Sip, Sip, Sip, Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat

By Jami Badershall, Communication Manager, Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council

 Staying hydrated during the summer heat is crucial for the entire family, but especially for the little ones. It’s important to get children in the habit of taking in fluids on a regular basis when they are having a physically active day. If a child waits to drink until they are thirsty, he or she is already dehydrated! Children between the ages of four and eight need about five cups of water on an average day. However, anytime they increase their activity level and the temperature rises, the amount of fluid needed increases, too. Things like age, size, humidity, activity level and more will also effect how much fluid each individual needs.

Some ways to make sure your child is getting enough to drink is to provide beverages with meals and snacks, add some all-natural fruit juice to water for flavor when trying to increase the desire to drink, take water breaks (a couple of gulps) every 20 minutes when physically active and don’t forget the milk. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests two servings of dairy each day for children ages two to three and 2.5 servings per day for children ages four to eight. A serving is simply 1 cup of milk (or 1 cup of yogurt or 1.5 ounces of hard cheese). While milk should not be the only fluid consumed, it actually rehydrates more effectively than water alone or even sports drinks. Studies have found, milk provides high quality protein, carbohydrates, calcium and electrolytes and it’s 90 percent water. Milk replaces sodium lost in sweat and helps the body retain fluid better, as well as providing protein needed by children for muscle development and growth, which is not found in the other drinks.*

Another way to keep kids hydrated is to have fruits and vegetables with a high water content on hand for snacks and meals. Things like watermelon, spinach, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, celery and radishes (if your kids will eat radishes) are some great options. You can also add some of those ingredients to a smoothie. While milk is 90 percent water, yogurt is 80-85 percent water, so including them in a smoothie packs nutrition and hydration, as well! Popsicles, whether store bought or homemade, are also another great choice for a water-filled snack that most kids love!

*McMaster University. “Milk better than water to rehydrate kids, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 August 2011.