What’s driving us to drink….and what are we drinking?

Recently I had the privilege of hearing one of my all time dietetic gurus, Linda Tapsell from Wollongong University, speak about how we relate to beverages.  Alongside her, Claire Richards from Coca-Cola Oceania shared some fascinating insights into New Zealander’s attitudes to drinking.  And Caryn Zinn expertly summarised issues on hydration in sport.

When it comes to successfully encouraging people to make healthier beverage choices, each and every speaker stressed the importance of working with individuals, rather than making broad general recommendations such as “drink water and low fat milk”.

What people expect and need from different beverages is extremely varied, which explained to me why it’s unrealistic to expect people to switch from one set of beverages (with similar attributes) to another set of beverages (with completely different attributes in the mind of the consumer). 

For example, if you’re out for a good time with your mates you’re about as likely to order a glass of milk as you are to be wearing pyjamas.  What you want is a beverage that’s associated with socialising, not one that’s associated with, say health and nutrition.  There is a time and place for everything.

Those underlying needs associated with certain life situations don’t change, but moving to a healthier option which addresses the same underlying need within the same situation is far more likely to work.  For example in the scenario described above, recommending that people order a diet soft drink if they’re watching their calorie intake, rather than a sugar containing soft drink, might actually be likely to work.

That would be fine, were it not for another shocking fact I picked up at the same seminar: New Zealanders drink mostly tap water (nothing shocking in that), but the second most widely consumed beverage in New Zealanders (ranging from 12-69 years of age) is …wait for it….beer!  So in fact, most people in the above scenario will opt for a beer anyway!  Diet beer anyone?

This sets my mind reeling at the calories we Kiwis must consume from alcohol.  It baffles me why all dietary energy sources do not require nutrition labelling and packaged alcoholic drinks are a long overdue candidate for this. 

Thanks to the NZ Nutrition Foundation and Coca-Cola Oceania for making this event possible.  Linda and Caryn’s presentations should both be up on the Nutrition Foundation’s website shortly.

Categories: Food and Nutrition Events, Food Industry, Nutrition and Health

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