Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Diet Coke Diet

Wednesday morning, coffee in hand, I hit the computer to peruse food and dining sections in newspapers. While reading the When Parents Scream Against Ice Cream article in the NYTimes, I am deep into agreement with some of the moms. I, too, cringe when I hear the tingle of the ice cream truck. I can still remember running up the stairs of our duplex in Cleveland with my brother, begging Mom to give us a penny for some ice cream(or whatever it cost 40 + years ago), only to break down in tears because we had missed him. We had missed him because he drove away, there wasn’t anyone on the street clamoring to buy ice cream. The driver couldn’t see me as I was scurrying up the stairs to ask Mom for money. So he moved on. Today, those ice cream trucks sit and sit, and sit. I think the sounds of joy to the operators is the incessant whining of children, whose parents often give in just to shut them up.
I’m immersed in my thoughts of the ice cream truck – on the fence of whether they’re good or bad, when something catches my eye. It’s the Diet Coke banner ad at the top of the page. An ad I would typically ignore, since I don’t drink soda. But, it is the words that appear alongside the can of Diet Coke that make me take a second look – and, even make me click!
Next to that well-known can runs the words “Let’s Do Lunch,” “Your Dinner Date,” and “Every Meal Delicious” A tab on the ad tempts a click-through with the words “Visit the Diet Coke Kitchen.” Yes, they’ve tempted me. – I click.

The Diet Coke Kitchen.
My first thought, “How ridiculous,” a site dedicated to recipes made using diet coke.
My second thought, “How ridiculous,” a company known for its predatory advertising to children, a company whose product is a big cog in the wheel of America’s freight train of obesity, is offering up advice on good eating habits.
My third thought, “How ridiculous,” to add some credibility to their efforts, they’ve signed on a chef to be the spokesperson for the site.

All I know, is that this association – Diet Coke and Eating Well – just don’t mix. After quite some time on the site, I’m still confused. To me, there is such a disconnection between good eating and Diet Coke that I’m baffled at their attempt to try to set themselves into the realm of healthy eating. You don’t fool me Coke. And, even if the recipe for Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Mango Chutney sounds tasty, just for spite of it, I WILL NOT not try it!
(Sorry Chef Tom Colicchio. I’m disappointed that you chose this as your venue to showcase your talent.)

You’ve heard it before:
The number one source of calories in youth in America comes from drinking soda.

The United States ranks first among countries in soft drink consumption. The per-capita consumption of soft drinks is in excess of 150 quarts per year, or about three quarts per week.

The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.

Soda consumption affects obesity, bone density, the heart, and, don’t get me started on the ill effects of the poisonous sweetener they use.

To me it doesn’t matter if the ad had a can of Diet Coke on it, but it is still associated with “The Real Thing.” Diet Coke drinkers are still susceptible to negative affects that come with consuming that three quarts a week – including the acidic affects of the soda on one’s teeth, and the poisonous effects of the artificial sweeteners they use. (Check out the Low-down on low-calorie sweeteners tab – what a farce). The rate at which Americans are addicted to sodas is alarming, even so much that it has the attention of those over at Fox News who have reported that Soda May Seriously Harm Your Health.
My favorite section of the site is the section Wellness & Balance. I click and come to the tab “ Quench Your Thirst: Find out how much fluid you need a day.”
I click, and see the copy reading “All Beverages Hydrate.” According to the site, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has found that all beverages, including those with caffeine, contribute to total daily hydration. If you’re not in the mood for water, it’s OK to drink something else you enjoy like a sports drink, tea, or soft drink.”
There you have it, they are assuring us that Coke is a trusted friend, citing research that lets us know, we can have a soda as part of our daily fluid intake. Forget about mentioning the fact that soda is probably at the bottom of the list of hydrating beverages recommendations from the Academy (I’m making a somewhat educated guess on this point). “Go ahead, if you don’t want water, certainly don’t drink juice, have a soda and don’t feel guilty. Just make one of the recipes on our site, and everything will be alright.”

Suffice to say, I’m appalled. I know I’ve got soda-drinking friends out there, and I’m not averse to partaking in one myself time and gain. (Although to me, water, coffee and tea will do just fine – oh, and a bit of wine.)
My problem is, that I see this as yet another way to deceive the public, get their product brand embedded so deeply into our psyche that we begin to think “Coke is good for me. Coke = healthy eating. Coke is right there by my side helping me loose that extra 100 pounds.

Or rather, should I say: Coke is it.