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Drink Your Poison

Drink Your Poison

30 August 2021

Illustrating sodium and sugar levels in students’ beverages is eye-opening when discussing healthy beverage options.

By Dr. Jennifer Denlinger, CCC, CHEP

There are many personal choices that come with discussing an individual’s health and nutrition. To get my point across, I use examples of beverages my students consume in class to see what is healthy and what they think is healthy.

I provide a visual representation of what they are consuming. Most of the time, students do not know how much sugar or sodium is in an item they drink. This is a fun game to play.

I use the bottles and cans students deposited after class in the recycle bin to set up the activity. After washing the bottles and cans I collected very, very well, I have the students guess which drink is the healthiest. They then practice their nutritional calculations to understand the nutritional numbers associated with each drink. The next step is they see how much sugar, sodium and other nutrients are in each item.

Based on their calculations, they pour the same amount of sugar, sodium and fiber (I illustrate this using dried beans) into containers sitting next to each beverage. I then ask the students if their opinions on the healthiest drinks were correct. I find this to be a very eye-opening activity for the students and myself. I award participation points since it is a group activity, however it can be graded based on their nutritional calculations and justifications of healthy.

I keep the clean bottles and cans and make an answer key with the selections of beverages in case help is needed when making calculations. And here’s a side note: It is shocking to see what is in some of these drinks!  


Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger, PhD., CCC, CHEP, is the Culinary Management Program Department Chair at the Poinciana Campus of Valencia College. She is also the vice president of ACF’s Central Florida Chapter. Additionally, Chef Denlinger earned the 2020 Innovation Award, sponsored by CAFÉ and the Idaho Potato Commission, for a creative escape room based on safe food handling procedures.