The key to making kids eat better could be hiding in your tap. A new study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that the simple addition of water or milk to an adolescent's diet resulted in a change in dietary patterns, including a decrease in sugary drink consumption.
The Danish scientists who conducted this study set off to determine just how much adding water to an adolescent's daily intake affected their overall dietary patterns, and to monitor if consuming milk would have a similar effect.
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Using a sample of 173 overweight children, the scientists evaluated the effect of adding either 1 liter of water or skim milk a day to the subjects' diets for 12 weeks, observing the effect on calories, food choices, nutrient intake, and other eating patterns. The participating children were encouraged to eat without restraint throughout the study, with the addition of the water or milk being the only mandated change.
Despite not requiring a change in food consumption, the scientists found that the participating kids naturally cut down on other calorie-dense foods during the study, and ate less in general. The biggest cut-back was on the so-called "convenience food" you might find in the snack aisle. The group that drank skim milk had similar results in the kinds of food they cut back on; however, their intake of calories didn't change significantly.
According to the study authors, the probable reason for the trial participants' change in eating habits was likely that "water contains no energy but might contribute to a feeling of fullness," and therefore, "might therefore stabilize or reduce total energy intake by decreasing total energy."
The study authors expressed excitement over how these findings might be a hopeful step towards helping adolescents maintain healthy diets, particularly since no food restrictions were required during the study. "This imitates how dietary changes may be adapted into usual life and supports free-living behavior," they say, promoting the message that adding more water in your daily diet is a simple step towards a more healthful life, during adolescence and beyond.