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Whet kids' appetite for water early

April 05, 2002|BY LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Uniform?

Check.

Shoes?

Check.

Ball, glove?

Check.

Water bottle?

Check?

As we prepare to haul our children to the ball field for another season, most of us will remember the essential equipment - what they wear and the "tools" they use to play the game.

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But will we remember to make sure they get enough to drink?

As exercise levels increase and the temperatures outside climb, kids become more susceptible to dehydration.

"An especially active child may lose one to two quarts of water a day," says Dr. Susan Kleiner, a registered dietitian and author of "Power Eating."

If kids become thirsty, they are already mildly dehydrated, says Kleiner, who is an affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Medical History and Ethics at The University of Washington School of Medicine.

It's especially important to monitor if your child has been sick.

"If your child gets too much sun, is very active, is vomiting or has diarrhea, or has been running a fever, he or she is especially susceptible to dehydration," says Kleiner, owner of High Performance Nutrition, a consulting firm on Mercer Island, Washington. "Parents need to take an active role in making sure kids drink.

"You really need to take control."

It's tough because sometimes we adults don't think enough about water.

"Over half the population is walking around mildly dehydrated," Kleiner says.

We don't recognize the systems - mild headache, dry mouth and eyes, a burning sensation in the stomach, feeling fatigued.

"Then at 3 o'clock in the afternoon we get a cup of coffee," Kleiner says. "What we really need is a glass of water."

Children need to develop a habit of drinking water at an early age because there are numerous health benefits. People who drink five or more cups of water a day have a decreased risk of cancer.

"We're trying to get children to enjoy - early on - the healthy choices," Kleiner says. "Teach them that water is the thing that's going to make them feel the best."

But what if your child won't drink water?

Don't offer soda pop. Studies show that children who drink a lot of sugar-laden beverages like soft drinks have increased body weight.

Fruit juice isn't a good choice, either.

"We grab those juice boxes like they are critical for children," Kleiner says. "If you get them used to that sweet taste, they won't drink water."

Plus, fruit juices can put a stop to playground fun. They are more slowly absorbed than water and can cause side aches or nausea, Kleiner says. "Fruit juices are absolutely inappropriate at sporting events."

Sports drinks are an option. They're not as concentrated calorically as fruit juice, but they are not necessary unless the child is going to be playing for extended periods of time, Kleiner says. "If they will drink water, water is the best choice."

The symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, sunken eyes, dark urine, and dry, non-elastic skin. Kleiner advises the following to prevent dehydration in children:

- The food you select can make a difference. If the game/practice is before lunch, encourage your child to have cereal with milk at breakfast. If the game is in the afternoon, make sure your kids get fruits and vegetables - which have a high fluid content - at lunch. Soups are also a good choice. Take fruit along to the park for after the game.

- Water breaks should be taken every 15 to 20 minutes when playing in the sun.

- Make tap water taste better by using a water filtration system.

- Drink water with meals, at home and at restaurants. Soda pop is liquid candy. If you have soda, that's your dessert. Offer water to children when they ask for a drink.

- Consider purchasing a water bottle with a built-in filter. Then if you're at a playground and need to fill it up, you can safeguard your child from impurities or unpleasant tastes.

- Most people should drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water each day. But exactly how much water you need depends on many factors. Curious about your water needs? Check out the hydration calculator at www.brita.com/003i.html

- For more information, go to Kleiner's Web site at powereating.com.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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