A few weeks ago I had the chance to dine at Ruggles Green, a sustainable restaurant located in the River Oaks area of Houston. In an attempt to save a few bucks, I requested for “just a glass of water” to help wash down my tomato basil soup.
“Just a glass of water?” asked the cashier. “So you just want a glass of the all mighty elixir that can lead to a healthy and long-lasting life?”
“Uh, yeah. I guess so,” I laughed.
His approach made me chuckle, but he was most certainly right. Water is the secret to sustaining a healthy life. Water has the power to help flush away toxins. Water can improve digestion. Water can help clear bad skin. Water can even boost your metabolism and help you lose weight. The list can theoretically go on and on.
Unfortunately, two-thirds of Americans still don’t include enough water in their diets, according to the most recent statistics available.
Instead, they prefer to consume sugary fruit juices, coffee, and the leading offender — soda. With more than 39 grams of sugar and 140 empty calories in just one 20 ounce can, excessive soda is the leading cause for diabetes and obesity. It is now also strongly linked to osteoporosis and kidney damage. But that still doesn’t prevent Americans from guzzling 13.8 million gallons of soda each year.
In fact one 30-year-old New Zealand woman drank so much soda in April that she died of cardiac arrhythmia. Granted she drank an excessive amount of soda (10 liters a day) but it’s scary to think it can cause immediate death. Perhaps that’s why Mayor Bloomberg recently moved to ban the sale of “large-size” sodas in New York City restaurants, sports venues, and movie theaters earlier this summer.
Either way, properly hydrating your body with six to eight glasses of water a day is crucial. If you think water lacks in flavor or perhaps you’re just looking for a way to kick your soda or coffee habit, check out some creative ways to add more water into your diet below.
Keep a Schedule
One of the biggest mistakes most people make is drinking water only when they feel thirsty. If you’re thirsty, then technically your body has already been depleted of the necessary fluids it needs. Drinking soda or coffee (which are diuretics) will only dehydrate you even more. Dark yellow-colored urine is the easiest way to tell if you need more fluids. To make sure that your urine is always a light-color, it’s a good idea to drink a full glass of water the moment you wake up and then every two hours after that. Every time you go to the restroom, make sure to drink another full glass of water shortly after. Drink water with all your meals, and especially after working out. If you need a reminder to drink water every two hours, set an alarm.
Replace the “Burn”
Most people are attracted to soda rather than water because of the “burning” feeling the fizzy bubbles give off when you drink it–at least that was the case for Sheridan Orr, a recovering Diet Coke addict. She often drank up to six cans of Diet Coke a day until her doctor warned her about the negative toll it was having on her body. “He definitely felt my fatigue and the dehydration were linked [to soda],” Orr said. “My doctor suggested that I try to replace three of the Cokes with sparkling water.” In just one short week, Orr claimed she began feeling much better and regained her energy.
Sparking water (sometimes called carbonated water or seltzer) still has that crisp taste but doesn’t come with as many harsh consequences of soda; although most experts say “still water” is the preferred choice.
Replace the Caffeine
If it’s the caffeine in soda you crave, a better alternative is to drink unsweetened hot or cold green tea instead. Green tea is filled with tons of health properties and only contains a small smidge of caffeine which can keep any caffeine withdrawal symptoms like headaches at bay. And since tea is essentially only “infused” water, you’re still working on meeting your daily water intake.
Add Some Flavor
If you find water to be bland, there are a few easy ways you can spruce it up. The easiest is to add a few drops of lemon juice. The lemon juice will not only give your water some added flavor but the vitamin C will also help boost your immunity. If that isn’t enough, you can try adding a few drops of MiO Liquid Water Enhancer or a packet of low-sugar Crystal Light.
Another trendy (and-oh-so-refreshing) option is making fruit-infused water or the latin version called agua fresca. “My favorite way [to drink water] is to put a jug of water in the fridge and add raspberry, lemon slices and mint,” says Dr. Bess Stillman, an integrative medicine consultant and emergency physician. “Let it sit overnight. In the morning, put it into your large water bottle and add a teaspoon of honey to sweeten. One teaspoon of honey only has 5.7 grams of sugar (21 calories), but because it is sweeter than table sugar, even less will
satisfy your sweet tooth.”
I also personally love fruit-infused water. Here’s the recipe to my absolute favorite, Tropical Paradise: Place one cup of pineapple chunks and one half cup of mango chunks in a large pitcher filled with filtered water. Give the ingredients a good stir. Refrigerate overnight so that the water can absorb all of the flavors. Note that you can get really creative when it comes to fruit-infused water–you can try cucumbers, strawberries, or even cantaloupe.
Eat Your Water
Last, but not least, if you get tired of slurping water, you can fill your belly and meet some of your daily water goals by eating your water. Certain fruits and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, cabbage, and spinach have a high water content that your body can easily absorb. If you’re looking for something a little more savory, try whipping up some broth based soups to get some more water in your system as well.
It may take some time to wean yourself off of sugary drinks, but once you do you’ll start to feel so much better. It’s also important to note that while it’s recommended to go without soda entirely treat it as a special snack. “Treat it the way you would a large slice of cake or a hot fudge sundae,” says Dr. Stillman. “Don’t feel guilty while you
drink it down, knowing that your taste-buds and your health don’t mind compromising every now and then. But be warned, after you kick the soda habit and are once again able to enjoy the refreshing, natural taste of water, soda will lose its appeal and taste the same way it treats your body.”