Better Beverages: Re-Think Your Drink

This post provides Nurture materials (curricula) to support positive change for health in our world.

Although Nurture has curricula for various ages, this particular post is focused on content to support nutrition education for kids.

I’ll start with a question: Why do we need to drink fluids?

We need to drink so that we stay hydrated.

Dehydration causes headaches, hunger, upset stomach, crabbiness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

And these symptoms appear to “bother you” before anything REALLY serious happens!

Remember that our bodies are over 60% water.  Water regulates body temperature, helps transport nutrients to our cells, and protects our organs and tissues.  Water also removes waste by ridding our bodies of toxins.

Although actual survival statistics depend on conditions, a guideline you can take into consideration is that humans can live for about two weeks without food but only about two days without water.

How to Choose the Best Drink Option

Let’s start with what the choices are for many kids today:  Soda, sports drinks, juice, milk, and water.  How do they compare?

Soda.  The worst.  Soda provides no nutritional value.   It is loaded with sugar and sometimes caffeine.  Last year, it was estimated that the average American consumed 592 cans of soda!  That is over 32 pounds of sugar per year.  Drinking that much soda can lead to tooth decay, poor health, weight gain, and an increased risk of developing diabetes.  Diet sodas, although they don’t contain sugar, provide no nutritional value, and contain many artificial ingredients that can be very harmful to growing bodies and brains.  It is best to limit soda to a “sometimes” –or better yet, “never” beverage.

Sports/Energy Drink.  Second worst.   Are you surprised?  Many people think that sports drinks are healthy, but they contain a lot of sugar and artificial ingredients and dyes.   I’m going to be dedicating an entire newsletter to the dangers of artificial ingredients and dyes in next month’s newsletter, so stay tuned!   If your kids need to drink sports drinks (and that would be to replace electrolytes because they engage in an activity that involves sweating for an hour or more) then I would recommend Smart Water.  It has the electrolytes without all the artificial ingredients, sugars, and dyes.  You can also offer your kids some water with fruit/veggies squeezed in it and maybe a pinch of salt if they’ve really had a sweat fest.  All fruits and veggies provide potassium– bananas are known as an especially good source.

Fruit juice.   Now we are off the bad list, but juice only comes in as the “bronze medal winner” (3rd place) of what I’d call the “better beverages”.   100% juice contains vitamins and minerals, but it also contains a lot of natural sugar, so you should limit juice to one cup per day.  Be careful with juice look-alikes, some punches and juices are not 100% juice. Read the ingredient list and make sure that it is not a fruit or veggie “wanna be” (please reference this post about Follow the Rainbow/ eating fresh fruits and veggies).

Milk (no, I don’t mean chocolate milk) is our “silver medal” (2nd place) winner for better beverages.  Milk contains calcium and vitamin D, which help build strong bones and teeth.  Not everyone tolerates milk well, so kids should listen to their bodies and tummies and make sure that milk continues to agree with them.

So which beverage is our 1st place winner?

The gold medal goes to….Water!   It gives you long-lasting energy, contains no sugar, dyes or artificial ingredients.   The best part about water is that is usually available everywhere, and it is free!

What if your kids drink plenty of water, but occasionally they want something special to dazzle the taste buds?   OK, assuming that water is the primary beverage choice, I’m ready to share a few ideas for when you’d like to have something special:

“Wuice”.  Wuice is just water with a little bit of juice from any fruit or veggie added. Some favorite versions in our house include water with cucumber slices, water with a squeeze of lime, and….our all-time favorite:  water with cubes of watermelon!

Here is the Wuice recipe. Enjoy!

Sometimes when I visit school classrooms to talk to the kids about the importance of water (and avoiding sugary beverages), I show them this really fun video from the Pour One Out campaign led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  Here is the winning video from that campaign:

Some of the more advanced questions I get on drinking plain water are related to sweating in excess of 1 hour (e.g. a hot yoga session, running an excess of 6 miles, etc.).  Do we need to load up on electrolytes?

If you are sweating in excess of one hour, the answer is yes.  Americans are woefully deficient in magnesium.  Other minerals such as potassium, calcium, and sodium all have benefits.

To replenish electrolytes, you can add a pinch of salt to your water and maybe a squeeze of orange juice. Drink mineral water or electrolytes-enhanced water such as Smart Water (not sports drinks).


For grades K-2
Lesson: Better Beverages
Visual Aids: Better Beverages Visuals K-2
Handout: Healthy Beverages

For grades 3-5
Lesson: Better Beverages 3-5
Math exercise: Better Beverages Math Exercise

English and Spanish Materials:

    Better Beverage

Importance of hydration and comparison of nutritional benefits of different beverages


Elephant tag

Why water is the best beverage, the importance of hydration


Liters and Milliliters

Converting between liters and milliliters and judging whether quantities are in liters or milliliters

Beverages 101

Homemade Lemonade

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