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It's an age old debate: Nature vs. nurture. It's no doubt that all living things by nature crave water. However, when growing up with a fridge full of Kool-Aid and Coke, nurture take its course.

One in every five calories consumed is from a liquid. This says a lot then about how what we choose to drink affects our weight. So, developing and promoting water drinking habits can literally be a life-saver- as well as a self-esteem saver. In fact, the first three years of life are crucial in developing these healthy habits says the Pediatric Dentistry Association. American kids today are more obese than ever, and parents are blaming McDonald's, soda bottlers, candy companies, and video games. While things like things can indeed play a serious role in weight gain, parenting habits can have much to do with it as well. Children pass the water fountains at school to make it to the soda machines. And, kids will open the refrigerator door- which may contain a fresh and filtered water dispenser- to grab a glass of something sugary. Kids think water has no flavor. And, it's not a cool color either. These habits are hard to break, and in fact, many adults do not get enough water either. But, promoting water drinking in kids could help make a positive change in the entire family.

We'll give you some tips on how to introduce water as a top beverage choice, but first let's look at some reasons to make this change:

  • Sipping on juice all day can lead to tooth decay. So can soda.
  • Soda can lead to bone loss.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, over the past 30 years, the rate of obesity in the United States has more than doubled for preschoolers and adolescents, and it has more than tripled for children ages 6 to 11.
  • Obesity is nearing topping smoking as the #1 killer in the US.
  • Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease- which can start as a child and carry on through adulthood.
  • An AP article on a soda debate issue had American Cancer Society's Dr. Michael Thun saying: "Caloric imbalance causes obesity, so in the sense that anyone part of the diet is contributing excess calories, it's contributing causally to the obesity. It doesn't mean that something is the only cause. It means that in the absence of that factor there would be less of that condition." So, drinking unhealthy beverages will affect weight.
  • A study of 548 school-age kids over two years found the soda-drinking kids had a .18% increase in body mass index.
  • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight adults.
  • Remember that water alone is not going to totally combat obesity. Less than 50% of children take part in any kind of regular physical activity. Kicking that up a notch, as well as a healthy diet will put children on a healthy road.

Here are some tips to encourage drinking water, or some ways to make a transition:

  • Install a water filtration system. A water filter will remove the odor (rotten egg, chlorine) and chemical taste from tap water making it more refreshing to drink. It will also provide clean healthy water without the heavy waste and carbon footprints of bottled water.
  • Slowly change over from Kool-Aid and other sugary mixes by switching to lighter, more healthy drinks such as powdered, light green tea or sugar-free lemonade. Then, switch over to a pitcher of filtered water with lemon slices.
  • When giving children a glass of water, use ice and perhaps a fun cup and straw. They make great twirly straws that are fun to watch liquid move through. Another tip here would be to use those neat ice cubes- they are plastic shapes filled with a solution that freezes. They will add some color to the glass, and when done, can be placed back in the freezer to reuse. Both of these methods will put focus on the cup and straw and make children forget that they are not drinking their "first choice."
  • If you don't already have a newer model refrigerator, switch to one. The water and ice dispensers make for easy, constant access to freshwater. Also, along with that, keep Dixie cups within arms reach of the kids and the fridge. Sometimes kids just find it fun push the buttons and that alone can promote drinking.
  • Make soda a treat. Only allow kids to have soda for a special treat, such as at the movies or out to dinner. It will give them something to look forward to. If children miss the fizz, try flavored seltzer water or club soda.
  • DO IT AS A FAMILY. If your kids are seeing you constantly pop a can of soda, they will want one too. Try to be a positive influence.

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