A month or so ago I went on a bit of a diatribe over soda consumption, rattling on about its contribution to the obesity epidemic and how buying it only adds to the problem by supporting the soft drink companies. My three children were at the receiving end of all this, their eyes glazed over seconds into my rant. Poor things.
But you never know when something is going to sink in, because an hour later, my youngest, Virginia, appeared with a clipboard and a pen, having drawn up a petition for family members to sign. It read something like this:
“I __________ promise not to drink sodas ever again. Sincerely, __________.”
She was the first to sign. I followed suit (did I have a choice?). Everyone else in the house politely passed.
Virginia stayed committed to her pledge. That is, until six hours later when her resolve crumbled under the temptation of a Shirley Temple at dinner out with the grandparents.
But I decided to stick with it, although I do love a good Shirley Temple. Granted, I wasn’t much of a soda drinker to begin with, but over ice on a hot day or at the movies, with a side of popcorn, there’s nothing better. I always felt sort of crummy drinking it, though, in part because I know better from a nutrition standpoint, but more because I was being a total hypocrite. Railing against soft drink manufacturers and hoping my kids wouldn’t develop a taste for the stuff, yet drinking it myself.
I don’t think soda is the devil, exactly. But I do know that we as a culture are downing it like water and it’s doing nothing for us but expanding our waistlines, and those of our children. According to the USDA, soft drinks, along with other sugary beverages, are among the top four sources of calories in the American diet. In their new book Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim hit the nail on the head when they write, “With nothing but “empty” calories, sodas have a nutrient density of zero. Think of them, as the Center of Science in the Public Interest does, as liquid candy. “
In our house soda has always been treated like candy, reserved for special occasions, like dinner out with the grandparents. And it will continue this way; I’m not going to impose my pledge on the kids. Making a food completely unattainable can backfire, reinforcing a child’s desire for it.
But I will throw it out to all of you grown ups. Maybe you’ll consider Virginia’s petition, even just for a week, or a month. Perhaps you’ll have a soda-free summer or no sodas on Sunday. If you don’t want to go cold turkey, maybe you resolve not to keep it in the house anymore, or reserve it for an occasional treat instead of a regular thing.
We could start a revolution.