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Tuesday 9 August 2011

But I LIKE soft drinks!

Half of a clinician’s work, it seems, is encouraging clients to adopt a more fulfilling, healthy lifestyle.  Sleep habits, exercise, socializing, valuing enjoyable activity, getting things done, and so on.

One element of this is diet.  And one element of a healthy diet is to limit the amount of sugar we take in.

Where is the excess sugar in people’s diets?  Candy, obviously, and pastries, and chips.  But one of the main sources, for many people, is the not-so-humble soft drink.

If you check the amount of sugar in various name brand soft drinks, you will find that most can-size servings have the equivalent of about 10 teaspoons.  Total calories:  About 130.

To get this idea across to groups I sometimes take a glass that holds about the amount in a can, 355 ml or so, and fill it with water.  Then I drop in a teaspoonful of sugar, and stir.  Then another.  Then another.  Then seven more.

“Would you drink this?” I ask.  Most people say no, but they’re savvy enough to know where I’m headed.

“But you do.  Every time you have a Coke, or a ginger ale, or a Sprite, or a tonic water, or almost any other type of soda, that’s what you’re drinking.”

Don’t try this with children.  They will be delighted at the thought that water could be enriched with 10 teaspoons of sugar.

For clients wanting to lose weight sanely, simply cutting out one or two needless sources of empty calories may be enough to eliminate the margin of intake beyond their needs, and start the process of losing.  Soft drinks are an easy place to start.

One option is to shift to diet drinks.  But these don’t seem to reduce a person’s overall caloric intake.  It seems that by fooling the body into thinking it is getting sugar, and then having it discover that there isn’t much sugar in what we just ingested, the body cleverly compensates by ramping up the desire for calories.  As well, there are constant debates about the healthfulness of artificial sweeteners.

“Why do I want to lose weight?  Well, because it’s healthier.  So how am I doing it?  By drinking a possible carcinogen.”

Let’s face it:  If sweeteners were as toxic as some folks imagine, the population would have been halved by now.  It’s not as though we’re stuffing the drinks with asbestos (our parliament's favourite export).  But still, it may not be such a good idea to be using too much artificial sweetener.

Tell people to shift to water and you will often get some very sour looks.  Is there a way to make it more palatable?

I drink low-sodium Club Soda (available from President’s Choice brands, and doubtless others).  When I open the can there’s always a bit of space inside the top, and I fill this up with bottled lime juice.  Total calories:  Don’t know.  But practically none.  Total sodium:  Allegedly 1% of recommended daily allowance.  Not great, but probably better than 130 calories of sugar.  And many sugared soft drinks have more sodium as well.

I’ve managed to convert many clients to this drink, plus regular water as a main beverage.

Interestingly, tastes seem to shift as you get used to the “new normal.”  When I started buying 1% milk for cereal it seemed thin, but now 2% tastes like unhealthily thick cream to me.  And now when I have the odd regular soft drink, it tastes like I’m drinking sugar syrup.

Which I am.

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