5 Tips for Choosing Better Beverages for Hydration for Special Needs

5 Tips for Choosing Better Beverages for Hydration for Special Needs

Hydration for special needs is one of the top components of a healthy lifestyle. Once the weather begins to heat up in spring and summer, water losses can increase and lead to increased fluid needs to maintain hydration. Though water can also be found in some of the foods we eat like fruits and vegetables, choosing better beverages can contribute to overall nutrition and help with improving energy and hydration.

1) Watch for signs of dehydration

When we do not drink enough fluids during the day, our body can have a hard time functioning well. Fluid plays a large role in digestion, removing waste, and transporting nutrients in the body. Hydration can help to promote bowel regularity and reduce constipation, especially when consuming a diet high in fiber by eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Water in the body can also help to lubricate and cushion joints and organs, manage body temperature, and help to digest food. It can also help to correct false hunger cues, as thirst may be confused with hunger, and keep us on track with meeting nutrition goals.

Special Strong Find a Location Near Me

Signs and symptoms of dehydration may include thirst, dark colored urine, dry lips or mouth, irritability, headache, dizziness, fast heart rate, confusion, low blood pressure, cold hands or feet, or even fainting. Watch for these symptoms, especially during hot weather or during physical activity, and work to give your body the fluid it needs.

2) Set a goal!

One way to encourage hydration for special needs is to set goals of how much fluid to drink each day. This can be with timing by having a beverage along with each meal/snack an additional beverage in between meals. Another trick can be done by placing markers on a water bottle with smaller goals of how much to drink at certain times of the day. By following these tips and choosing better beverages, this can keep kids and adults accountable to meet fluid goals!

Dietary reference intake levels for children and adult’s fluid intake differ based on growth, gender, and activity level. For children ages, 4 to 8 years, 40 ounces of fluid should be consumed. Those children ages, 9-13 years, 56 to 64 ounces of fluid should be consumed each day. For girls ages, 14 to 18, 64 ounces of fluid should be the daily goal, though boys of this age should reach 88 ounces of fluid during the day. Women over the age of 19 years should strive for 72 ounces of fluid each day, whereas men over 19 years should reach 96 ounces of fluid each day.

Another way to set a goal of fluid intake is to take ½ ounce to 1 ounce of fluid for every pound of body weight. Based on this method, an individual who weighs 80 pounds would need 40 to 80 ounces of water each day. Following these goals by choosing better beverages can help to improve hydration for special needs!

3) Choose the right drinks

When choosing better beverages, stick to beverages that have zero calories or are low in calories to prevent excessive energy intake. Regular sodas, sweet tea, juices, or sports drinks can have as much as 7 teaspoons of sugar in only 8 ounces. One serving of juice is only 4 ounces, and just like any sugary beverage, these should only be consumed very rarely.

Choosing sparkling water, infused water, or zero-calorie beverage instead can reduce sugar intake and keep you hydrated without having an energy crash during the day. Some other alternatives include brands such as Hint Water, Ice, and La Croix. You can even feel free to make your own lemonade or caffeine-free tea at home using Stevia to sweeten. For staying cool in the summertime, take ice water and add cut fruit, cucumber, basil, citrus, or mint for a refreshing drink to beat the heat. You can even make popsicles out of these better beverages to stay hydrated and cool on a warm day!

4) Get the most out of milk

Milk or milk substitutes can be a nutritious option, whether you are consuming dairy or avoiding dairy in your diet. If consuming dairy, stick to skim milk or 1% milk to reduce calories and fat in each glass of milk. If choosing flavored milk or looking to meet higher protein needs, try FairLife milk which has reduced sugar, is lactose-free, and has added protein. For those avoiding dairy, try Silk soy milk, Ripple pea protein milk, unsweetened almond milk, or So Delicious cashew or coconut milk. These should be low in sugar and limited to three 8 ounce servings per day to limit excess calories and help meet calcium needs.

