Here We Go Again!

Soda shops are expanding – here we go again! There’s a part of me that wants to laugh at the trend of soda shops that sell “dirty” soda and any reporter who fails to recognize this isn’t exactly a new idea. After all, I grew up on cherry Dr. Pepper and vanilla Coke.

I guess it’s new to call soda with syrup or fruit added to it dirty. And maybe that increases the appeal, not that you have to increase the appeal of a treat during the holiday season. Most of us allow ourselves an inordinate number of sweets this time of year.

While the appeal of soda escapes me at this point, I do understand the draw of pebble ice and drinking something other than water. And I understand the comfort of walking into an intimate setting with a refreshingly limited menu. Soda shops appeal in the same way as Starbucks – a fact recognized by Kevin Auernig, an owner of Sodalicious.

After a couple of decades of declining soda sales and removal of many vending machines from schools, it seemed like we might be refining our tastes in a healthier direction. But that’s only if you overlook sweetened, flavored coffee drinks. The 50% increase in Starbucks cold beverage sales since 2013 could be filling the gap.

I love exciting and new. And I love innovative ways of mixing and matching flavors. I just feel disheartened by the frequency with which we choose sugar and artificial flavors over naturally sweet, naturally flavored fruit. Wave after wave after wave, we opt for the newest treat filled with sugar and sodium.

The processed food industry is powerful. Food subsidies often exclude fresh items. We are fighting a huge battle to create healthier eaters. Like anything worthwhile, this will take time, energy, and perseverance as well as beating back trend after trend.

A return to better eating boundaries can be a good start:

Order from restaurants less often (other than family-style items) and have the whole family eat the same thing for each at home meal to make custom meals a treat rather than an expectation. This sets the stage for introducing new foods rather than catering to existing preferences.

Reduce or eliminate boxed cereal, breakfast bars, and frozen breakfast items to help curb the consumption of flavor enhancers and sugar.

Choose unsweetened, unflavored yogurt and add fresh fruit, dried fruit, or nuts to make yogurt snacks healthier.

Limit treats to make them more special and less a way of life.

Experimenting with food can help the journey along:

Grow a vegetable in a pot to take some of the mystery out of fresh food.

Explore a single food prepared in multiple ways to expand knowledge and preferences.

Do flavor experiments that are fun for the whole family – pair bananas and strawberries, salt and chocolate, raisins and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, cranberries and oranges – to learn who likes what. Blindfold each other and see who can identify the most foods by taste or smell. Take pictures of each other eating a lemon or hot pepper and post them on a bravery wall.

All of this may sound like a lot of trouble, but it will pay off in the long run with better health. That’s a trend that’s worth repeating.