One alarming trend in our society today is the prevalence of junk food in our diets ó and more importantly in those of our children. While the selection of junk foods continues to grow and the enormity is mind boggling, letís focus on just one: soft drinks.

They have wiggled their way into nearly every venue in our society. About the only public place I havenít seen them is in the back vestibules of our nationís churches.

Soft drinks have no place is this nationís schools. Soft drinks have little, if any nutritional value whatsoever. Look at the ingredients in a soft drink the next time you pick one up. Most people wouldnít have a clue what these ingredients are, myself included.

To be part of a balanced diet, a food product must have nutritional value. Unlike water, soft drinks wonít even quench your thirst. They leave you longing for a tall, cool glass of water.

And thatís what we should have in all our public places ó water, lots of it and other healthful drink alternatives.

Talk to a nutritionist or physician and what is the ingredient weíre supposed to drink at least eight glasses of?

Thatís right, natureís own liquid ó water.

What about that wonderful white liquid chock full of calcium we call milk? Where does it fit in our daily diet?

Milk belongs in a balanced diet. Nutritional research has stressed that men and women between the ages of 11 and 24 need the equivalent of five servings of dairy products daily. This can be milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and a whole array of other good-tasting dairy foods.

Kids need healthful food and drinks. During these growing years, the bones in the human body are like a calcium bank. Between ages 11 and 24, bones are continually taking in calcium. From 24 until about 50 years of age in women and 65 in men, the body reaches an equilibrium point. But after those years, the body begins to extract calcium from the bones.

Milk is a healthful, nutritional food that belongs in our daily diets. Proper intake of milk in a well-balanced diet can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by as much as 50 percent.

Juice from oranges, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries and other fruits is another item that belongs in a balanced diet. Food products from natural primary crops ó not always secondary, highly processed food products ó are essential to our youngstersí diets. We owe it to them and their good health.

Vegetable drinks made from tomatoes, carrots, celery and other vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Vegetable drinks also belong as part of our daily diets. Have a V-8 instead.

But letís return to soft drinks. As a youngster my parents only allowed us to drink them on special occasions. Dentists and nutritionists contend these products can cause tooth decay. While I know genetics and proper daily oral hygiene play a major role, I didnít have my first filling until about six years ago, and Iím somewhere in the half-century club age wise.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Selling soft drinks is about one thing only ó making money. I donít have a problem with anyone making a profit. Itís the American way. I just believe that food products should have plenty of nutritional value.

So if you need to treat yourself, add chocolate to the milk. Mix a couple of the fruit juices together or just drink water. Youíll be doing yourself a favor and youíll be supporting farmers and ranchers who supply these fresh, tasty, nutritious drinks.

Make mine chocolate milk. Bottoms up.


John Schlageck is a Farm Bureau commentator, specializing in agriculture and rural Kansas.