The Water Habit: Moving Way from Sugary Drinks

Last week, I wrote a post over at Babble where I talked about the fact that my kids exclusively drink water. A lot of people replied, saying that they had difficulty getting their kids interested in drinking water. I thought I would share what has worked for us.

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It's probably too late for the first tip for parents with school-aged kids, but I think what helped the most with this is that I’ve never offered anything but water as a drink at home. When they were small I had some concerns about getting into the juice-drinking habit. A part of this was based on the fact that I was raised drinking sugary drinks as my only form of hydration. I grew up in Florida, and my parents served sweet tea with every meal. Sweet tea was also constantly available in the pitcher in the refrigerator. Drinking tea full of sugar was what I was raised on. I reached for this drink anytime I was thirsty, INCLUDING BREAKFAST. It seriously makes me shudder to think how much sugar and caffeine I consumed in a typical day when I was a child.

I know that natural fruit juice is not in the same category as caffeine-and-sugar-laden tea, but I still didn't want my children to get in the habit of thinking that a drink needs to be sweet. Once each of my kids weaned off of the bottle, I started offering water in their sippy cups exclusively. In addition to not wanting to get them in the sweet drink habit, I also didn't want to be shelling out cash for fruit juice. I have a high value for kids eating fruit, and the problem with juice is that while it provides a lot of the vitamins of fruit, it strips it of the fiber, which is just as important. I decided I would hold off on buying juice, and to this day we rarely have it in the house.  Fruit? Yes. But not fruit juice.

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(I did not mean to have that wine glass in the picture, but yes. Technically there is some occasional “fruit juice” in the house, but only for me.)

I do the same thing at restaurants, only offering the kids water as a drink. I know some people might think this sounds stingy, and that's because IT IS.  I don't want to be paying an extra dollar when we go out to eat for all six of us to have a drink. But also, we go out to eat pretty regularly, and I want to stay with our water habit. There are a few occasions when we offer our kids sugary drinks like soda or lemonade: at birthday parties, when we are in other countries, or when we’re in an extreme weather situation where they need to stay hydrated. They know that it's a special occasion, and so they never got in the habit of begging for something other than water when they are thirsty.

I also send them with water in their lunches. Again, the juicebox habit gets expensive. Sending them to school with a reusable water container is better for the environment, and better for their help.  I send these to school at them, and we also have them available in the fridge at home.  Each kid has a cut in a specific color, and they can refill it themselves and store in the fridge so that their water is always cold.

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How do you deal with keeping your kids hydrated? Do your kids turn their noses at that water? Have you found any good solutions forgetting kids to choose water over other drinks? And what is your policy on sugary drinks? I'm curious to hear how other families handle this one.

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