Sodas, wine, beer, tea, juice are some of the drink options you have when sitting at the table to eat, but if you really want to be healthy your drink of choice should be always (and only) water.
Why? Because according to a new study on the role of food-and-drink pairings, drinking water makes a real difference when it comes to making food choices.
The new research was conducted by T. Bettina Cornwell of the University of Oregon and Anna R. McAlister of Michigan State University. Their findings can be found online this week ahead of the publication by the journal Appetite.
In particular, two different studies were conducted. One involved a survey of 60 young adults, between the ages of 19 and 23 about the role of food-and drink. In the second one, the researchers assessed the role of drinks and veggies consumption on 75 children.
The older participants favored the combination of soda served with salty, calorie-dense foods rather than soda and vegetables.
Similarly, the children ate more raw vegetables when accompanied with water rather than when accompanied by a sweetened beverage.
"Our taste preferences are heavily influenced by repeated exposure to particular foods and drinks," said Cornwell, the Edwin E. & June Woldt Cone Professor of Marketing in the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. "This begins early through exposure to meals served at home and by meal combinations offered by many restaurants. Our simple recommendation is to serve water with all meals. Restaurants easily could use water as their default drink in kids' meal combos and charge extra for other drink alternatives."
Serving water, McAlister said, could be a simple and effective dietary change to help address the nation's growing obesity problem, which has seen increasing number of diabetes cases in young adults and a rise in health-care costs in general.
Drinking water with meals, Cornwell said, also would reduce dehydration. While estimates of dehydration vary by sources, many estimates suggest that 75% of adult Americans are chronically dehydrated.
From an early age, Cornwell said, children learn to associate sweet, high-calorie drinks such as colas with salty and fatty high-calorie-containing foods like French fries.
"While this combining seems as normal as rainfall in Northwest winters, when we look cross-culturally we can see that food-and-drink combinations are developed preferences," she said. "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."
"This important research has broad ramifications for how foods are marketed and served," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation at the University of Oregon. "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."
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