Water Is a Super Nutrient
At first glance, water—which contains no vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, or carbohydrates—may not seem to contribute much to your child's overall health. Yet more than half a person's body weight is water, making water so crucial to kids' bodies, they can't survive for more than a few days without it.
Among its many duties, "water aids digestion, helps prevent constipation, normalizes blood pressure, and helps stabilize heartbeat," says Dr. Joel Steinberg, MD, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas. Water also carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, helps regulate body temperature, and maintains electrolyte (sodium) balance.
For optimal health, kids generally need about a liter of water for every 1,000 calories they consume. But don't worry about doing the math. With the exception of infants and older kids who get so busy playing they forget to drink, "let your child's thirst drive be your guide," says Dr. Steinberg. Make plenty of water available and let your kids drink as much as they want. A benchmark that kids are drinking enough: "They're urinating every couple of hours," says Dr. Michael Farrell, MD, chief of staff at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati.