Written by Brenda Sale, Extension Associate
I remember when I was a kid, ordering a large beverage at a fast food restaurant meant you were served 16 ounces. Today that same large request is anywhere from 32 to 64 ounces. Choosing healthy beverages and understanding what is healthy is more challenging than ever before. Soft drink consumption has increased 500 percent over the past 50 years.
Sugar sweetened beverages are one of the most prominent sources of added sugars in a person’s diet today. With the influx of soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sugar laden beverages marketed to kids, it’s no wonder there is a rise in childhood obesity and illness related to increased sugar and calorie intake. Then add in the super-sized portions and free refills, and beverages have become more of a problem. Beverages also contain a variety of preservatives, additives, and various forms of caffeine that make reading and understanding a label, and knowing what you are really drinking, difficult for consumers.
It all Counts
Fluid intake comes in various forms, and it all counts toward your daily intake. Milk, juice, spritzers, flavored waters, tea, coffee, water based soups, and fruits all count. Yes, some fruits are 70-90 percent water and can help hydrate your body simply by getting your recommended two fruit servings daily. Although you should limit your intake of caffeinated beverages, all fluids count toward your daily intake.
If you do choose calorie containing beverages, choose reduced calorie, low sugar alternatives, and limit your intake. Choose waters and flavored waters first to get plenty of fluids for healthy body function and hydration.
Don’t forget to increase your fluid intake during exercise or while working outside in the summer heat. With increased perspiration comes increased fluid loss, which needs to be replaced. Thirst is not a good indicator to drink water. Once you are physically thirsty, your body is already on its way to getting dehydrated. Drink fluids before exercise or working outside, and again when you finish. A good rule of thumb:
drink long before you feel thirsty, and keep drinking even after you feel hydrated.
Make it Simple
Water is your best source for hydration. Our bodies are composed of approximately 55- 75 percent water. It is needed for almost every bodily function, from saliva production to digestion, circulation, kidney function to eliminate waste products, and for a healthy metabolism. Sufficient water intake allows the metabolism to function adequately, which aides in weight management. Plain and simple, our bodies need water to function and live! You could survive weeks without food, but without water, your body’s systems begin to shut down in a matter of days.
Staying hydrated affects all areas of your health. Water is a calorie free beverage that is cheap and easy to have available. A 32-64 ounce measured water bottle can help to keep track of water intake daily and can make drinking plenty of water easier. It is also portable and free!
The amount of water a person needs varies depending on age, sex, level of physical activity, presence of certain medical conditions, and some medications. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this can range anywhere from 8-13 cups daily depending on those factors.
If you have trouble with plain water, flavor it! Add fruits such as oranges, strawberries, mixed berries, melons, cucumber, or fresh mint for added nutrition and flavor. There is no one recipe for infusion, but as a rule, use 2-4 cups of fruit per gallon of water, and use about ¼ cup of produce per glass. Squeeze or press fruit to release juices and allow to chill for 2 hours for flavors to enhance the water. You can also make ice cubes with herbs and fruit for daily infusions.
Blueberry Orange Basil
Recipe courtesy of West Virginia Extension
- 1 gallon chilled water
- 30 to 45 blueberries
- 3 oranges
- 9 basil leaves
Squeeze the blueberries, quarter the oranges, and tear the basil leaves in half before adding to the water.
Strawberry and Mint Cooler
Recipe courtesy of Iowa State Extension
- 18 strawberries (medium size) sliced thin
- 8 sprigs of mint
- 1 quart water and ice
In a 2 to 2½ quart pitcher, combine water, ice, strawberries, and mint. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.
Infusion Food Safety Tips
- Wash hands, and all fruits thoroughly before preparing infusions.
- Treat infused water as you would any perishable food and keep it refrigerated.
- Drink infused waters the same day or the next day for best results. If infused waters remain refrigerated, they can be used for up to 3 days. Unlike commercial fruit juices that contain preservatives, infused waters are fresh and meant to be consumed fresh, just like the fruits you put in them.
The most ecologically valid of the published studies offers no support for the suggestion that consumption of caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle leads to fluid loss in excess of the volume ingested or is associated with poor hydration status. Therefore, there would appear to be no clear basis for refraining from caffeine containing drinks in situations where fluid balance might be compromised.
This post was reviewed by Morgan Hartline, MS, RD, LMNT