Water: Go With the Flow

by Mary Mullen, MS and Jo Ellen Shield, MED LD

Water: Go With the Flow

Water is one of the body's most essential nutrients. People may survive six weeks without any food, but they couldn't live more than a week or so without water. That's because water is the cornerstone for all body functions. It's the most abundant substance in the body, accounting for up to 75 percent of body weight. It helps keep body temperature constant at about 98.6 degrees, and it transports nutrients and oxygen to all cells and carries waste products away. Water helps maintain blood volume, and it helps lubricate joints and body tissues such as those in the mouth, eyes and nose. And water is truly a liquid asset for a healthy weight—it's sugar free, caffeine free, and—most importantly—calorie free.

How Much Water Do Kids Need?

The daily amount of water that a child or teen needs will depend on factors such as age, weight and gender. Air temperature, humidity, a person's activity level and his or her overall health affect daily water requirements, too. The Kids' Total Daily Water Requirements chart below can help you identify about how many liters of water your child or teen needs each day (one liter is about four cups of liquid). These water recommendations are set for generally healthy kids living in temperate climates; therefore, they might not be perfect for your child or teen.

The amount of water that your child or teen needs each day might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the recommendations in the chart are for total water, which includes water from all sources: drinking water, other beverages and food. Notice that fruits and vegetables have a much higher water content than other solid foods. Their high water content helps keep the calorie level of fruits and vegetables low while their nutrient level remains high—another perfectly great reason for kids to eat more from these food groups.

So how do you apply total water recommendations to your kid's day? As a rule of thumb, to get enough water, your child or teen should drink at least six to eight cups of water a day and eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Also pay special attention to your child's or teen's water consumption when he or she is physically active. Before, during and after any physical activity, kids need to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. The goal is to drink one-half to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising.

Kids Total Daily Water Requirements


Age Range    Gender     Total Water (Liters/Day)
4-8 years         Girls and boys     1.3
9-13 years     Girls 2.1
  Boys 2.4
14-18 years Girls     2.3
  Boys 3.3


Note: Total water includes all water contained in food, beverages and drinking water.

Data are from Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Tables. Recommended Daily Allowance and Adequate Intake Values: Total Water and Macronutrients.

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About the authors:

Mary C Mullen MS

Mary Mullen, MS

Co-author of "Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens" from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published by Eat Right Press, Chicago, iL. Visit Mary's website at
Jo Ellen Shield MED LD

Jo Ellen Shield, MED LD

Jodie Shield (Jo Ellen Shield) is co-author of "Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens" from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published by Eat Right Press, Chicago, iL. Visit Jodie's website at




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