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Healthy Hydration Choices for Different Life Stages: BNF explains all in new series of guides

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) is highlighting the importance of healthy hydration through the life course, with the launch of a series of guides containing advice on drinks choices for different age groups. This includes two new guides, one for children aged 1-4 years and one for older people with poor appetites, as well as updated resources for teens and adults, and children aged 5-11 years.

Developed by the BNF’s team of nutrition scientists and available free to download from the BNF’s website, the four guides outline the effects of different drinks on health and which drink choices are best at different stages throughout life.

Sara Stanner, Science Director at the BNF, comments: “We all know that it’s important to keep hydrated but, it is not always easily understood that, where one drink may be a good choice for one age group, it may not be suitable for someone else at a different stage of life.  For example, for most adults and children it’s important to avoid consuming too many drinks like hot chocolates, fruit juices or smoothies as this can lead to excess intakes of calories and sugar. But, for older people who have poor appetites and may be losing weight, these drinks can actually be really helpful – both for hydration and providing important nutrients. 

Milk is a source of calcium, iodine, riboflavin and vitamin B12, and can contribute to hydration for all ages, though the best variety to choose may differ. Within the new guide for children aged 1-4 years, the advice is that skimmed or 1% fat milks are not suitable as a main drink for children under 5, and semi-skimmed milk can be offered as a main drink to children over two years who are eating well and having a healthy, balanced diet. Likewise, for older people with poor appetites, whole milk is a good choice to boost energy intake and extra protein can be added by blending dried skimmed milk powder with milk and using this in milky drinks and in soups. Adults and teens can consume milk regularly, however lower fat versions are recommended and, if choosing plant-based alternatives, it is best to go for those that are lower in sugars and fortified with calcium and ideally other vitamins and minerals.”

Regular consumption of sugary soft drinks is discouraged for both adults and children in the BNF guides, and for adults who like sweet soft drinks, options with no added sugars are a good option to reduce sugar and calorie intakes. However, for older adults with poor appetites who are trying to prevent weight loss, diet drinks are not a good choice and high sugar intakes may not be a primary concern.

Stanner continues: “We are a nation of tea and coffee drinkers, and these drinks can make a valuable contribution to fluid intakes for adults. However, drinks containing caffeine are not suitable for young children and, in our updated guide for 5-11 year olds it’s suggested that tea and coffee should only be consumed occasionally and in small amounts. Our new guide for older adults with poor appetites suggests adding plenty of milk to your cuppa to add extra energy and protein.”

The BNF’s new healthy hydration guides provide a reminder that the recommended fluid intake is 6-8 glasses a day, including plenty of water. The BNF guides also outline that for some age groups, keeping well hydrated is not just about the drinks chosen, but having support to make sure enough fluid is consumed. Young children may not always recognise when they are thirsty and can forget to drink, and therefore need help from others to provide them with sufficient fluids, particularly when they are active or in hot weather. For older adults, the sense of thirst can be weaker and it is especially important that people who are in poor health and/or have poor mobility get help and encouragement from those around them to drink enough.

The guides cover:

  • Children aged 1-4
  • Children aged 5-11
  • Adults and teenagers
  • Older adults with poor appetites

The four BNF healthy hydration guides can be downloaded here.

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