Even when they’re thirsty, kids don’t always ask for a glass of water.
And when fun in the sun is involved, the risks of dehydration — such as dizziness, fatigue and vomiting — are higher.
That’s partly because young children don’t sweat as much as their older peers, says Ann Dunaway Teh, a registered and licensed dietitian. As a result, it’s harder to tell if they are overheating — and a reminder to serve plenty of fluids during the summer.
“Hydration is really important for kids,” Dunaway Teh says. “Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to hydrate besides drinking water.”
An easy solution: water-rich foods that support the same body processes water makes possible (digestion, blood oxygen circulation, regulating temperature and removing waste, among other things).
Dunaway Teh shared some healthy foods with hydrating power.
Produce contains a lot of water, which keeps calories low and nutrition high. Among choices with high water concentration: melons, grapes, berries, apples and stone fruits such as peaches and plums. Try a fruit platter or applesauce at snack time — or for dessert. “Homemade fruit popsicles or smoothies are a fun treat” and a way to beat the heat, Dunaway Teh says.
Serving veggies as finger foods or a side dish is a simple way to boost a child’s liquid intake. Pair a favorite dip with baby carrots, celery or cucumbers. For main dishes, use water-rich zucchini and squash (picky eaters might enjoy them added to pancakes or in a burrito). Salad fixings are also ideal: Tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and bell peppers all have hydrating power.
Soups and broths
They might not seem like summertime staples, but the savory liquids are beneficial. Stick to chicken noodle and vegetable soups (as opposed to cream ones). The reason? “Broth-based soups are more hydrating,” Dunaway Teh says. Even better, sodium shed through sweat — which reduces the body’s thirst mechanism — can be recouped via salted broth.
Are you surprised? “Milk is really hydrating — plus it has natural sodium, potassium and electrolytes,” Dunaway Teh says. Because of those benefits, the beverage also can be “a very good rehydration strategy” after physical activity or extended time in the sun. That’s why some athletes drink chocolate milk to refuel their muscles, retain water and regain energy.
These are ideal “when a child is out there practicing and sweating and really running full-tilt, not just for a few minutes,” Dunaway Teh says. And while they’re designed to help replenish fluids and energy lost during exercise, sports drinks are also high in sugar. That’s why Dunaway Teh advises cutting one-quarter to one-half of each serving with water and providing it only when necessary.
Hydration is just one component of a healthy diet and body. Learn more about fostering good nutrition at home:
- Veggies for Kids: Spinach Recipes and Tips
- 5 Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters
- Healthy Store-Bought Snacks for Kids
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