— By KATHY SMITH
If you have kids or other family members who don’t drink enough water, you should encourage them. Rather than choosing a soda or fruit drinks to quench a thirst, choose water first.
Just like vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, the Institute of Medicine offers recommendations for daily adequate intake of water. Most children and adolescents aren’t getting enough.
For school-age children, experts recommend daily water intake of about 4 cups for children 4-8 years old; 7-8 cups for youth 9-13; and 8-11 cups for those 14-adult age. It is recommended that children and adults consume this quantity of water daily in liquid form including water, unflavored low-fat milk and 100 percent fruit juices. For teens and adults, that translates into drinking enough water to fill a 2-liter bottle.
In addition to the daily recommended amounts of water from beverages, there are additional recommendations for water that’s contained in food such as fruits and vegetables. But, even considering all water sources, the average intake for anyone falls short.
People who drink water gain many healthful benefits. Higher water consumption can help in the battle against obesity. One study found that plain drinking water accounted for only 33 percent of the total intake among people, 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 drank. A study conducted in 2001 found that for every 12-ounce sugary soda consumed by a child each day, the odds that he or she would become obese over the next 18 months increased by 60 percent.
Tap water is cheap and usually provides fluoride that helps to reduce cavities. Also, if water comes from rich mineral sources, such as groundwater rather than spring water, it can be a small but significant source of minerals.
Public health authorities suggest parents can help children increase water consumption by the following. Parents can as well:
• Offer water when you or your children say they are thirsty.
• Having only water and other unsweetened beverages available or within you or child’s reach.
• Model good behavior – drink more water yourself.
• Checking the school policies on allowing children to visit the water fountain often or bringing bottled water into the classroom.
• Dressing it up – add slices of lemon, lime, strawberries or cucumber to water to add interest and variety.