Previous research shows that water as a caloric-free beverage provides a healthy alternative to reduce sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consumption and may lead to decrease in unwanted weight. Many intervention studies reduce sugary beverages to reduce obesity; however, water consumption as an alternative beverage is not measured directly.
This study employed a person-centered approach to explore the water consumption of children through observations and direct measurement to identify the amount of the water consumed during a program day. A total of 80 children in Head Start were observed during the program day over a period of 8 weeks. In the classroom, intake from the water fountain and water bottles were recorded. The 80 parents and/or legal guardians completed a brief survey to provide information on water consumption at home. The present study also compared the usage of the sugary sweetened beverages (SSBs) with the national Head Start data in 2009.
Latent Class Analysis (LCA) was used to examine the profiles of the combined individual data of water and beverage consumption, from both observation and parental reports, to deepen our understanding of the issue. Average daily water consumption is 1.8 ounces (53 ml). No statistically significant differences across demographic characteristics were found, however, large to moderate effect sizes were discovered among groups. The current study group had statistically significant difference in consumption of those sugary-sweetened-beverages (p<.01).
The current study concluded that the water consumption of the children in Head Start classrooms are far less than recommended level. Suggestions on how to increase water consumption were made based on observed behaviors of children across the four classrooms. More research is needed to investigate the assessments with the water consumption in classrooms and at home. Policy changes is suggested to increase water consumption.