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.
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