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Your Meal Beverage Choice May Affect the Healthfulness of Your Diet


When you sit down to a restaurant meal, the first choice you often make is what to drink. Pay close attention to what you choose, as this could set the stage for the overall healthfulness of the meal you are about to eat.

A study from researchers at the University of Oregon and Michigan State University find that if you choose water over a sweetened beverage, such as soda, you are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables with your meal.

T. Bettina Cornwell PhD (UO) and Dr. Anna R. McAlister (MSU) surveyed 60 young US adults between the ages of 19 and 23 about their food-and-drink pairings. They found that those who choose sodas often go on to eat salty-calorie dense foods such as French fries. A second survey found a similar situation among children. Preschoolers aged 3 to 5 were tested on different days under differing scenarios and when they drank water with meals versus a soft drink, they were more likely to eat raw vegetables, such as carrots or raw peppers.

Overall, water is crucial to good health. Every system in the body depends upon water which helps transport nutrients and oxygen into cells, aids with metabolism, regulates body temperature, and detoxifies.

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As a weight loss tool, drinking adequate amounts of water, especially before eating a meal, has been linked with eating fewer calories because of a feeling of fullness. A study presented at the American Chemical Society two years ago found that those who drank two 8-ounce glasses of water before breakfast, lunch, and dinner were better able to cut back on portion sizes resulting in weight loss success.

The current study builds on evidence that Cornwell and McAlister discovered last January. The authors state that food-and-drink combinations are preferences that are developed early in life. A child’s taste preferences, for example, are related to their knowledge about fast foods and sodas.

"From a policy perspective, this means that we need focus on early preference formation," said Dr. McAlister. "If the drink on the table sets the odds against both adults and children eating their vegetables, then perhaps it is time to change that drink, and replace it with water."

"Addressing the early contributors of unhealthy eating that contribute to obesity is important for our general well-being as a nation and, especially, for improving the nutritional choices our children will make over their lifetimes," adds Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation at the UO.

McAlister suggests that restaurants serving kid’s meal combinations offer water as the default and charge extra for other drink alternatives.

Journal Reference:
T. Bettina Cornwall, Anna R. McAlisterb. Contingent Choice: Exploring the Relationship Between Sweetened Beverages and Vegetable Consumption.Appetite, 2012 (accepted) DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.05.001



I love water. This is easy for me. It really is my favorite beverage.