By: Dr. Clement Bottino, Fellow in General Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Boston
All living things on planet earth depend on water. From the tiniest bacteria to the tallest tree, every organism on our planet needs clean, fresh, pure water to live. Human beings need water in the same way. In addition to being the original thirst quencher, water is important for each of our body’s different parts – our brains, our kidneys, our muscles, even our skin – to do their jobs!
Massachusetts has some of the best drinking water in the USA. The state works hard to ensure that the tap water coming out of each sink is both safe and tasty.
Even though our tap water is clean, healthy, tastes good, and is super cheap (bottled water is ONE THOUSAND times more expensive than tap water!), beverage companies spend millions each year trying to convince us that we should be drinking their products instead of tap water. These drinks may come in bottles, cans, or pouches. They might claim that their drinks have “added vitamins and minerals” or reduced calories, or are even “good for sports,” These drinks may taste good – some might even say better than tap water – but consider this:
- Your health: Some of our biggest public health issues like diabetes and obesity are closely linked to drinking sugary drinks. If diabetes runs in your family try drinking tap water to help potentially keep off a few of those extra pounds.
- Your money: Bottled water and sweetened drinks are way more expensive than tap water. Think how much you could be saving!
- The environment: we throw away over 40 MILLION bottled water bottles every day. Did you know that plastic bottles are made from oil? Think about the Louisiana gulf oil spill. Maybe we could help save the planet by just drinking tap water!
Drinking tap water isn’t always easy. The allure of sugary drinks is everywhere, so here are some tips to help you choose tap water first:
- “Tell’em why!” Talk to your family about your reasons for choosing tap water first, such as for health, or to save money for something special, or to go green. I drink tap water because I like the taste. Tell your friends and your co-workers. Good choices are even easier when you have a good reason behind them.
- “Fill ’er up!” This is probably the most important tip. Carry a reusable water bottle and make sure your children keep one in their backpacks. I have a metal water bottle that I can carry everywhere. This makes it easy to fill up at school, work, sports practice, and home. You can buy a reusable bottle at any supermarket or big store.
- “One a day.” If your kids aren’t used to drinking tap water, don’t stress. Start with one glass each day. When I wake up I have a big glass of tap water before brushing my teeth. It gets my day started off right!
- “Set limits” Set limits and agree on them. Try a “1 liter a week” rule for soda. This keeps soda what it is meant to be – a special treat for a special occasion!
- “Practice makes perfect”. Start a habit of filling up a pitcher of water and putting it on the table when sitting down as a family for lunch or dinner. Pour a glass for everyone at the table. In the beginning you might only drink a few sips, but over time, your family will get in the habit of drinking the full glass (and more!)
- “More is caught…” My old friend used to say, “more is caught than is taught” Another way to say this is that actions speak louder than words. Be the first in your family to set the example and choose tap water first.
- “Add fruit!” For extra flavor, squeeze a lemon, lime, or orange into a glass of tap water. It’s a natural sweetener. Sometimes my mother cuts up pieces of cantaloupe or watermelon or strawberry and puts them in a pitcher of water overnight. The next day the flavors have really come out. Plus you can eat the pieces of fruit with it! You can also try cucumber slices or mint leaves.
- “Bubbly.” For special occasions, serve seltzer or sparkling water with fruit slices or squeezed lemon or lime. Sometimes my mother puts this in the freezer for a refreshing treat!
- “Cinnamon water.” Heat water and add a cinnamon stick for a cozy winter treat. Cinnamon sticks can be found in the herbs and spices section of any supermarket.
Drinking tap water may feel different, strange, or even difficult at first. But remember that each time you choose tap water, you are making a positive choice for yourself, your family, and the planet. So go ahead and drink up!
Image courtesy of Sunny Skyz.