A Healthy Habit Shift: Drink More Water 

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK.COM/ANTONIOGUILLEM

Drinking enough water throughout the day can be difficult to achieve for many reasons. One of the key messages of National Nutrition Month is creating healthy shifts in habits at home — if you feel like your water intake could use a boost, increasing water intake for the whole family is one healthy shift you can focus on prioritizing this month. 

When starting a new habit, at first it's important to consider the consequences if you aren’t able to accomplish your goal. What happens if you don’t drink enough water? Dehydration, especially while exercising, can result in headache, weakness, dizziness, dry mouth and exhaustion. Even when slightly dehydrated, your body starts to feel the consequences.  

After a few weeks, the focus of creating a new healthy habit shifts toward rewards from accomplishing your goal. It’s important to drink water to maintain balance of fluids in the body, energize muscles, moisten tissues, keep skin healthy, regulate body temperature and maintain kidney and bowel function.  Your body goes from feeling just OK to feeling great when fully hydrated day in and day out. You’re simply able to more properly function.  

Studies suggest it takes 21 days to create a habit but, bottom line, bad habits can always come back, so think “long-term lifestyle change” instead of “short-term fix” by incorporating more water intake into your daily routine. How much water you need depends on your gender, age, size and activity level, so for starters drink enough to maintain a pale urine color. 

Here are a few tips to get you started with better hydration habits:  

Drink a glass of water as part of the morning routine. Make it something you do with breakfast or after brushing your teeth — drink 8 to 16 ounces. Warm, cold, with or without lemon, however you enjoy it most.  

Pack a water bottle. Having water on hand makes it easier to increase intake because it’s a constant reminder and easy access. Remember to fill it up a few times throughout the day, especially after meals. 

Serve water with dinner. Having a pitcher at the table is a good idea so refills are easy and encouraged.  

Opt for water over alcohol. Women should limit themselves to one alcoholic drink per day, while men should limit consumption to two drinks per day. If you have more than one alcoholic beverage, have water after your first drink. You could also try seltzer water with a slice of citrus, cucumber or mint-infused water instead of another drink. 

Incorporate other liquids such as milk, which provides 8 grams of protein per cup plus calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin D. It’s a great way to add additional calories, carbs and protein after exercise or if calorie needs are increased.   

Eat more fruit, which is naturally high in both water and sugar. Eating whole fruits (and vegetables) are recommended over drinking juice because the fiber aids in digestion and is linked to reduced risk of many chronic diseases. Limit 100-percent fruit juice — with no added sugar — to 4 ounces per day.

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Kate Moran
Kate Moran, RD, LDN, blogs at The Educated Plate.