Rethink Your Drink: Make Water Your Drink of Choice
Written by: Jill White, RD, NSHA Public Health Nutritionist Central Zone
Water is an essential nutrient. Drinking water and staying hydrated is important for our health as our bodies are made up of 60% water. Water helps our minds and bodies be at their best. This is done through helping to move nutrients and oxygen to every cell in our body, helping our muscles and joints move to participate in our favorite activities and sports, and making sweat to cool our bodies down afterwards. Water also supports us to think clearly and focus in school by positively affecting our brain function, alertness, and energy levels.
High consumption of sugary drinks leads to a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental cavities. Sugary drinks contain empty calories with little to no nutritional benefit. Sugary drinks are the single largest contributor of sugar in the diet - one third of sugar consumed by teens is from sugary drinks1. In Canada, about 1/4 of those 5 to 19 years of age reported daily consumption of sugary drinks2. Research shows that soda, energy and sports drinks are the top calorie source among North Americans ages 12 to 502.
Schools can support healthy hydration by creating and supporting an environment where children and youth are encouraged to drink more water. Best practices show that combined strategies to promote water intake and reduce sugary drink consumption are most effective. Schools can work with their healthy school community partners to plan healthy hydration strategies and initiatives such as:
· excluding or limiting access to sugary drinks
o work with school administration, staff and partners to ensure the Food and Nutrition Policy for Nova Scotia Public Schools is being followed
o ensure school cafeterias and vending machine serve or sell only water and milk (or nutritional alternatives to milk such as unsweetened fortified soy milk)
· increasing access to water
o promote water as beverage of choice in breakfast, lunch and snack programs
o allow students access to drinking water throughout the school day and encourage them to keep water bottles on their desks
· education and awareness around the health impacts of excessive consumption of sugary drinks
o promote healthy hydration messages through different channels such as school assemblies, announcements, social media, posters, etc.
o incorporate healthy hydration into lesson plans
o role model healthy behaviours (i.e. use a reusable water bottle)
· excluding or limiting sugary drink advertising, marketing or sponsorship
o ensure vending machines do not have any advertising on the front or sides of the machine
· fiscal changes to reduce the cost of water and increase the cost of sugary drinks
o if bottled water is sold at school, sell water at a reduced price to promote consumption of water
Together, we can support a healthy school environment where the healthy food and beverage choice is the easy choice for children and youth.
1. Health Canada. (2017). Let’s Eat Healthy Canada!
2. Heart & Stroke Canada. Liquid Candy: Working Together to Reduce Consumption of Sugary Drinks