Children are at much greater risk of dehydration than grown-ups because their bodies can’t compensate for higher temperatures. They produce more heat with physical activity and sweat less than we do, which means they aren’t able to lose their body heat as effectively. Also, the body’s thirst mechanism is not as well developed in childhood.
Most children love sweet foods and will choose a sweet drink over water or milk any day, which is why it’s important to set
up good habits in the early years. Here are some tips to help make water the ﬁ rst choice in your household.
What ﬂuids are best?
Water is by far the best choice for your child. It is healthy, vital to the body, refreshing, cheap, readily available and the ideal thirst quencher.
Milk is the second choice of ﬂ uids for young children, especially as it also contains other important nutrients, such
as protein and calcium. Whole cows’ milk (dark blue top) is recommended for toddlers from one to two years after which they can move onto semi-skimmed milk (light blue top) – as long as they are eating a varied diet and growing well. Cows’ milk alternatives include soy, rice and goats’ milk, and if using these, opt for fortiﬁ ed versions as they include all the other important nutrients. Flavoured milks contain added sugar and should be limited to the occasional treat, but it can be a way of getting milk into a child who doesn’t like the taste of milk. Alternatively, try making your own ﬂ avoured milk
using fresh fruit. Cows’ milk is a great choice but your toddler shouldn’t drink more than 500ml a day or he may ﬁ ll up on milk and miss out on other foods he needs.
A glass of fruit juice contains more sugar and less ﬁ bre than fresh fruit. If you do opt for fruit juice, use 100 per cent fruit juice and not a juice drink which contains heaps more sugar. Make sure you dilute fruit juice with lots of water and serve with meals. Alternatively, have fun at home making your own juice with both fruits and veggies. Many juice drinks, powdered drinks and cordials are essentially a combination of sugar, water and colour and provide nothing much else. Some of these products say they contain ‘real fruit’ but check the percentages as they are often so low that there is little nutritional beneﬁ t, and that’s before taking into account the high sugar content. These should be occasional drinks and limited.
Tips for raising water lovers
★ Make it part of your routine to have water with every meal
★ Keep a jug of chilled water in the fridge – add frozen
pieces of fruit to jazz it up
★ Freeze brightly coloured plastic ice cubes and pop into
your child’s drinks at mealtimes
★ Freeze chopped fruit in blocks of ice
★ Add slices of fruit, such as oranges and strawberries to
★ A squeeze or segment of lemon, lime or orange can add
some ﬂ avour if your child doesn’t like the taste of water
★ When out and about always have cool water on hand so
other choices aren’t necessary
★ Freeze drink bottles for packed lunches to keep them cool
★ Watermelon, rock melon and oranges have a high water
★ Be a good role model and drink water, too!