Maybe in a perfect world, you’d pour yourself a large glass of spring water after your morning jog.
Then you’d complement your breakfast of fruit and cereal — whole grain, of course — with organic milk from grass-fed cows.
When you had coffee or tea during a mid-morning break you’d remember coffee comes from a bean and tea comes from a leaf and, just like spinach or broccoli, they give you a boost of antioxidants.
After work and several more glasses of rehydrating water, you might relax with friends and a glass of wine, opting for red because studies have shown those flavonoids are good for your heart.
If somebody mentioned soda, you’d say, “Oh, we keep a bottle around in case somebody gets an upset stomach because the carbonation can make you feel better. But nobody’s been sick for a while, and the bottle’s getting dusty.”
But we know this isn’t a perfect world.
Convenience stores and vending machines are filled with soda and diet soda, neither of which gets a ringing endorsement from nutrition experts.
Some children wrinkle their noses at plain milk, and the dairy industry has responded with a controversial move, petitioning the FDA to allow artificial sweeteners in chocolate and strawberry-flavored beverages without an easily recognizable “reduced calorie” message on the label.
Then there are people who gulp coffee until they’re jittery, or alcohol until their judgment is impaired.
So, what to drink?
We asked clinical dietitian Nicole Coppola from the Geisinger Health System some questions about beverages, and today, during National Nutrition Month, we are publishing her advice.
TL: Is organic milk better than conventionally produced milk?
NC: The short answer is yes. A study came out, looking specifically at whole milk. Organic milk, coming from grass-fed rather than grain-fed cows, has a healthier ratio of heart-healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
TL: Is it worthwhile to pay more for premium brands of milk that advertise their farmers do not use bovine growth hormone?
NC: If that’s what you’re looking for, you can find less expensive brands promising their milk comes from cows not treated with growth hormones. A lot of companies are becoming aware consumers might prefer that.
TL: Any thoughts on the dairy industry’s desire to artificially sweeten milk drinks?
NC: Children or anyone might want a little bit of flavor. In terms of artificial sweeteners, they are safe in small amounts. So if you’re having one serving, that’s OK but if you’re having multiple servings, that might not be so good.
TL: So you’d recommend diet soda over regular?
NC: Regular soda has no place in your diet. Those are non-nutritive calories. In terms of aspartame (an artificial sweetener) in moderate or small amounts, it’s safe. That said, I wouldn’t recommend that someone have multiple servings. You’ve got to think about what you’re replacing. Milk, skim milk, water, a small amount of juice, would all be better.
TL: What about coffee and tea?
NC: Both have potential health benefits, including lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease linked to coffee consumption. But don’t add a lot of cream. A commercially prepared latte can have 300 or 400 calories.
TL: And alcohol?
NC: For women, stick to no more than one drink a day. For men, two drinks a day. If you want to limit your alcohol intake, alternate alcoholic drinks with water.