To me there’s nothing more refreshing than a thirst-quenching glass of cold water on a hot sunny day. But I know so many people, including loads of children, who don’t like ‘plain’ water – which can be a real challenge to overcome. Infused water is the answer.
Water is just so important for hydration – we can survive weeks without food but just a few days without water. Other fluids obviously hydrate us, but water is by far the best option – it’s what the body needs; over 60% of our body is made of water, so giving it water, rather than coffee, juice or beer is clearly the best solution. It’s also the ultimate low calorie drink!
It’s even tougher when kids don’t enjoy water to drink. Herbal or fruit teas might work for adults but they just don’t cut it for most children (especially in summer). So it’s easy to see why parents turn to juice and other soft drinks to boost their children’s fluid intake.
But here’s the problem. One third of our sugar intake comes from juices and soft drinks. The British Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition has just recommended, in line with WHO recommendations, that we slash sugar intake by half, to no more than 5% of calories. That translates to 5-6 teaspoons of sugar per day, maximum.
To get it in perspective, a small 150ml glass of orange juice contains at least 3 teaspoons of sugar. But if you’re buying juice out, it’s never a 150mls quantity – but more likely 330mls, so nearly 7 teaspoons of sugar. A can of cola has around 9 teaspoons, and a small glass bottle of elderflower only a little less – all taking you straight over the new maximum guideline amounts.
So is the solution diet drinks? Well they contain artificial sweeteners, colours and flavourings we personally don’t want to go near. What about vitamin waters? Well it turns out that most of those are also packed with sugar (check the ingredients list – sugar is invariably the ingredient after water). Or you’re back to the ‘no added’ sugar option with sweeteners.
So our favourite sneaky way to get around the ‘not liking water’ conundrum, is to use infused waters, where herbs and/or fruits are added to plain water.
Infused waters are essentially flavoured waters without the calories or sugar of soft drinks, and without the caffeine of teas. There’s a small amount of nutrients leaching from the fruit and herbs – but not much to be honest, so we don’t want to overplay this. Their real benefit is simply that they get people drinking water, without the sugar, chemicals or preservatives found in other soft drinks. They taste amazing and are a great talking point when friends come over, as they look so visually attractive.
And it’s easy to make up a big 1.5 litre jug and guzzle it throughout the day – or store it in the fridge ready for when the kids come home from school.
Why water’s important:
- Drinking water doesn’t tax our body – our liver doesn’t have to deal with caffeine (coffee), sweeteners (soft drinks) or fructose (juice) and we don’t have to release insulin to deal with blood sugar peaks from sugary drinks
- Water helps to support digestion – many issues with constipation are solved simply by drinking more
- Water helps to keep skin hydrated – (a cheap anti-ageing solution!)
- Water helps mental performance – drink water throughout school, or take a bottle into an exam
- Water helps sports performance
- Water reduces your risk of dying! One study found that those drinking 5 or more glasses of water a day were just half as likely to die from a heart attack
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Experiment with whatever different combination of herbs and/or fruit that work well for you. Simply pop crushed or chopped fruit into a jug, bottle or jar (I find old passata bottles work well). As the name suggests, leaving your water to infuse in the fridge for a short time before drinking will flavour the water more. I often use small glass bottles and refill them, leaving the fruit there until the end of the day.
I don’t remove the rind of citrus fruit (I’m lazy) but it’s the solution if you find your citrus waters a little bitter.
Cucumber, Mint and Lemon: refreshing, great to rehydrate with
Strawberry, Orange and Vanilla (1/2 a pod): tastes a little like a fruit-based old-fashioned cream soda
Raspberry and Lime: sweet and tangy
Pineapple, Basil and Ginger: ‘really nice’ – according to my daughter…
Blackberry, Peach and Rosemary: use sweet blackberries, visually stunning