Janet Marshall is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Living section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter. She thinks most things are fine in moderation.
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Mountain Dew for breakfast?
I’m going to go out on a short limb and say that a new breakfast drink from Pepsi Co., called Mountain Dew Kickstart, isn’t exactly the healthiest of morning beverage choices.
Kickstart, made with 5 percent juice and more caffeine than the standard Mountain Dew, will go on sale Feb. 25, according to kickstartfirsttaste.com and a story from The Associated Press. The drink will come in two flavors: “Energizing Orange Citrus” and “Energizing Fruit Punch.”
Because the drink has 5 percent fruit juice, it can be called a “juice drink” instead of a soda, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that drinking Kickstart is remotely like eating fruit for breakfast.
You’d have to drink about 80 ounces of Kickstart to consume the equivalent of an actual piece of fruit, according to my math (based on the Mayo Clinic’s guidance about fruit juice vs fruit). And if you drink actual fruit juice, less than an ounce provides as much real juice as you’d get in a 16-oz can of Kickstart, registered dietitian Jennifer Motl said.
In other words, if it’s nutrition you’re going for, Kickstart isn’t for you.
Caffeine-wise, Kickstart will have 92 milligrams — “just the right amount,” according to a Pepsi Co. press release. Here’s a glimpse of how that measures up to other 16-oz drinks, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest:
- McDonald’s coffee: 133 mg
- Rockstar energy drink: 160 mg
- Mountain Dew: 72 mg
Kickstart is made with artificial sweeteners, which keeps the calorie count relatively low: 80 calories in a 16-oz drink. But local registered dietitian Nancy Farrell said she’s concerned about the use of artificial sweeteners to reduce calorie content because “research is indicating that an increased use of artificial sweeteners is actually predisposing some individuals to develop diabetes.”
“And artificial sweeteners are not necessarily helping the obesity epidemic,” Farrell said.
Now, in one respect, if you’re used to downing a 16-oz cup of Starbucks coffee with lots of sugar every morning, Kickstart might seem like a decent alternative. Starbucks coffee has lots more caffeine than Kickstart, McDonald’s coffee or even Mountain Dew.
But coffee, at least, has some antioxidants, Motl said. And coffee is just coffee; it isn’t a can of “naturally and artificially flavored sparkling juice beverage from concentrate,” as Kickstart’s can says.
Specific nutritional information about the drink isn’t yet available on the Pepsi Co. website, the Mountain Dew Facebook page promoting the drink or elsewhere. Kickstart reportedly contains vitamins B and C.
But as Motl said, “Adding small amounts of juice and vitamins does not make it a real food — it’s still a manmade chemical stew.”
There are obviously lots of healthier ways to start your day.
“Like most dietitians, I would encourage people to eat something more substantial for breakfast,” Motl said.
You don’t have to whip up a gourmet breakfast to fuel yourself for the day ahead.
“Even a banana spread with peanut butter served with a cup of coffee and milk can provide vitamins, fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats,” Motl said. “Everyone’s gotta make their own choices, though.”
APPEALING TO TEENS?
The announcement about Kickstart comes less than a year after Taco Bell announced that it was adding a drink called Mtn Dew A.M. to its breakfast menu. That drink — a combination of Mountain Dew and orange juice — has 160 calories and 40 grams of sugar in each 16 oz serving, according to Taco Bell’s nutrition facts information, which don’t include caffeine content.
“Looks like Mountain Dew is trying to get a share of the breakfast market,” Farrell said.
The teen breakfast market, maybe? I’ll go out on another limb and say drinks with “fruit punch” in the name are at least as likely to appeal to kids and teens as to adults. We know kids like caffeine — the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued warnings about the hazards of kids drinking energy drinks.
The AAP’s position: “Because of the potentially harmful adverse effects and developmental effects of caffeine, dietary intake should be discouraged for all children,” says a 2012 AAP report.