese almost every day. I don’t drink cow’s milk by itself but use some in my coffee and in recipes. I also use almond milk quite often.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    I drink mostly water and tea but recently have become a big fan of seltzer with a splash of cranberry juice or lemon. Even plain – slightly different but still zero calories.

  • Reply
    March 2, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I grew up in a soda (and TV, sugar, processed food free-my parents were, well, hippies and organic farmers) free house. We occasionally had juice but it was always diluted to no more than 1/4 juice to water. Most of the time it was barely more than a splash. Now, as an adult, that’s the only way I drink juice–and only occasionally.

    I mostly drink water with a slice of lime/lemon, iced tea–doesn’t have to be caffeinated and it can be whatever flavor you want–peppermint is incredibly refreshing, adding a bag of hibiscus to normal black tea gives a great summery flavor, hot herbal teas.

    Since moving to the Middle East I’ve drunk more juice in the last 3 years than I have in the rest of my life. Most restaurants have 5, 10, 15 types of juice on their menus and all of it is freshly made from fruits and sugar. Fresh pomegranate juice is beyond compare and mint-lemonade (with just a tiny bit of sugar) is phenomenal and so nutrient packed! I still dilute these though. Wish this trend would come to the US.

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