Facts and figures on what Americans drink

If you're like most Americans, you reach for a soft drink first when you're thirsty. Milk is second in popularity, with beer and coffee tied for third place.

Americans today are drinking more commercially produced beverages than ever before. Twenty years ago coffee was the favorite beverage, followed by milk and soft drinks.

Since 1962 the country's thirst for commercial beverages has swelled by 19 gallons per person, while the total amount of food eaten has remained about the same.

There are several reasons for the increase, according to Carol M. Courser, extension specialist on nutrition at the University of New Hampshire.

Children and teen-agers once drank more milk but have switched to soft drinks over the years. By the late '70s, teens were drinking 19 ounces of soft drinks a day and only 12 ounces of milk.

The shift to soft drinks was assisted by the efforts of advertisers to link soft drinks to rock concerts and outdoor activities. This also boosted beer consumption, which has increased by 5 percent over 20 years.

Both beer and soft drink sales have risen as people eat out more often.

A trend toward lighter foods with less fat and sugar has caused some people to switch to low-fat milk and diet soft drinks.

Although less coffee is drunk overall, the number of decaffeinated coffee drinkers has increased.

Although fruit juices remain fifth on the list of popular beverages, they too are becoming more popular.

The availability of sealed, single-serving juices should continue to make this option more convenient.

The average US citizen now drinks about 47 ounces of commercial beverages a day.

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