Our 3rd challenge for Healthy Eating Week is to make sure we are drinking enough - and the good news is this doesn't just have to be water.
In the UK, it is recommended that we have 6-8 drinks every day, on top of water contained in food. This is because you are constantly losing water, such as through your skin when you sweat, and it is important to replace this – mild dehydration can make it difficult to concentrate and cause headaches and tiredness.
Do some people need more fluids than others?
Everyone is different but some people need to pay particular attention to hydration.
Children need plenty of fluid, despite their smaller body size, and they should be encouraged to drink regularly, while infants get their fluids from breast or formula milk.
Physical activity can mean you lose fluids as sweat. In most cases water is fine for rehydrating, however, for high intensity exercise that lasts more than 40 minutes, drinks with a little added sugar and sodium (salt) may be better.
So what can I drink?
Although water is the best option for a regular drink there are others. You can have low fat milk, unsweetened hot drinks such as tea or coffee, and sugar-free drinks.
Another option is 100% fruit/vegetable juices and smoothies but limit these to a maximum of 150ml a day as they contain free sugars.
Drinks with free sugars, including soft drinks, sweetened milk drinks, energy and sports drinks, give you extra calories and increase the risk of tooth decay.
Other hot drinks such as herbal teas, hot chocolate and malted drinks can provide fluids – but may also be sweetened with sugar.
What about caffeine and alcohol?
Drinking tea or coffee also delivers fluid to your body, and even though these drinks can contain caffeine, in moderate amounts caffeine doesn’t affect hydration.
Alcoholic drinks contain water, but drinking alcohol increases the amount of fluid you lose as urine. This means drinks with high alcohol content, such as wines and spirits, are poor choices to stay hydrated. Normal strength beers, lagers and ciders also increase water loss through urine, but because they are more dilute there is a net gain in fluid overall. But don't forget that the recommended limit is no more than 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women.
Top tips for staying hydrated:
- Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day.
- Have unsweetened drinks, such as water, tea and coffee, available in meetings at work.
- Have an unsweetened drink with each meal.
- When exercising or walking/cycling to work bring your water bottle.