Nowadays, most teachers, parents, and students are aware of the negative health effects of drinking soda in or outside school. Several states have banned the sale of soda in their school districts in reaction to research showing the harmful, long-term impact of soda consumption. In spite of the growing popularity of soda bans, very little has been done to adequately address a related issue prevalent among grade school kids: dehydration.
According to a 2015 study conducted by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, almost one out of every four students did not consume enough water on a given school day. More than 54% of students were below the recommended minimum water intake level for their age group. On top of this, boys were 76% more likely to be insufficiently hydrated than girls.
While most of the dehydration levels recorded in the study were not high enough to send students to the hospital, mild dehydration can still have an impact on students’ performance. From trouble focusing to fatigue, fussiness to poor mood, the symptoms of dehydration are certainly not conducive to learning.
As soda and sugary drink bans continue to help reduce students’ sugar intake, experts agree there’s still much more schools can do when it comes to promoting healthy hydration among students. From starting a BYOB program (Bring Your Own Reusable Bottle) to increasing access to healthy flavored waters, there are many cost-effective solutions to explore.
Don’t leave your students high and dry: check out these 5 ways to promote healthy drinks for kids and good hydration habits at your school.
1. Get rid of soda and other sugary sports drinks. Limit access to fruit juice.
Soda-enthusiasts may stand by the fact that soda can still hydrate you, but nothing compares to water when it comes to healthy hydration.
Get your students on track to establish healthy hydration habits by eliminating soda and other sugary beverages from your cafeteria and vending machines. Keep student opposition to a minimum by making the transition gradual and/or swapping in intriguing healthy beverages in place of soda.
When pitted against soda or sports drinks (the two beverages most closely linked with the US’ obesity epidemic), fruit juice seems like a normal, healthy beverage for kids. In reality, many juices contain just as much sugar as sodas and have minimal nutritional value. (Find out more about the drawbacks of juice here). Given its sugar content, consider limiting juice to your breakfast menu or simply eliminating it from your cafeteria. Similar to removing soda, be sure to inform students about any upcoming changes.
2. Start a BYOB (Bring Your Own Reusable Bottle) initiative and celebrate students who opt for healthy drinks.
An empty water bottle is always a great visual reminder to stay hydrated. Encourage students to bring their favorite reusable bottle or canteen into school with them. If it’s within your budget, consider purchasing each student a water bottle that they can then customize with stickers, markers, etc. Keep track of how often students are refilling their bottles at the water fountain or in the cafeteria. Celebrate any super star hydrators during morning announcements or over the school’s social media (the latter is a great way to get buy-in and support from parents).
An effective way to get students on board with a healthy beverage initiative is to elect a group of student hydration champions. Who better to challenge students to opt for healthy drinks than their peers? Create a student task force or student ambassador program, give them special reusable bottles, and inspire them to encourage other students to take advantage of your school’s hydration stations.
3. Get Bevi: a simple and easy way to offer healthy drinks for kids.
Help your students pour something good by adding Bevi, the smart water dispenser, to your school cafeteria.
At the press of touchscreen, students can use Bevi to customize their water, adding one of four flavors to their glass or reusable bottle. Each flavor can be enjoyed as either still or sparkling, allowing students to enjoy a fizzy drink without the harmful ingredients found in soda like sugar or aspartame.
Bevi boasts a well-rounded portfolio of over 14 zero- and low-calorie fruit flavors. Each flavor is gluten-free and Kosher certified. Simply put, there’s something for every child and every diet.
Furthermore, Bevi the smart water cooler will help your cafeteria promote healthy drinks for kids without putting any extra strain on your food service staff. Rather than offer fruit-infused water in plastic jugs , take the burden off your staff and utilize Bevi’s proactive service instead.
Students will love the intuitive touchscreen and customization capabilities, and you’ll love how one machine will help jumpstart your entire healthy hydration initiative.
4. Maintain student interest by rotating beverages or flavors. Survey students to find out which healthy drinks or flavors they want to see in the cafeteria.
For many kids, the word ‘healthy’ means ‘boring.’ It’s up to you and your student task force to show them that healthy drinks aren’t necessarily monotonous, tasteless beverages.
Whether you make infused water or have a flavored water machine, be sure to frequently rotate your drink offerings. You can also easily prevent beverage boredom by getting a machine, like Bevi, that allows students to customize drinks as either still or sparkling.
Send out quarterly surveys to help better understand which healthy drinks your students are interested in. Alternatively, help your student task force organize a flavor tasting in the cafeteria and gauge student interest in new beverages and flavors. In addition, you can leave a flavor suggestion box near the cafeteria’s beverage machines to keep track of what your students are craving.
In short, in order to maintain long-term student interest, plan to regularly rotate beverage flavors or introduce new products throughout the school year.
5. Incorporate healthy hydration trainings into your athletic programs or physical fitness curriculum.
For student athletes, proper hydration is key on and off the field. Turn your student athletes into healthy hydration heroes amongst their peers by showing them how hydration (or lack thereof) can affect their game.
At the beginning of each sports season, many athletic departments have a kick-off meeting in which they go over the academic and health requirements students have to meet in order to join a team. Take advantage of this required meeting and allot time to review healthy hydration habits. To educate students that don’t participate in after-school sports, consider adding a hydration crash-course to the mandatory physical fitness or health class curriculum.
Try your best to make these talks engaging for students by inviting a special guest speaker, such as a recent alumni, a local EMT or even a minor league athlete to speak on their experiences with hydration and dehydration.
