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4 Stressipes to Help Kids "Drink Up" 37672

In a new campaign called "Drink Up," Michelle Obama and Partnership for a Healthier America are encouraging people to take a simple action to improve health—to drink water. With help from celebrity endorsers, talk shows including The View and Katie, and bottled water and other companies like Evian, Nestle Waters, and Brita, the new campaign is likely to make a real splash (sorry, I couldn't help myself).

What I like most about the campaign is that its message is simple and doable. It takes a positive—rather than a punishing—approach to behavior change by telling Americans what we can do rather than what we should not do to live more healthful lives.

In short videos done in both English and Spanish and promoted on the campaign web site, the First Lady explains that the body is about 70% water. She also says that when you're running low, a glass of water will recharge your body.

As I discussed in a recent Scoop on Food post on hydration, water is a vital nutrient. Found in so many body parts including the brain, heart, lungs, skin, and even bones, water helps control body temperature, supports healthy digestion, brings wastes out of the body, and even helps prevent constipation. Although water is an essential part of the daily diet and something kids—and all of us—need to get more of, a recent study published in Nutrition Journal found that at least 75% of children between the age of 4 and 13 failed to meet the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intake values for daily water intake (about 7 to 10 cups water from all fluids and beverages). Researchers also found that, on the two days surveyed, 28% of children failed to consume any plain water (tap or bottled).

Although 'Drink Up' doesn't mention other beverages, it implies that while it's up to us to choose our beverages, drinking water is a better option. I concur! But I also think it's important to include nutrient-rich beverages such as low- and nonfat milk, fortified soy beverages, and 100 percent fruit juice to hydrate and meet needs for protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other key nutrients.

If you want to help your child 'drink up,' here are four Stressipes* that can help:

1. Start 'em young. According to Bridget Swinney, RD, author of Eating Expectantly and Baby Bites, "Healthy kids under the age of four need about five cups of total fluid a day—at least one cup of that will come from food in the diet, depending on how many fruits and veggies a child eats. Kids who spend time in warm, humid weather will need more fluid." She recommends encouraging kids from late infancy on to learn to love plain water by teaching them that when you're thirsty, you drink water. "For babies one year and up, milk is a given, but be sure to give additional fluids—mostly plain water," Swinney says. She also supports recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that call for limiting fruit juice to no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day for children aged one to six.

2. Spruce it up. If the thought of plain water makes your child gag, Swinney recommends adding some fun by letting him or her pick out a special cup or silly straw reserved for drinking water. "Adding 'floaties' like cucumber, kiwi orange, lemon, or lime slices, or making ice cubes with water and bits of orange, apple, kiwi, strawberry, raspberry or blueberry and using them to put in plain water can also help," Swinney adds.

3. Drink before you eat. Because emerging studies suggest that consuming water may prevent weight gain in children, offering even small amounts before or with meals or snacks is a good rule of thumb. Instilling such a simple habit in children will likely help them continue to 'drink up'–and reap the many benefits of staying hydrated—well into their teen and adult years.

4. Think before you drink. According to registered dietitian Kate Geagen, author of Go Green, Get Lean, "I love that the 'Drink Up' campaign promotes zero-calorie beverages, but parents can take it one step further to make it zero-impact for the environment as well." She urges parents to fill and refill BPA-free water bottles with tap water, which is more regulated than bottled water. She adds, "In an economy where every food dollar counts, I rather parents use the money they'd spend on bottled water to invest in more water-rich fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods they can feed to their families."

*'Stressipes' are tips or solutions to help you eat and live in a more healthful way.

How do you help your family drink more water?

Image of child with glass pitcher water via Shutterstock.