Safely Sweetened Beverages For a Change

As the New York City soda ban controversy continues to make national headlines, the issue has also sparked debate among restaurant industry insiders and health officials alike.

Our team has been following the issue closely, and VSAG recently discovered that a group of health advocates and public heath officials have taken this topic from the mayor’s office in NYC to the steps of the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. – asking the FDA to regulate the amount of caloric sweeteners in sodas and other beverages since the scientific consensus is that the level of added sugars in those products is unsafe.

Led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and public health department representatives from cities across the country (such as Boston and Los Angeles), their stance is simple: In 1982 and again in 1998, the FDA pledged to reassess the safety of sweeteners if consumption increased or if scientific research indicated that ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose were a public health hazard. Unfortunately, they say, both of those conditions have been met, as caloric sweeteners in beverages are the biggest source of sugars in the American diet and therefore a contributor to the high rate of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes in our country. Thus the push to have the FDA get the regulations approved.

To put it in perspective: A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains an amount of high fructose corn syrup equivalent to roughly 16 teaspoons of sugar!

As this debate rages on, knowing these facts, we only see an upside to offering guests in our restaurants healthy alternatives to sugary beverages and to helping our clients provide the best options for their guests.

Promoting good choices whenever possible makes for good business. And offering beverages featuring natural ingredients, such as fresh honey, organic agave nectar, pure cane syrup, Molasses, demerara sugar or fresh fruit extracts to sweeten beverages are some great alternatives. Start thinking outside the sugary soda arena and pique the interest of your guests with natural choices. For example, try creating your own ‘spectacular soda’ by offering fresh fruit and nectar extracts to sparkling water. Invite guests to concoct specialty combinations by providing an array of fresh flavors housed in small shot glasses or Asian soupspoons. Guests will love the creativity, the fun pop of color and the fresh tastes. The upside? By limiting flavor amounts to about a teaspoon each, guests will get great flavor without overdoing it. And that will cause sweet smiles – the healthy way!

So, whatever your concoctions of choice – keep beverage offerings natural, fresh and flavorful and guests will ask servers to keep ‘em coming!

Photo: Founding Farmers Raspberry Lime Rickey