Healthier Potluck Eating

Drinking water appears to help people choose healthier foods

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) How can you survive a barbecue, picnic or potluck without stuffing yourself silly? Simple. Keep a bottle of water in your hands at all times - and drink from it regularly.

Recent research has found links between what people choose to eat and how much water they're drinking.

"Drink water to live healthier."

Researchers T. Bettina Cornwell of the University of Oregon and Anna McAlister of Michigan State University have written a paper about two studies that look at the impact of drinking water on people's appetite and food choices.

In one study, 60 US adults, aged 19 to 23, were surveyed about their preferences in the drinks they have with certain foods.

Among these adult adults, most preferred to drink soda with salty, high-calorie foods rather than having soft drinks with vegetables.

In the second study, Cornwell and McAlister studied 75 U.S. preschoolers, aged 3 to 5, to find out whether the number of vegetables they ate was changed by how much water they drank.

The preschoolers were tested on different days in different situations, but they consistently ate more raw vegetables - either carrots or red peppers - when they were offered the vegetables with water compared to how much they ate while drinking a sweetened beverage.

The beverage they were offered, Hawaiian Punch, was more popular than the water among the kids, but the children ate an average of 14g of vegetables with the punch compared to 19g while drinking water.

"The findings suggest that the consumption of a sweetened beverage such as Hawaiian Punch might 'prime' a child's palate to be less accepting of raw vegetables," the authors wrote.

Cornwell said children learn early to associate sweet, high-calorie drinks with foods that are also high-calorie and are salty.

"Our taste preferences are heavily influenced by repeated exposure to particular foods and drinks," said Cornwell, a marketing professor at the University's Lundquist College of Business.

"This begins early through exposure to meals served at home and by meal combinations offered by many restaurants," she said. "Our simple recommendation is to serve water with all meals."

"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," she added.

The study appeared online May 14 in the journal Appetite. Information regarding funding and conflicts of interest was unavailable.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 25, 2012
Last Updated:
August 15, 2012