Food & Drink

Start your kids off with healthy habits, such as drinking water

Hood, BaptistHealth
Hood, BaptistHealth Herald-Leader

If there was one habit you could give your children that could last a lifetime, save money and keep them healthy, wouldn't you? It may come as a surprise, but you can do just that — by teaching them to drink water.

Just one glass of juice or one soda a day is roughly 150 calories. If we assume a child, teen or adult drinks one a day over 10 years, that is approximately 550,000 calories — or the equivalent of 155 pounds of weight.

If we think of a typical child or teen, they usually don't drink just one juice or soda a day, they drink several. That just makes the calories add up all the faster.

If we start early and teach our toddlers that juice is not necessary and offer the real fruit instead, we will have a much healthier child and ultimately, adult.

I see so many kids who say, "I don't like water but I love juice, soda or sports drinks." Habits, good or bad, are very hard to change. If you are raising a toddler, start the water habit early so they won't have to break the juice or soda habit later. I often tell my patients' parents to treat juice or a soda as a treat. Generally, treats are infrequent so they can be enjoyed more.

Water is integral to a person's health. Without enough water we can experience fatigue much easier. Teens particularly are more at risk for fainting if they do not stay hydrated. A child's bowels are healthier, with less constipation, if they drink enough water. A test for good hydration is the color of urine in the toilet; the less yellow the water, the better hydrated the child is.

Another healthy habit is to include exercise in every child's life. This does not have to be a designated sport. It can be running, playing, biking or any other activity that raises the heart rate and gets the muscles moving.

Additionally, don't let your child rule the pantry. Only by giving in to the request for chicken nuggets or a hot dog does a child become picky. Offer healthy foods most of the time and let them know that is the only option for the meal. If they are hungry later, then they need to choose the healthy food when offered. Stand your ground.

Exercise and healthy food, along with the water habit, will go a long way in keeping your child healthy and will help lead to a healthy adult life.