For a lot of people, drinking the recommended “eight glasses a day” of water feels like seven glasses too many –maybe it feels overwhelming, excessive or just plain uninteresting.
But here’s the thing: we need water. About 60% of our body is made up of water, and without it, we’re prone to feeling tired, achy, dizzy and distracted. Our bodies cannot properly digest food or absorb vitamins and minerals without it.
The good news is you can stay hydrated without having to drink massive amounts of water. There are plenty of other fluids that will keep you hydrated, and offer additional benefits that will keep you feeling and looking your best.
So let’s make the “eight glasses a day” recommendation into something fun – something you can look forward to and sip on with ease.
How much water do I need, anyway?
Even though the general recommendation is eight glasses a day, the amount of water you need actually depends on your age, gender, weight and physical activity, the temperature outside and more. For a general rule of thumb, check out The National Academies Daily Recommended Intake for your age group. Cheers!
Try these 3 Healthy Alternatives to Water
1. Fruit- or Citrus-Infused Water
Adding fruit and citrus to water is an easy way to add some natural flavor and make your drink feel like more of a treat. You can experiment with different fruit combinations (lemon and raspberries), add some herbs and spices (mint, basil and/or cayenne) or choose a theme (sliced cucumbers for a “spa day”) that honors your cravings for that day or week.
You don’t need a fancy infuser for this. Just add your ingredients to a mason jar, pitcher or water bottle.
2. Unsweetened Iced or Hot Tea
Tea is full of flavor, and can also affect how you feel emotionally and physically! Black tea has some caffeine, and can help you feel alert. Chamomile or Valerian tea, on the other hand, might help you feel relaxed and stress-free. Check out which tea might be right for you here.
Rather have something cold? You can easily make iced tea at home in a pitcher or water bottle. Use 1-2 tea bags (or 1 teaspoon of loose leaf) for every cup of water, and let it sit in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
3. Low-sodium Broths
Certain animal-based broths, like bone broth, are mostly water and therefore super hydrating. But they also contain a protein called collagen that’s good for your bones, joints, skin and organs.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, try mushroom broth instead. You’ll get the same amount of water plus some antioxidants and heart protection from the mushrooms.
Studies have shown that in addition to being nutrient-rich, both of these broths can help fight inflammation and build immunity. Consider alternating between each to reap all of the benefits. You can drink them straight, or use them in tasty soups.
Avoid these 3 Less Healthy Alternatives to Water
1. Regular & Diet Soda
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: Soda is filled with sugar, food dyes, “natural flavors,” and preservatives. Consumption of these ingredients has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, brittle bones, tooth decay, and so much more.
Even though diet soda is sugar-free, it uses artificial sweeteners that are upwards of 200x sweeter than sugar. These low-calorie sweeteners can cause bloating, gastrointestinal upset and more intense cravings for sweets.
If you choose to drink soda, the key is to consume it in moderation. If you’re thinking about breaking up with your soda-of-choice, do so slowly. Try replacing it with sparkling water or seltzer if you find you’re missing the carbonation.
2. Dressed-up Coffee
Is your Starbucks drink more of a dessert than a coffee? For example, a Java-chip Frappuccino can have 220-600 calories and up to 88g of sugar. To put that in perspective, the standard recommendation is to have less than 25g and 35g per day for men and women respectively. If you need a coffee fix, order an unsweetened, low-fat (or nut-milk) latte instead.
3. Bottled Juices
Try not to be fooled by the pretty packaging – juice is no innocent alternative to water. Yes, it is made up of fruit (IF it’s not from concentrate), but it’s often accompanied by a generous amount of added sugar. A recent study also revealed many fruit juices contain harmful levels of heavy metals, which can be especially detrimental for children as they are developing.
Juice is also missing fiber, which helps with digestion, blood sugar control, and heart health. If you’re craving something fruity, eat a whole fruit rather than drinking juice. Many fruits have a high water content, so you’ll still be hydrating.
Have more questions about eating healthy? Stop by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free nutrition counseling and comprehensive health care!
Michelle Rubinstein, M.S. completed her graduate education at Teachers College (TC), Columbia University, and has a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Studies (an interdisciplinary program in psychology, sociology and economics) from the University of Michigan. She is currently enrolled in TC’s Dietetic Internship program, and as a future RD, she plans to focus on nutrition and lactation counseling for expecting parents, newborns and infants. Michelle believes in the importance of establishing healthy behaviors from a young age, and would like to support parents throughout their journey as they navigate how to achieve optimal nutrition and eating habits for their family.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 12,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.