Are We Thirst Quenching Ourselves Unhealthy?

When we hear the phrase “junk food”, we know it means the calorie and fat filled chips and sugar-laden candies, cookies and goodies that fill store shelves and vending machines.

But, recently we’ve seen a rapid rise in a new wave of junk.

Nutritionist Andrea Donsky calls them “junky drinks” and she’s on a mission to help people become aware that members of The Scary Seven may lurk inside some of the energy drinks, sports beverages, flavored or enhanced waters as well as some lemonade’s and powdered drink mixes they reach for. The Scary Seven is not a group of bank robbers on the loose. It’s the term Donsky and her co- authors of the book Unjunk Your Junk Food coined as the most devious and often invisible additives that research has proven to cause harm to human bodies. They are:

• High-fructose corn syrup or Glucose-fructose in Canada
• Trans fats
• Monosodium Glutamate
• Artificial Colors
• Artificial Flavors
• Artificial Sweeteners
• And [certain] preservatives

“We need to be careful of what we’re drinking,” cautions Donsky. “Once we know what’s in our drinks, then we know what we need to stay away from. High-fructose corn syrup is a cheap sugar for companies to use, but it comes at a high cost to our health. Research shows it can lead to obesity and heart disease.”

We already know that we can look hot (without extra body fat and cavities) and feel cool by avoiding sugared sodas which Donsky calls “liquid candy”. But she believes regular soda is actually better for you than the sodas with artificial sweeteners.

“The key is to always read the label before buying a product, even if you have bought it a thousand times before because companies are always changing their ingredients,” warns Donsky.

She also says juice drinks are junky! She laughs that she must have seemed like a very strict mom when she was out shopping recently and told her seven year old daughter “no” when she asked for a juice drink prominently displayed in the store. Because Donsky reads labels carefully, she knows “juice drinks” are different than “100% juice drinks” and juice drinks often have very little real fruit and a large helping of high fructose corn syrup.

Registered Holistic Nutritionist Lisa Tsakos knows her children, who are under age two, will soon-enough be asking for popular juice drinks too. She says once her kids go to school, she will never include sodas or juices made with high fructose corn syrup, avoid any foods or snacks with trans fats, and she will avoid artificial colors. “My daughter has already shown strong reactions to foods containing the color red,” Tsakos says. “She goes completely haywire for almost an hour and many drinks contain artificial colors and flavors which can adversely impact behavior.”

Tsakos has examined health research and agrees with The Scary Seven list. “There is quite a bit of evidence that kids, especially kids, react to artificial colors and while every person is different, many parents blame sugar for their child’s bad behavior when it may be an artificial color or another additive causing the behavioral change instead.”

Her kids drink juice rich in colorful bioflavonoids such as blueberry, goji, acaci or carrot. “On a positive note, we’re seeing the emergence of some pretty innovative beverages that contain probiotics or omega 3,” Tsakos says.

Her go-to thirst quencher? Perrier with a squirt of lemon or lime or some mint-flavored liquid chlorophyll. She says many brands are now moving to replace artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners with natural ingredients and stevia which is a natural sweetener both she and Donsky like. “I’ll be happy to pack lunches with treats such as Santa Cruz Organic sodas,” Tsakos shares.

Donsky has learned that if you make them interesting, kids will crave the healthier beverages. Her son is eight and likes bubbly, sparkling water with diluted juice. Together, they make regular water more appealing by adding sliced cucumbers or strawberries to the pitcher and letting them steep overnight. On hot days, they make homemade popsicles with chocolate almond milk, herbal tea or lemonade that does not have high-fructose corn syrup.

In a recent survey, 55% of consumers admitted they don’t understand the meaning of half the ingredients in foods. “Knowing how to read food labels and the meaning of the ingredients listed on them, empowers us to know exactly what we are putting into our bodies and those of our children,” says Donsky. She says there are many healthier options, usually products where the labels list fewer ingredients and finding those options will keep you sipping without overdosing on those junky members of The Scary Seven.–Sue Breding

Andrea Donsky is a health and wellness advocate and co-founder of, one of the web’s most popular and trusted resources for living a natural, organic, and green lifestyle.
Lisa Tsakos is a nutritionist and educator specializing in weight management and corporate nutrition programs. She is the chief nutrition expert for two years researching their new book!

UNJUNK YOUR JUNK FOOD: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks at book stores across the U.S. and Canada, as well as online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major book retailers.

Unjunk Your Junk Food – Book’s website is:
Unjunk Your Junk Food is teaching consumer show to make better packaged snack and bottled beverage choices. No need to “give up” the chocolate-y, salty, crunchy snacks and thirst quenching drinks you love… simply swap them out for options without the toxic ingredients. People are eating so much junk food and 50%of consumers admit they do not understand half the ingredients listed on food labels. We may never snack regularly on broccoli and carrots, let’s be honest, so what’s the next best thing? De-junk the sweets and treats and drinks you DO eat regularly. Andrea Donsky is a brilliant nutritionist and expert behind the eye-opening book Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks (January 2012, Simon & Schuster).


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