We train our palates as to what tastes good to us. There are certain tastes, like sweetness, that have had evolutionary benefits to us in the past, as natural foods like berries and fruits have been good for us. Unfortunately, we are no longer hunters and gatherers, and our collective sweet tooth has become a detriment to our health.
Kids, especially, love sweet drinks, so cutting back on sugary sweet sodas can be a difficult change. The best method is to gradually reduce the amount of sugar consumption, thereby retraining the palate to enjoy more subtle sweet flavours in beverages that pack a better nutritional punch than the empty calories in sodas.
1. Keep the fizz, but gradually reduce the sugar by mixing sodium free seltzer or carbonated plain water with fruit juice. Fruit juices also have high sugar content, but if you choose an ‘all juice’ type, you have the added benefit of some vitamins and minerals. Start by mixing about half and half, and gradually reduce the amount of juice to about 1 oz to 7 oz ratio. But keep in mind, the sugar content is still there, so make this a ‘treat’ beverage, once or twice a day at most.
2. Make your own iced teas and gradually reduce the sugar content. Iced tea is very easy to make. Add boiling water to 2 or 3 tea bags per quart of water. Allow to steep at least 30 minutes, then pour over lots of ice in a heat proof pitcher. Add a squirt of lemon juice if you like, and sweeten to taste. You can also experiment by substituting flavoured and herbal teas for one or two of the black tea bags. Rich tasting vanilla teas, fruit flavoured teas, and spice teas can provide great flavour without all the additives and sugars. And black tea has the added benefit of micronutrients thought to benefit in warding off certain cancers and heart disease.
3. Got milk? Children under the age of 3 should stick with whole milk as they need the additional fat for their growing brains and organs. Older children and adults will do just fine on reduced fat milk. If your kids (or you) are used to whole milk, gradually reduce the fat content, first by mixing it with 2%, then switching to 2%, and, if you think you can handle it, on to 1% or skim. Women and children should have 3 servings of dairy products per day, so make a tall glass of milk one of them.
4. Make water the designated beverage at meal time. While we eat, we tend to drink just to wash down the food, and we don’t really even taste the beverage as our taste buds are busy tasting the food. By sticking to water at meals, you will not be absent mindedly swallowing calories without really tasting or appreciating them. If you really find plain water unpalatable, squirt a bit of lemon or lime juice and make sure it is really cold. Save your flavoured beverages for between meals, and enjoy them as you would a snack. Milk is great before bed time, as the proteins help stimulate the production of tryptophan which aids in sleep.
5. For a real treat, or dessert, mix up healthy smoothies with low fat milk and frozen fruit. Dark and vividly coloured fruits such as blueberries, pomegranite, rhubarb, and strawberries all have high vitamin and micronutrient contents. And eating the whole fruit (even if it is blended) includes the fiber and other nutrients you cannot get out of a can of soda.
The plain fact is, most sodas have about the same caloric content (and as much if not more, sugar) as a candy bar. You certainly wouldn’t eat, or allow your children to eat, 4 or 5 candy bars a day, would you? But we can adapt our tastes to appreciate flavours that our better for us, it just takes a little perseverance.