By: Jacqueline Minichiello, MS, RD, LDN
Clinical Nutritionist/WIC Nutritionist-Neponset Health Center
When I tell clients that they need to drink more water they all are very unhappy about this. No one seems to like water anymore. And I get it; water can be boring. But it is very important for our health. Our bodies are about 75% water. We need water to survive and to perform daily functions. Water also helps to keep our bodies at 98.6 degrees. During exposure to extreme temperatures your body needs more water to maintain its normal function. Therefore, it is important in summer and winter.
So how much should you drink? Adult females should consume nine 8-oz cups per day and adult males should consume thirteen 8-oz cups per day. However, that includes water from other sources like fruits and vegetables. If you don’t like water that much then here is one more reason to increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables! Lettuce, broccoli, grapefruit and watermelon are just a few options to choose from.
Seltzer is another great alternative, and is my favorite go to when I need something more than water. It has the fizziness of soda without any of the calories (and no artificial sweeteners either!) Today there are so many different flavors available. Just make sure to purchase seltzer and not club soda. Club soda has added sodium (salt), and extra salt is not needed by most Americans either.
Here are some ways to make water (or plain seltzer) more appealing:
- Add muddled mint
- Squeeze lemon or lime into your water
- Crush fresh berries into a glass of water
- Make unsweetened iced-tea from a tea bag and add lemon
- Have water over ice
The next question they ask me is “what else can I drink besides water and seltzer?” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are no other beverages that we should be consuming in large amounts. Here is the low-down on other beverages and how much of them we should consume.
Milk: Low fat dairy for adults is needed for a healthy diet. However, the recommendations are for about 1,000 mg of calcium for males and females ages 19-50. A glass of cow’s milk or soy milk each contains about 300 mg of calcium. Therefore, if we included three glasses (8 ounces each) of milk per day, that would be about adequate to fulfill our calcium needs. It is important to remember though that we get calcium from other sources like cheese, yogurt, dark vegetables, and milk in cereal, so it may not be necessary to consume three glasses per day. Also remember, your glass at home is most likely larger than an 8-ounce portion.
Juice: Yes, 100% juice is made from fruit. Yes, 100% juice has no added sugar. NO, we cannot drink as much 100% juice as we want. Think about it. A large glass (say about 16 oz.) of juice could require about 6-8 oranges to fill (sometimes even more). Most people generally would not eat that many oranges at one time. Even if a person were so inclined, they would start to feel very uncomfortable because of all the fiber in the fruit. When fruit is juiced fiber is removed. Fiber is a quality of fruit that adds to its healthy properties. So limit 100% juice to 4-6 ounces per day. Seems like too little? Use a smaller glass so it doesn’t look as empty.
Soda: Soda provides no nutrition and is high in sugar and calories. When we drink a soda we do not decrease our caloric intake to compensate for the calories gained from the beverage. Limit soda to very occasionally.
Sports drinks: Consuming sports drinks during exercise was designed for the intense athlete. Most people need only water during a workout and then a balanced meal or snack after. Sports drinks are loaded with sugar. Consume it in small amounts as juice or soda.
Diet-beverages: While diet drinks do not contribute substantially to caloric intake, there is new epidemiologic evidence linking them to an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic syndrome. While, short-term studies have shown that substituting diet beverages for regular beverages leads to weight loss in obese individuals, there have been no long term studies completed. Some theories for why diet drinks can cause metabolic syndrome is that the intense sweet sensation of diet drinks may lead to a preference for sweet, calorically dense foods that are unhealthy, and cause satisfying healthy foods to taste more and more unappealing. Animal studies have also shown that rats given saccharin (artificial sweetener) display diminished calorie compensation over rats fed glucose, meaning they still eat the same amount if they are given saccharin, but eat less with glucose. If you are drinking large amounts of regular sugar sweetened beverages then I would switch some to the diet variety. However, overall I would work to make healthier changes like limiting these beverages in your diet.
Here are some suggestions for cutting down on sugar sweetened beverages:
- Cut down your intake by 1-2 glasses every week
If soda intake is excessive then as you cut down, also replace regular soda with diet soda
- If you drink a lot of juices, teas and other drinks then as you cut down, also water them down. Start by trying 4 ounces of juice (instead of 8) with 4 ounces of water. Add more and more water and less juice as your taste begins to change
- Fresh brew tea at home with 1/4 – 1/2 the amount of sugar that would be in a store bought brand
And remember, taste buds change over time. Our desire for sweet will decrease as we cut back on the overall amount of sugar (both real and artificial) consumed!