We often worry we should drink more water, especially once we get into the dog days of summer (will they ever arrive this year?). We’re trained to drink those eight 8-ounce glasses a day, even if new science shows that may not be necessary for healthy folks. Beware of going overboard; endurance athletes, for instance, are prone to hyponatremia, a condition of abnormally low sodium in the blood, which happens when they drink too much water.
Most of us probably aren’t in that camp, though, and we need to drink more.
As mothers, we’re most conscious about staying hydrated during pregnancy, which helps prevent swelling caused by water retention. Then, once the baby comes, constant breastfeeding leaves us parched. But as our children grow, we focus attention on getting them to drink water.
My son Theo, who will be 3 on Thursday, still favors milk and watered-down juice, and for rare treats, a little kombucha, a honey-sweetened herbal soda like the Green Bee line from Brunswick or fizzy water mixed with cranberry-apple cocktail, as I ordered for him on a recent flight. “Soda” to him is anything bubbly and slightly sweet. Theo has not yet tried Coke or other sugary soft drinks, at least not to my knowledge. But he does love sips of my seltzer, which he calls “beer water.”
He’s finally drinking more tap water out of filled glass bottles and his new stainless steel sippie bottle.
Yet everyone tires of the taste of plain water sometimes, not just kids. It just takes a nudge to develop that lifelong water habit, a muscle that develops when exercised. The major beverage companies are exploiting our weakness, with zero-calorie Vitamin Water and similar drinks flooding the market. There’s an astounding array of new flavored water packets, pouches and drops to spike plain H2O, a way for companies to keep selling something to those who increasingly drink from the kitchen sink. Isn’t there an alternative?
Indeed. You’ll save money, not to mention plastic and packaging, by making seasonal, infused waters at home. Give yourself this spa treatment. It’s a good way to wean yourself off Diet Cokes and Mountain Dews.
Filling a water bottle or pitcher with long shavings of hydrating cucumber with fresh mint and thin slices of lemon is a classic place to start. That’s how Brunswick mom Ashley Horton learned to quench her thirst (with purified water) when she lived in Tulum, Mexico, while pregnant and working as a yoga teacher.
Fruits – citrus, berries, melon, mangoes and pineapple, even frozen – wake up water. This summer, I’m pairing strawberries with complementary herbs like basil, fennel fronds, tarragon and rosemary in addition to ubiquitous mint. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, gently muddled in the bottom of a pitcher or glass, give water a zing, too.
Amanda Walden, a Reiki master and hula hoop instructor in Bath, recommends a frozen raspberry-lime combination, like an unsweetened rickey. “I’m always looking for more ways to trick myself into drinking more water!” Walden said.
Walden also uses granulated kefir culture to make her own probiotic carbonated water, which she finds milder than vinegary kombucha. When her younger son, Gideon, 7, tires of regular water, this option is a happy compromise. Water is always the first choice of her older son, Drew, 10, probably because he didn’t taste juice until an older age, Walden says.
Infused water overlaps with the world of tea and tisanes, when it comes to fresh herbs and edible flowers. Acting in a production of “Crimes of the Heart” at Fable Farm in Barnard, Vermont, on leave from Brooklyn last summer, my sister Carolyn learned to gather fresh pink echinacea blossoms with lemon balm, spearmint and red clover with raw honey for a tea they would drink all day long.
Lemon verbena, pineapple sage, catnip and, of course, peppermint are also natural infusions.
“3Craftivist in the Kitchen” blogger Shari Burke, who recently moved from Brunswick to Ireland, was taken by a talk on herbal waters by Deb Soule, the founder of Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary, at MOFGA’s annual Common Ground Fair a few years ago. She remembers Soule passing around some cold water infused with tulsi, the holy basil Soule grows on her 3-acre farm in Rockport. There, she leads regular herb walks, teaching participants what to snip for water.
Every morning, Soule cuts herbs and flowers to cover with water in her wide-mouth quart canning jar, from which she sips all day long. She appreciates the fragrance and flavor of fresh lemon balm, rosemary, any mints including low-growing catmint, soft leaves of lamb’s ear and flowers such as calendula, rugosa rose petals, borage and lavender-and-red bee balm flowers, or even lavender proper. Sometimes Soule adds fresh grated ginger and a squeeze of lemon.
Even tea can be made with cold water, and it needn’t sit in the sun to steep. Frank Underdown of Fairbanks Roofing in Lisbon Falls said he drinks water constantly when out on hot summer jobs. He loves to throw a few green tea bags into a gallon jug of Poland Spring he keeps in his truck. Of course, his wife’s homemade lemonade is also quite refreshing.
Consider infused water “popsicles,” too. That would win over Theo, who loves to munch on ice. The inspiring ChopChop Magazine’s kids cookbook also recommends freezing berries, fruit chunks and herbs into “Fun, Fruity Ice Cubes.” Then you’re prepared to infuse tap or sparkling water on demand.
I do realize man can’t live by water alone. Sometimes you need to replenish those electrolytes.
Still, I was taken aback when my husband, Dan, asked me to pick up a canister of powdered lemon Gatorade mix. That’s what he still craves after his intense lunchtime basketball games on the Bowdoin campus. At least he’d be reducing plastic bottle waste and could easily mix up the Gatorade back in his office. But what about all those sugars, preservatives and yellow dyes? Wouldn’t organic coconut water powder be a better, though more expensive, option?
I still bought him the Gatorade, but I vowed to finally take up making my own electrolyte-replenishing sports drinks later this summer. There are some easy formulas that enhance water with salt, sweetener (try honey or maple syrup), orange and lemon juice. That’s it.
Then there’s always standby chocolate milk, which some swear by for recovery. That’s what I craved – chocolate milk and a potassium-rich banana per the example of my attending doula Irma Kapsenberg – after the extreme workout that is labor when Theo was born in Oregon exactly three years ago.