Hydration is one of the most important things for your child to stay active and energetic. Yes, water is the best way to provide hydration. But with kids, it is impossible to monitor the amount of water that they drink when they are away from you. What you have in your control is choosing tasty and nourishing drinks that provide a good amount of electrolytes while being readily consumed by kids.
We often think about health drinks for kids and electrolytes as necessary only for kids who are athletic or into sports. But, the fact is that electrolytes are important for each one of us. Let us try to understand what they are and why they are so important.
We often associate electrolytes with energy drinks and rehydration salts. They are consumed after a period of strenuous physical activity to replenish the fluids in the body. Similarly, children also suffer from an imbalance in electrolytes.
Electrolytes are not ‘drinks’ or ‘fluids’ as we think they are. They are essential minerals that children require to thrive. The two most important ones are potassium and sodium. These two electrolytes have come into the limelight, even more, these days with the growing cases of potassium deficiency and overconsumption of sodium.
Electrolytes are found in all body fluids, including sweat and blood. They are electronically charged and are found inside your cells and outside them. They help maintain fluid balance, making sure that there is no excessive loss or retention of fluids in your cells. Not just that, electrolytes also carry out important functions in the body including nerve activity and muscle contractions.
The four most common electrolytes that are found in health drinks for kids are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Here are their primary functions in the human body:
- Sodium: It is one of the most important electrolytes which balances all the fluids from the head to your toe and prevents hydration. This is why it is recommended to add a pinch of salt to your water when you are about to engage in extremely strenuous physical activity.
- Potassium: Potassium works with sodium to keep the fluids within the cells balanced. If potassium consumption is low, it can lead to outward movement of cell fluids causing cramps in the muscles, weakness and fatigue.
- Calcium: This is one of the most important minerals that we think of when we talk about children’s nutrition. While we associate it only with bone and teeth strength, calcium is responsible for several other bodily functions like blood clotting, muscle contraction, hormone production and nerve activity.
- Magnesium: This electrolyte is important for the production of energy, improved muscle activity and better brain function.
Have you observed your child becoming extremely tired after playing or practising a sport? They seem too tired even to walk sometimes. This is a clear case of dehydration which is usually caused by electrolyte imbalance.
When children play in the sun or participate in sports, they sweat quite a bit. This leads to a quick loss of electrolytes from the body. The electrolytes that are lost the most are in this order- sodium, potassium, calcium ad magnesium. If these electrolytes are not replenished fast, it can lead to severe muscle cramps and serious dehydration. This does not mean that you need to give your child a sports drink after every physically intense activity.
It is important to ensure that your child has a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. You can also add fluids like health drinks, fresh fruit and vegetable juices or coconut water to your diet to make sure that electrolytes are constantly replenished.
However, there are some cases when your child may need an electrolyte boost:
- When the child is throwing up as a result of any illness.
- The child is suffering from diarrhoea
- The child spends a lot of time outdoors, especially in the warmer months of the year.
Some signs to look out for to tell if your child is dehydrated are:
- Dryness of the mouth
- Feeling excessively drowsy or sleepy
- Being very cranky
- Sunken eyes
- Fewer tears when they cry
In severe cases, children may also develop a fontanelle which is a soft spot on the top of the head. When you suspect dehydration, the best thing to do is to seek medical attention.
The best way to maintain a good electrolyte balance is to ensure that your child consumes a healthy diet. Make sure that your little one’s diet is rich in fresh and whole foods. You should also make sure that your child drinks enough water every day. Beware of demineralised RO water as it can lead to electrolyte deficiencies. Choose filters that do not strip water of its important nutrients.
If your child is a fussy eater, this issue can be solved by adding a health drink into the mix. These drinks contain the primary electrolytes in the necessary amount for your child’s age group. Natural healthy drinks like coconut water are also great options to keep your little one hydrated.
Here are some reasons why health drinks and milk powders can be extremely beneficial to keep your child active and hydrated:
- They contain ample minerals that are formulated as per age-specific RDA
- These drinks are a convenient option as most children enjoy them
- They are versatile and can be used in baked goodies or other beverages that your child consumes.
- They give you a single, reliable source of necessary electrolytes.
When choosing a health drink for your child, you can avoid the health drink common mistakes that most parents make and avoid buying a drink that is less beneficial by ensuring a few things. Firstly, make sure that you check the nutritional label thoroughly. Next, avoid drinks that have a high quantity of sugar as it can lead to issues like obesity with regular consumption. It is best to choose a drink with fewer, natural ingredients. You should also make sure that you stick to the recommended daily dosage to give your child all the health benefits of a good health drink.