Smart sipping: good beverage choices for everyone

Water is a vital nutrient – readily available and inexpensive, be intentional about consuming it and incorporating it into your family’s diet. To add variety, consider other healthy beverage choices.

Water is a vital nutrient - it’s readily available and inexpensive, and it’s often the best choice for quenching your thirst.

In addition, milk, some milk alternatives, and a limited quantity of 100 percent fruit juice make good beverage choices, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Milk is rich in nutrients, including bone building calcium; 100 percent fruit juice provides many of the vitamins and minerals found in the fruit itself, though less of the fiber.

How much water should we drink every day? A guideline is that a person should drink when s/he is thirsty. Most people need 8-12 glasses of water a day - this includes water contained in other beverages and water in solid food. For example, lettuce is 95 percent water, carrots are 88 percent water and even pasta is 67 percent water!

Milk is one of the best calcium sources in our diet, plus it offers a lot of essential nutrients that people, especially young people, need. Without milk and other dairy foods, getting enough calcium for children’s bones to grow and stay healthy can be difficult.

Among the various types of cow’s milk – whole, low or reduced fat and skim – only the fat content and calories varies. All of the other nutrients are the same. So choose the type that matches your weight and energy needs. Consider soy, rice or almond milk alternatives if you cannot tolerate cow’s milk; read the Nutrition Facts label to ensure that they contain a sufficient amount of calcium.

When you’re simply thirsty, go easy on juice or juice drinks, since the calories, as well as the carbohydrates, add up. Thirst is usually satisfied better with plain water anyway!

Sometimes, though, a refreshing fruity beverage hits the spot! Four to six ounces of juice can be stretched with additional water for adults and children who prefer juice to other beverages. Be careful – juice can spoil an appetite when chosen instead of more nutritious beverages and food.

Sometimes sips
There will be times when you may feel like drinking soda (“pop”) or a young person in your life begs for it at a restaurant. Or maybe you’re at the grocery store when a child pleads for one of the 10 percent fruit drinks in a fancy package. Are these forbidden beverages? Not at all – there’s no food police! All foods, when eaten occasionally and in moderation, can fit into a healthy diet.

Keep in mind, though, that fruit drinks, fruit flavored beverages and soft drinks contain added sugars and sweeteners – they should be an occasional treat, not an everyday beverage. Sugar-sweetened drinks of this type should not be used at all by people with diabetes.

Even diet or low-calorie soft drinks should be ingested sparingly. They have no nutrients and can take the place of more nutritious foods. Also, soft drinks that contain caffeine may keep us from getting the sleep we needband may cause diarrhea, as well as over activity in some children.

What about bottled water?
Bottled water can be convenient. It’s portable, healthy and doesn’t contain calories or caffeine. Purchased bottles of water can also be expensive! Water bought in stores can cost 240 to 10,000 times as much as water from your kitchen faucet! Plus, the bottles aren’t environmentally friendly. Think about purchasing inexpensive reusable water bottles (kids especially love sports and theme bottles) and filling them at your kitchen sink. Remember to wash thoroughly each day and let dry before refilling.

By the way, it isn’t recommended that people re-fill other types of bottles, like juice or even pre-packaged water bottles. They are designed for only a couple of uses. The plastic may break down with continued use and washing.

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