The Barclays Center, the new home of the Nets, recently opened, and the season begins this week. I'm not a huge sports fan, but as a proud Brooklynite, I've been anxiously awaiting the start of the season. The thought of taking my kids to watch an NBA game in my own 'hood is pretty thrilling. And other folks must be pretty excited too, because that first game is sold out. Blame it on Jay-Z.
But get to a game we will—eventually. And as with any special outing, I'm sure we'll indulge in some courtside snacks. While I gave up soda 20 years ago, and we don't keep it in the house, my husband does like to sip the sweet stuff at movies and other events. And yes, he does go for the larger sizes on these occasions, much to my chagrin. But it looks like I won't have to be the regulator when we head to Barclays, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg's soda ban is in effect.
New York City's Board of Health will be putting the new soda regulations into action (unless they're blocked by the courts) in March. The just-opened Barclays Center has voluntarily decided to enforce the regulations now, serving up only one size of full-calorie soda: 16 ounces. There will be no 32-ounce offering, which has become the norm at theaters and sporting arenas. And there will be no 128-ounce version or 512-ounce "child" size option—the spoof sizes featured in a recent Parks and Recreation episode that hilariously poked fun at the issue.
Some people, like my sister-in-laws in Seattle, believe that these types of government regulations infringe on our personal freedoms. Why should anyone regulate how much soda you can drink? What's next, a doctor's note to order a large pizza? I respect this outlook and realize that these restrictions can feel un-American; but as a dietitian, I am also painfully aware of the severity of the obesity epidemic and also the difficulty that many Americans face in the fight against their expanding waistlines. Smoking bans have had the desired effect of lowering the number of people who smoke, as well as the amount of cigarettes that smokers use daily.
I'm hoping that restrictions on soda may have a similar impact. New York City isn't getting rid of sweetened beverages, it's just making it harder to over-consume them. I don't believe that taking in too many calories from soda is making us obese. But like neighborhoods without sidewalks, schools without gyms, food deserts, and too much screen time, I do think extra calories from beverages are contributing to the problem.
I'm looking forward to that first Nets game. And the Cuban sandwich I'll get from Habana, my neighbor Sean's food stand. We'll likely also get some locally made Blue Marble ice cream for the kids. True, none of these treats are low in calories or fat, but at least you can only wash them down with 128 calories worth of soda instead of 267 or more. And in the battle against obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, every little bit helps.
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Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, is a best-selling author and nationally recognized health expert, who has helped thousands of women across America lose weight and feel incredible with her healthy recipes and smart diet and nutrition advice. Frances was the Food and Nutrition Director at Health magazine for nearly eight years. Prior to that, she was part of the editorial team at the Discovery Health Channel and was managing editor at FoodFit.com. Frances is a frequent guest on national TV, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, The Talk, CNN, the Rachael Ray Show, and the Dr. Oz Show. She has also lent her expertise as a judge on Food Network Challenge and the James Beard Foundation awards. Frances is the author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide and co-author of the best-selling The CarbLovers Diet and The CarbLovers Diet Cookbook. She was the team dietitian for Sanjay Gupta's 2011 CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Frances earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York.