Yesterday PepsiCo revealed that a new breakfast drink, Kickstart, will hit store shelves on February 25. A carbonated fruit juice beverage born from the Mountain Dew family, the idea is to help consumers solve a morning coffee vs. juice conundrum.
Just to recap: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese while 33 percent of adults have prediabetes. Here in New York City, the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces is set to be banned in March, and it sounds like this new beverage would simply encourage consumers to have another soda earlier in the day.
Given the above statistics, it’s not surprising that the free preview samples are out of stock, so I had to call customer service to find out what is, exactly, in this lively libation. (Note that information for the final product may be slightly different and vary by flavor.)
Nutrition score per serving (16-ounce can): 80 calories, 0g fat, 20g carbs, 19g sugars, 0g protein, 170mg sodium
Here’s a more nutritious fact: An 8-ounce cup of orange juice has about the same amount of sugars and carbohydrates, but its sugar content, vibrant hue, vitamins, and electrolytes are inherent to the fruit—not added—and the typical ingredient list should contain one thing: 100-percent pure natural orange juice. For the best calorie bargain, go for a whole orange at breakfast—for just 70 calories, you’ll get 3 grams of filling fiber, which will help keep you satisfied and hydrated, and provide a steady source of morning energy, in season now.
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Ingredients: When the customer service rep had trouble pronouncing them, I knew it was going to be a long list. In the interest of the company, I will not divulge the complete can contents (nearly 20 items long), but I will say that they are not fresh off the tree or vine—without further processing. For each variety, the 5 percent juice is comprised of white grape juice concentrate or concentrated orange juice, which comes after high-fructose corn syrup. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer 100 percent juice and 0 percent HFCS.
Artificial sweeteners: This buzz-worthy beverage contains at least two sugar substitutes in addition to high-fructose corn syrup. While the research consensus on whether or not artificial sweeteners contribute to weight gain is still up for debate, some studies suggest they may actually lead to more cravings and desensitize sensors in the brain that gauge energy consumption. Regardless, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols found in sugar-free candy and soft drinks have been linked to abdominal discomfort and bloating.
Additives: Glycerol ester of rosin for breakfast, anyone? One thing Kickstart may include is an alternative to brominated vegetable oil (BVO), as we know Pepsi plans to remove that one from Gatorade. The FDA has recognized this stabilizer as safe for use in acidic (i.e. citrus) beverages, to allow fruit oils to mix with carbonated water or juice to form an emulsion. So what’s the root of the issue? Glycerol ester of (wood) rosin is made from pine trees.
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And although I could not confirm what type or how much caffeine is included, other sources report it will contain 92 mg, which is comparable to a cup or two of coffee, depending on the brew. The soft drink will also contain added B vitamins for energy—likely the same ones you can get in a serving of whole-grain cereal—and due to caffeine’s diuretic effect, you may end up not absorbing any of those extra vitamins anyway.
Just as any java jolt should be part of a balanced breakfast, weight management should be a component of total-body health and wellness. Now that you have the facts, you decide which fuel is best to kickstart your engine.
Thérèse Bonanni, R.D., C.D.N., is a New York City-based clinical dietitian, nutrition counselor, freelance writer, and recipe developer and former editor for Prevention magazine. She created and developed recipes for The O2 Diet, Slim Calm Sexy Diet, and The New You and Improved Diet books, which have appeared on The Rachael Ray Show and Access Hollywood. Her work has appeared in Women's Health, Men's Health, and other national media outlets. Contact her @TBonanniRD.