5) Be mindful of exercise

While exercising, an additional 8 ounces of fluid should be consumed to replete sweat losses and stay hydrated. When exercising or spending extended periods of time in the heat, include a small pinch of salt or look for a low calorie or zero-calorie sports beverage with electrolytes to replace sodium and potassium levels in the body that are lost while sweating. Powerade Zero, Propel, or Gatorade G2 Low Calorie can all be better beverage options to limit sugar in sports beverages.  If you are sensitive to artificial sweeteners or dyes, we recommend Ultima as an electrolyte source.

By following some of these tips, we hope you can choose better beverages for hydration for those with special needs in the coming warmer months. Feel free to contact us or our team of nutrition professionals for more information on choosing better beverages to improve hydration for special needs!

Products can be found at local grocery stores or by using the following links.  Depending on sensitivities, you should avoid artificial colors, dyes, etc.

Optimal Hydration for Special Needs: Choosing Better Beverages

Ensuring proper hydration is vital, especially for individuals with special needs who may face unique challenges. Selecting appropriate beverages goes beyond mere thirst quenching—it plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being.

Water is Key

Undoubtedly, one of the simplest yet most effective hydration sources is plain water. It is free from additives and sugars that could be harmful, making it an invaluable hydration choice for individuals with special needs. Therefore, it is vital to ensure access to fresh water at all times throughout the day.

Hydrating Alternatives

In instances where individuals show resistance or dislike towards plain water, there’s a need to discover and offer alternative hydration options. One such option is infused water, created by adding slices of fruits or vegetables. This means brings a hint of flavor to the water, making it more appealing without compromising its vital hydration properties.

Electrolyte Balance

For individuals with certain medical conditions, it is crucial to maintain a balance of electrolytes within the body. In these cases, it may be wise to consider beverages specially formulated with balanced electrolytes. Nonetheless, it’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional in order to determine the most suitable options based on the individual’s specific needs.

Avoid Sugary Drinks

It is imperative to avoid sugary beverages like sodas and fruit juices, especially for individuals with special needs. Such drinks are extremely high in sugar content, and excessive consumption can lead to several health complications. Those with special needs might be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects due to underlying conditions. Therefore, it becomes even more vital to ensure they are not consuming excessively sugary beverages frequently.

Coconut Water

A natural source of electrolytes, coconut water provides hydration with added benefits. It’s a refreshing choice that can be well-received by individuals with special needs.

Diluted Fruit Juices

If fruit juices are preferred, dilute them with water to reduce sugar content. This approach maintains flavor while promoting better hydration.

Consult with Healthcare Professionals

Furthermore, individualized care is essential to ensure optimal health outcomes. In order to achieve this, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals to tailor beverage choices based on specific needs. This can be done by considering medical conditions and dietary restrictions when making decisions about which beverages to consume.

Temperature Matters

Additionally, when considering the temperature of beverages, it is important to keep in mind that some individuals may have preferences for cold or room temperature liquids. Adapting to these preferences can enhance the likelihood of adequate fluid intake.

Consistent Monitoring

Regularly monitor hydration levels, especially during hot weather or physical activities. Adjust beverage choices accordingly to meet the individual’s unique requirements.

Educational Approach

Educate caregivers, educators, and support networks about the importance of proper hydration for individuals with special needs. Creating a collective understanding ensures consistent efforts in maintaining optimal hydration.

By prioritizing thoughtful choices and individualized approaches, we can enhance the hydration experience for individuals with special needs, contributing to their overall health and well-being.


  1. Berry RC, Novak P, Withrow N, et al. Nutrition Management of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guideline from an Expert Panel. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics . 2015;115(12):1919-1927. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.05.016.
  1. Perrier E, Vergne S, Klein A, et al. Hydration biomarkers in free-living adults with different levels of habitual fluid consumption. British Journal of Nutrition . 2013;109(09):1678-1687. doi:10.1017/s0007114512003601.
  1. Water: How Much Do Kids Need? Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/hydrate-right/water-go-with-the-f low. Accessed April 10, 2018.


Special Strong provides adaptive fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with mental, physical and cognitive challenges. Start your own Special Strong gym franchise today and create a lasting impact on your community.