Sweet and Sour

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I'm going to need some help, and I'm going to need it soon.

My daughter Ruby is a typically happy, silly two-year-old girl. Up until now, I've been able to control pretty much everything she eats and drinks. When she was born, I breast-fed her. When she started eating solid food, she enjoyed tomatoes and berries from our garden. We're careful to buy eggs from happy hens.

But soon, too soon really, she'll be heading off to school and it will become harder and harder to make sure she gets the best food possible.

That's why I'm paying close attention to a new policy New York City recently proposed. You've probably heard that the city wants to limit the size of sugary sodas people can buy in fast food restaurants and movie theaters. Opponents argue that this new rule would interfere with our choice to drink whatever we want. People are calling the mayor of New York a nanny for telling New Yorkers what they can or can't do.

But here's what I know. People who drink a lot of soda are at higher risk for diabetes. Right now, I'm watching my father struggle to manage his diabetes. He has to monitor every single item of food he puts in his mouth and he can no longer enjoy the sweet tea that he loves. Three times a day before he eats, he has to prick his finger and measure his blood sugar. His diet is severely restricted; he never eats sugar. Managing diabetes effectively is a 24/7 job.


If Ruby grows up drinking soda, she's much more likely to become obese and develop diabetes. If that happens, her choices will be limited, too. She'll have to monitor her food intake all the time and check her blood sugar daily. Her health insurance choices may be restricted. She may not be able to participate in certain sports. Her job opportunities and travel options may even be limited.

But like any two-year-old, Ruby loves sugar and the soda industry knows it. A recent report from Yale University found that soda companies spent over $900 million on marketing alone in 2010.

I've seen how diabetes takes away people's choices, and I want my daughter to be healthy. But how can a mom like me stand a chance against all that marketing muscle? I'd happily take a little help right now from a nanny like the government.

With a Perspective, I'm Manel Kappagoda.