AS WE HOPEFULLY SAY farewell to the winter blues, it’s time to focus on what can make us feel better this spring. As the winter months tail off, we’re all dealing with dry, dehydrated skin and fighting through or recovering from illnesses. Hydration is important year-round, but if it wasn’t something you were focusing on before, now is an excellent time to rethink your drink.
Benefits of Staying Hydrated
Avoid dehydration. This one sounds obvious, yes. But dehydration can negatively affect so many bodily functions including cardiovascular health, kidney function and electrolyte balance. So it’s important to make sure you not only drink the right fluids, but enough fluids to maintain an appropriate balance in your body. In general, aim for a minimum of eight 8-ounce cups per day. This can vary based on a person’s age and size. Younger kids might aim for five to six cups per day, while older teenagers may require more than 10 cups per day.
Avoid illness. Drinking enough fluid can help boost immunity. It’s also extremely important to stay hydrated when you’re already sick. Be sure to sip on fluids throughout the day, especially if you have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. These are some of the leading causes of dehydration in children.
Maintain glowing skin. Dehydration makes skin less elastic, which can make the skin feel rough. There haven’t been studies to confirm this, but anecdotally, many report improved skin with adequate hydration.
Prevent constipation. Adequate hydration is key in staying regular, especially for kids. Often, kids complain about constipation, and it turns out they aren’t drinking nearly enough fluids throughout the day. Fiber and food choices are important, but don’t overlook drinking enough water.
It keeps you cool. Literally: It helps regulate your body temperature.
What Should I Drink?
The short answer: Water. There’s truly nothing better and nothing that your body needs more than than good old-fashioned water. I often hear that people, particularly kids, “don’t like water.” But it’s a naturally occurring substance from nature that our body craves.
Still, I get it – water may get boring. So here are some other options that you could use to supplement your water intake.
Unsweetened tea. You can have unsweetened plain tea or try flavored versions that are still unsweetened. Or add fruit yourself. Just make it decaf for the kiddos.
Infused water. You can infuse water with just about anything. Take any fruit from your fridge or freezer and let sit in water overnight to naturally infuse some flavor. Try combinations like mango and strawberry, apple and cinnamon or blueberry and mint. Get creative!
Naturally flavored sparkling waters. Nowadays you can find cans of fizzy sparkling water. Look for those that are flavored with fruit essences, rather than artificial sweeteners. If you’re going to choose one with an artificial sweetener, I recommend Stevia or monk fruit.
Low-fat milk or unsweetened milk alternatives.
That’s it? Yes, that’s it! I know it’s a short list, but those are the only drinks I recommend you consume regularly. Diet drinks and drinks with artificial sweeteners are OK in moderation, but it’s best to limit these to one serving per day.
Is There Anything I Shouldn’t Drink?
I suggest avoiding any drinks that have sugar – and there are a lot. Of course, we don’t want to be drinking soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea and lemonade or sugary coffee drinks. But some less obvious sugary drinks include sports drinks and juice, especially for children.
Sports drinks. All sports drinks contain added sugar. If you’re exercising and sweating for more than one hour, sometimes these drinks are recommended. But if you’re moving for less than one hour, water is enough. Kids who are inactive don’t need any sports drinks at all. If needed for sports, try an electrolyte tablet or packet to add to water rather than a sugary sports drink.
Juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no added sugar for kids under 2. This includes most juice. And even 100% natural juice is highly concentrated in natural sugar. One 15.2-ounce bottle of 100% juice has about 45 grams of sugar. This is equal to more than three oranges. It adds up very quickly, which is why I never recommend juice for kids.
Tips to Increase Water Intake
Sometimes we just don’t think about drinking. Occasionally at the end of my work day, I’ll realize I hardly consumed one bottle. I find that I have to set a goal and pace myself on busy days to really make sure I get enough in.
Make it fun. There are so many fun water bottles on the market now, full of different colors and fun characters. Get yourself and each child a water bottle that’s their own. Some have time stamps on them; these can be helpful for the busy bee who doesn’t stop to drink.[
Set a goal. Pace yourself throughout the day. Start with a basic goal of drinking a cup of water with each meal and snack. Or have your fun water bottle nearby, and aim to finish a 24-ounce bottle by lunch time, then another by the end of the work day an another by evening. Whatever works for you!
Eat more vegetables and fruits. Fruits and veggies can be high in water content, and this counts toward hydrating you.
Trust your thirst. Your body is smart. Don’t ignore a feeling of thirst. It’s also important to note that sometimes we feel hungry, but we’re actually thirsty. Always have a glass of water nearby and listen to your body.