Staying hydrated allows the body to perform multiple vital functions and keeps it functioning properly. As well as eating water-rich foods, such as vegetables and fruit, adults should drink about two litres of fluids every day and children about one litre. Luckily, it’s not generally difficult to stay hydrated; drink when you are thirsty and choose better for you beverage options!
A variety of healthy drink options
Canada’s Food Guide recommends making water your drink of choice to stay hydrated, rather than choosing drinks with added sugar, salt or fat. Plain water is a good way to quench your thirst, but did you know that there are other great choices too? Unsweetened carbonated water, plain milk, as well as coffee (in moderation), tea and herbal tea without added sugar can also meet your body’s water needs. These are among the healthy drinks recommended by Health Canada in Canada’s Food Guide. All of these will quench thirst, but milk is unique in that it can also satisfy hunger, because it has the added benefit of protein. Plus – it has many other essential nutrients!
Mom, Dad—I’m thirsty!
For feeding children up to two years of age, the gold standard is laid out in a joint statement from Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. They recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and for up to two years or longer, along with appropriate complementary foods beginning at about six months of age. For older infants who are no longer breastfeeding after the age of 9 to 12 months, whole cows’ milk (3.25% M.F.) is recommended as the main source of milk. Plant-based beverages including soy, almond and rice are advised against until age two. Cow’s milk contains 15 nutrients, including high-quality complete protein, calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for growth, development and for healthy bones and teeth.
For older children aged two to eight, the Canadian Paediatric Society and Dietitians of Canada advise that, with the exception of fortified soy beverages, plant-based beverages may not be appropriate as the main beverage. These beverages are generally low in protein, calories and fat and may not support good health and optimal growth.
As well, milk may be a more reliable source of calcium than fortified plant-based beverages. Calcium added to plant-based beverages may not be as well absorbed by the body as that naturally found in milk. And there is evidence showing that as much as 40% of the calcium added to plant-based beverages can stay at the bottom of the container, even if you shake it vigorously.
Rehydrate after physical activity
Depending on weather conditions, how hard you work out and certain other factors such as sweating heavily, you can lose up to two liters of water per hour while being active! That's why drinking enough water makes sense before, during and after being active.
Aside from water, milk is a good drink choice after being active because it helps both rehydrate and provide complete protein, ideal for building and repairing your muscles after working out. And when training is intensive, long-lasting, and repeated over several days, it may be ideal to consume a recovery drink that provides protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes. Electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, replace those lost in your sweat, in addition to helping your body retain water, while protein helps build and repair muscle. The carbs replace the glycogen stored in our muscles and which fuels activity.
Whip up your own recovery drink by making a nutritious smoothie—simply blend fresh or frozen fruit with milk (and yogurt for a thicker texture). Use your imagination and try different flavour combinations, like peach and nectarine, strawberries and raspberries or honeydew and apple. To mix things up, add grated fresh ginger, lemon zest, chia seeds, unsweetened coconut or fresh mint.