Help Kids Hydrate the Healthy Way

It’s always important for kids to meet their daily fluid needs. But with temperatures soaring into triple digits in some parts of the country, staying adequately hydrated has become even more important for kids. According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Science School, about 65 percent of kids’ body weights are made of water. This vital nutrient is found abundantly in the brain, heart, lungs, skin, and even bones. Water is so essential for kids—and all of us—because it helps control body temperature, supports healthy digestion, brings wastes out of the body, and can even help prevent constipation.

Even if the weather outside isn’t brutal, spending a lot of time sweating while running around, playing sports, hiking, biking, or doing other active things makes it even more important for kids to get enough water. Kids also need more water when they travel by plane, and when they have a fever, vomit, or have diarrhea.

Unfortunately, there’s evidence that kids fall short when it comes to water intake. A new study published in Nutrition Journal looked at water and beverage consumption among 4,766 four to 13 year-old children in the United States. Researchers found that at least 75 percent of children failed to meet the following current Institute of Medicine daily intake recommendations (Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI)) for water:

  • 4 to 8 year-olds: 1,700 milliliters (about 7 cups)
  • 9 to 13 year-old girls: 2,100 milliliters (about 9 cups)
  • 9 to 13 year-old boys: 2,400 milliliters (about 10 cups)

Because little kids especially don’t sweat as much as older kids and adults, you cannot always use sweat to gauge whether or not your kids are hydrated. If your child is thirsty, pale, tired, goes to the bathroom less often, or has concentrated urine (pee should be pale rather than bright in color), these are signs that he or she may need to drink up.

If you’re worried your kids aren’t adequately hydrated, here are four ways you can help them meet their daily water needs:

Go for water. Keep a refillable pitcher in your refrigerator. Enhance the taste of plain water by adding a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, or squeezing the juice of a slice of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit into it. You can also add some fresh berries, cut up cucumbers, or even some mint to give plain water some bite. Or swap plain water for seltzer to give the drink a soda-like taste minus the added sugars or artificial sweeteners. When your kids head outside or are otherwise on the go, arm them with a BPA-free refillable water bottle—just make sure to clean it once daily.

Milk their diet. Offer kids one or two cups of milk—preferably low-fat and nonfat varieties to keep calories and saturated fat intake down—daily as part of main meals like breakfast and dinner. Milk not only helps kids meet their water quota, but provides protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and other key nutrients to keep their teeth and bones strong. For kids who don’t drink milk because of an allergy or other reason, fortified soy beverages can provide valuable nutrients and water. Other so-called ‘milks’ like almond milk can also help hydrate kids, but they may not provide the calcium and other nutrients found in cow’s milk and fortified soy beverages.

Let them drink juice. Although whole fruit is more nutrient-packed than 100 percent fruit juice, having some orange, grape, apple, or cranberry juice solo or mixed with plain water or seltzer can help kids stay hydrated. It can also be a great alternative to soda or other sugar-sweetened, nutrient-poor beverages. It’s important, however, to keep portions to about 4 to 8 ounces daily for most kids to leave enough room for more filling fiber- and nutrient-rich whole fruit.

Push produce. Fruits and vegetables are rich in water content, and eating them—as well as oatmeal and other cooked grains, and vegetable and other broth-based soups—can provide about 20 percent of kids’ daily water needs. Keep fresh fruit in a bowl on your counter top, in-season vegetables in your refrigerator, canned, no-salt added vegetables in your pantry, and frozen unsalted, sugar- and fat-free fruits and vegetables in your freezer. Offer small portions of fruits or vegetables at most meals or snacks, or as part of dessert. Having these foods available and visible, and preparing them in an enticing way can do wonders to help your kids stay hydrated and meet their daily quotas for nutrient-rich produce.

How do you help your kids stay hydrated?

Image of little girl with glass of water via shutterstock.

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