Drink up: Choose water first

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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I hope you’re sticking with your goal to eat healthier in 2014. At our weekly Step Up and Scale Down class we have talked about the variety of foods that should be included in a healthy diet.

Last week we touched on the importance of drinking water, even during the winter months. Water is often an overlooked nutrient, but it’s important for just about every bodily function.

In general, adults need to be drinking eight or more glasses per day. Fluid intake for children and teenagers is also important. Research suggests that most children and adolescents aren’t getting enough. Expert panels recommend daily water intake of about 4 cups for children ages 4 to 8, 7 to 8 cups for youth ages 9 to 13 and 8 to 11 cups for those 14 to 18 years old. It’s recommended that children consume this quantity of water daily in liquid form (water, unflavored lowfat milk and no more than 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent fruit juices).

For teens, that translates into drinking enough water to fill a 2-liter bottle.

Young people who drink more water gain many benefits. First, higher water consumption can help in the battle against childhood obesity. One study found that plain drinking water accounted for only 33 percent of total water intake among adolescents, with the remaining intake consisting primarily of beverages that contained excess calories.

Choosing plain water more often – “water first for thirst” – would likely decrease the amount of sugary beverages children drink, and that can be significant. A 2001 study in The Lancet found that for every 12-ounce sugary soda a child consumed each day, the odds that he or she would become obese over the next 18 months increased by 60 percent.

Public health authorities suggest parents can help children increase water consumption by:

  • offering water first when your children say they are thirsty
  • having only water and other unsweetened beverages available or within your child’s reach
  • modeling the behavior by drinking more water yourself
  • checking your children’s school policies on allowing children to visit the water fountain or bring bottled water into the classroom
  • dressing it up with slices of lemon, lime or cucumber to add interest and variety.

For more information, call the Wise County Extension office at 940-627-3341.

Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.

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