Shaping food choices

Here’s an add you probably won’t see: “This month only at Salivating Sid’s get an upgrade to a large spring-water with each Nuclear Burger, the only burger with six different kinds of meat and where the buns are deep fried!” The reason you won’t see this ad; water drinking is not associated with fast foods. According to new research that might not be all bad, as it points to a way to get your kids eating better from an early age.

For the study researchers from the University of Oregon conducted two separate experiments. In one experiment a survey examined attitudes to food and drink pairings among young adults aged 19-23. The other study involved children aged three to five. The children were tested by offering them different food and drink combinations across a series of different testing days.

The second experiment found that the young children ate more raw vegetables when they were given water to drink than when they were given a soft drink.

The survey found that when the young adults had sift drink they favoured salty, kilojoule dense foods rather than vegetables.

There are two possible things going on here. On the one hand soft drinks themselves might encourage poor food choices. Certainly we know that the fructose used to sweeten many soft drinks bypasses normal appetite control mechanism so that you still feel hungry despite consuming lots of kilojoules in the soft drink. Maybe soft drinks and salty, fatty foods also provide some sort of counter-balancing sensation in your mouth?

The other possibility is that it is just a matter of habit forming. It might be that from an early age children learn to associate sweet, high kilojoule drinks with fatty, salty, high kilojoule food because that is how they are marketed: as a package deal.

Whatever the mechanism the bottom line of this study is that kids eat more vegetables when they are given water to drink. The researchers advise that giving children only water with meals would be a wise practise for any parent. Given that it is estimated that around 75 per cent of people are chronically dehydrated, it certainly would not be a bad idea.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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