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John Whyte, M.D., MPH Headshot

Do-It-Yourself Fizzy Water Should Not Cost $8 at a Restaurant

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Anyone who knows me knows that I'm always encouraging people to drink plenty of water. Staying properly hydrated is key to staying healthy -- and not just during this oppressively hot weather.

I haven't always been a big proponent of water. Like a lot of other people, I used to drink a lot of soda. A few years back, however, I decided that all this soda could not be good for my health. So for the last five years, I've been increasing the amount of water I drink daily and eliminating almost all other beverages. And I actually feel good -- my skin looks healthier and I've lost weight.

Making the switch to water can be tough. It can take some time to adjust to going from a 3 p.m. soda to a 3 p.m. glass of water. Often, I tell people to try carbonated water -- it has a fizz like soda, but without all the junk. That helped me make the switch and I still drink carbonated water, especially when I go out to dinner.

But lately, I've wondered if some restaurants are pulling a fast one. Have you noticed it, too? I'm talking about carbonated water served at the restaurant with no brand label. It's served out of a glass bottle. It's basically "homemade fizzy water." Like I just said, I'm all about drinking plenty of water. The problem I have is that many restaurants are still charging the same price as if it were a brand like Pellegrino or Perrier. I'm just not sure why I'm being charged $8 for something similar to my own tap water, with some fizz added.

It's all the rage now -- restaurants making their own fizzy water right there on the premises. (Perhaps it's about "going green" and reducing all those bottles.) They just add pressurized carbon dioxide gas to plain water. You've seen that dispenser the bartender uses to fill your table's drink orders. Well, one of those buttons adds what we think of as "bubbles" to your drink. You might have even seen some late-night commercials for home units. A couple of my friends bought one, and it tastes okay. You can even build your own by following simple instructions available free online. And guess what? An entire liter of homemade carbonated water will set you back anywhere from 10 to 20 cents. Bet you can't find a liter of fizzy water listed on the menu of your favorite restaurant for just 20 cents!

I'm all about knowing what you buy, so is there a difference between the homemade/restaurant-made carbonated water and those prebottled name brands? After all, just what's in that expensive water anyway? Well, some of it is naturally-carbonated, natural mineral water that's been treated, infused with replacement gas, and then packaged. That water is typically higher quality with less contaminants. And finding the underground spring where that water flows and bringing it to a treatment facility probably does add to the cost. But, artificially carbonated, non-mineral water is made bubbly by adding carbon dioxide. Let's face it -- that really could be the same water that comes from the restaurant kitchen faucet! And that is not worth several dollars. And it's not really what one expects when one asks for sparkling or carbonated water, is it?

So go ahead and drink water -- including at the restaurant. But if you order sparkling, fizzy, or carbonated water (whichever name you use), ask if it's home-made. If it is, make sure you don't get charged several dollars -- I don't think it's worth it. Do you?

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