Don’t just ban soda: start promoting proper hydration techniques and healthy drinks for kids in your school today.
The best thing about hydration is that your body is good at regulating it for you.
Whether you’re thirsting for a big glass of cold water or feeling like you need just a sip, your body naturally gives you a nudge — in the form of a craving — when it’s time for a refill.
We sat down with Dr. Tom Ronay, Medical Director at Circle Medical (the doctor’s office that comes to you, paid for by your insurance, now operating in the Bay Area), for a deep dive into hydration in the workplace. Since the majority of people spend most of their waking hours at work, how you hydrate in the office can have a big impact on your our overall health.
What is happening on an anatomical level when a person feels thirsty?
Thirst is regulated by your blood vessels and kidneys via a complex and very fast-acting cascade that triggers your brain to crave fluids of any kind. This process all happens automatically: the human body is excellent at regulating hydration and is faster than any laboratory test out there. 1 out of 4 office employees say they don’t hydrate enough.
What do you consider the biggest limiting factor when it comes to workplace hydration?
Access is key. Some offices may not have a filtered water cooler, which forces employees to either buy bottled water at the Starbucks down the street or to try and ignore their thirst. Given that proper hydration can increase employee productivity up to 14%, it’s in every office’s best interest to provide a consistent and healthy source of beverages to their employees. In some larger offices, the water cooler might be tucked away in the corner or halfway across the floor. Small layout changes or adding additional hydration stations is a great way to give employees more immediate access to water.
Another key factor is how you decide to quench your thirst. When you feel thirsty, in reality any fluid can quench that initial thirst, but only some fluids — the healthy ones — will keep you hydrated and balanced.
Let’s chat a bit about the most common beverage in any office: coffee. Can coffee keep you hydrated?
Coffee is limited in how well it can hydrate you. It is in fact a diuretic, meaning it can actually cause you to lose more fluid than you gain. Similarly, it also can move your intestines more quickly than is typically comfortable. It doesn’t have to be coffee either — really any caffeinated drink will have this effect on the body, so it’s hard to work around it. While it is better than nothing, drinking coffee all day isn’t exactly the best way to keep yourself hydrated and focused in the office.
How do our bodies respond to caffeinated drinks and will they actually make us more productive?
How we metabolize caffeine is different from the way in which our body processes something like alcohol. Caffeine is metabolized and removed from your body quickly at first, but after about 4–6 hours its metabolized much slower, meaning it sticks around in our bodies for a fairly long time.
Contrary to common thought, coffee does affect people in the evening, sometimes even disrupting sleep. Besides disrupting the amount of sleep, it can really affect the quality of sleep you get; the time you spend sleeping becomes inefficient, meaning you require more sleep to compensate.
Coffee may give you that extra boost you need to finish out the workday, but it will ultimately affect the amount of rest you get after work.
As the saying goes, ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.’ How can someone like an office manager encourage employees to stay hydrated?
Forcing or shaming people to drink water is counterproductive, especially when there are many creative ways to integrate hydration into your typical office routine. For example, in our office, each person has their favorite mug, cup or glass. These personalized mugs or special glasses are fun and almost a form of personal expression.
Having a unique drinking vessel not only encourages people to fill up their glass, but also helps to lessen the occurrence of anonymous dirty cups in the sink.
What are some different types of healthy drinks an office can keep on hand for those employees that don’t usually opt for plain water?
The variety of alternatives out there is amazing. Many office now stock cold, fizzy drinks, hot drinks like tea, and everything in between!
In recent years, there’s been a national decrease in soda consumption and an increase in demand for healthier alternatives. People are now getting into different types of waters, such as mineral water, seltzer water, and fruit-flavored water, that are more satisfying alternatives to sugary carbonated drinks.
For offices that have a mixture of water drinkers and soda lovers, Bevi is a great compromise. Plain water drinkers can have their fill of plain filtered water, while soda lovers can make the transition to Bevi’s unsweetened fruit flavors.
Hydration is often cited as a form of disease prevention. How do your experiences align with this concept?
As young doctors in training, we learned that providing access to hydration was all that was needed for most of our hospitalized patients. Our patients did not require precise measurements or IV hydration, unless they were immobile or elderly. If you provide access to water, the patient will take care of the rest.
The same thing goes for flu or cold prevention in the office. Sometimes offices will provide their employees with Vitamin C during flu and cold season, but an initiative to hydrate more frequently could have an even bigger impact.
Keep in mind that our bodies are primarily water — somewhere around 60–78%. In general, our bodies are made up of elements that are subject to the laws of chemistry and physics, and therefore have many complex reactions. This means if you’re drinking poor quality water or your water level is simply low, you’re at a serious disadvantage on a chemical level.
When it comes to water, is there ever such a thing as too much?
In my own life, I have received a lot of conflicting advice on this point. My Sergeant in the Air Force always used to say “Drink water until you pee clear,” but this conflicted with what my marathon doctor advised me; he always emphasized that over-hydrating is a real risk for competitors.
These combined experiences taught me that forcing water on people (or in this case, marathon runners) was annoying and counter-productive, but providing access to water was critical in any situation. Unless someone is elderly or has limited access to hydration, they will most likely drink as much water as they need.
Do you have a favorite way of hydrating?
I will admit that I drink one cup of coffee at the office, and I could definitely do more to keep myself consistently hydrated. Having a Bevi in the office would certainly help me take care of that!
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