06/08/2012 11:51 am ET

Table Talk: New York City's Proposed Soda Ban

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

If you’ve traveled abroad, you might have noticed that portion sizes vary from country to country. In many places around the world, “large” sizes are roughly equal to what Americans consider “small.” (After all, we do live in the country that developed a coffee cup larger than the average human stomach.)

Foreign travelers not used to American food sizes would likely be horrified to see the enormous bottles and cups we use to serve soda (some as large as 50 ounces). Drinking pints and pints of soda at once is unhealthy, and our sweet-drinks addiction, along with other eating and recreation habits, has helped to make more than 35 percent of American grown-ups (and around 17 percent of kids) extremely overweight.

It looks like the days of massive beverages might be numbered, though -- at least in New York City. Last week, New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, kicked off a major debate by suggesting a ban on the sale of large portions of soda and other unhealthy drinks. The ban isn’t final yet, but it only needs one more approval to go into effect.

Consuming sweet drinks is a recipe for bad health. Mark Bittman went as far as calling added sugar “the tobacco of the 21st century” in a New York Times blog this week -- suggesting that the fact that we’re so used to drinking soda makes us blind to its dangers, which are ultimately economic as well as health-related (the CDC reports that “medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion” in 2008).

This week, HuffPost Healthy Living invited two experts to debate the importance and effectiveness of the proposed ban; you can read their arguments here. Whatever you think of Bloomberg’s anti-calorie campaign, one thing’s for sure: discussing and thinking about our food choices –- personal and collective -- is always healthy.

Questions for discussion:
  • What’s your unhealthiest habit?
  • How often do you drink soda? Do you ever drink more than 16 ounces at one time?
  • How can you start discussions about portion sizes -- and other healthy eating issues -- in your own community?
  • Do you think the government should be able to limit food and drink sizes? Or is it our responsibility to make healthy choices on our own?
  • Is there one thing you eat a lot of now that you should make an effort to cut out of your diet?

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.