02/01/2013 04:28 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2013

Table Talk: How One Teenager Is Making A Difference

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

Sarah Kavanagh, a Mississippi 15-year-old, was surprised by what she discovered when she researched an ingredient in her orange Gatorade that she didn’t recognize.

Reading about brominated vegetable oil (B.V.O.), she found reports and studies about potential side effects like brain and heart damage. B.V.O. is used in soft drinks in North America to keep the artificial flavoring from separating, but it’s banned in Europe and Japan.

To Kavanagh, this simply wasn’t acceptable -- and she took her crusade to the Internet. She started a petition on, calling for PepsiCo, the company that makes Gatorade, to take B.V.O. out of the beverage’s formula.

PepsiCo finally agreed to replace B.V.O. with another ingredient, but the bottles of Gatorade that contain B.V.O. will stay stores until they are sold. Kavanagh has now started a campaign to remove the chemical from Powerade drinks, too.

What about other ingredients in Gatorade, like food dyes? The colors that give Gatorade drinks their names, like the bright blue “Glacier Freeze,” come from artificial food dyes like Blue 1, which the F.D.A. has approved as safe, though they continue to study their effects.

Tonight, let’s talk about the power of one person to make a difference -- and the importance of knowing what is in the food and drinks we consume.

Questions for discussion:
  • Do you read the ingredients labels on food and drinks?
  • How often do you notice ingredients you’ve never heard of? Do you look them up?
  • If you could start a petition to change anything in the world, what would it be?

In her cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.


  • Arizona Raspberry Iced Tea
    These recognizable-anywhere cans are bad news: They contain 23.5 ounces, nearly three times the suggested serving size for the tea inside. With 90 calories per 8 ounces, finishing an entire can adds up to almost 270.

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    The 9.5-ounce Starbucks to go contains 180 calories.

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  • Jamba Juice Smoothies
    Granted, Jamba Juice All Fruit smoothies are made with much better-for-you ingredients than a can of cola. However, it's still easy to mindlessly sip your calories when a 16-ounce size clocks in at least 210 calories.

    Flickr photo by libookperson
  • Minute Maid Lemonade
    A 12-ounce can of the summer favorite clocks in at 150 calories, more than a can of Coke and the same as a can of Pepsi.

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  • Snapple Apple Fruit Drink
    There are 100 calories in every 8 ounces of this fruity pick, but the bottle is deceiving, since it packs 16 ounces.

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  • Sunkist Orange Soda
    There are 170 calories per 12-ounce can of this sweet drink.

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  • Dr. Pepper
    A 12-ounce can clocks in at 150 calories, more than a can of Coke and the same as a can of Pepsi.

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  • Dunkin' Donuts Strawberry Coolatta
    Even the small size of this frozen concoction from the coffee chain is a diet danger, with 230 calories in 16 ounces.

    Flickr photo by ReneS
  • Monster Energy Drink
    There are only 100 calories in 8 ounces of this pick-me-up, but who only drinks half a can? The whole thing will set you back 200 calories.

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  • Nesquik Lowfat Chocolate Milk
    An 8-ounce bottle of this sweet sip adds up to 170 calories. Beware of larger sizes that encourage bigger portions.

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  • Barq's Root Beer
    Each 12-ounce can contains 160 calories.

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