We are all healthier when we are surrounded by places that provide nutritious food. And that includes water– the stuff we were meant to drink. It’s fresh, it’s clear, and it quenches thirst without packing on the extra pounds from sugar. So why does it seem so much easier to drink a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew than a simple glass of water?

The beverage industry has spent the last several decades dumping money (and sugar) into our communities with their advertisements. Our reality is a world where junk food and soda marketing are unavoidable and where you are never more than a few steps from a crushing assortment of sodas, coffees, sweet teas, energy, sports and juice drinks.

Beyond advertising is the simple issue of access. Though Kentucky isn’t experiencing the drought our western states have come to know, water is nonetheless, scarce: It’s not uncommon to find a bottle of water more expensive than sugary beverages or a water fountain out of reach, yet amusement parks promote free unlimited soda and vending machines offer dozens of sugar-sweetened options.

The truth is we all consume a lot of sugary drinks and, unfortunately, it’s a habit that starts early: A child served one 4-ounce serving of apple juice during snack time at child care consumes over a cup of sugar each month. Similarly, an adult drinking one 20-ounce soda each day would need to walk 21 miles each week to burn off the calories.

It’s time to rethink our drink and eliminate sugary beverages.
Choice is important, but we don’t directly choose what is stocked in vending machines, the placement of billboards, the cost of soda, or whether our children have water fountains while they are playing at school. But we can take some small steps to create spaces where water is not only accessible, but easy, fun, and the first thing we want for thirst.

Here are some small steps you can take to put water first, in the places we live, learn, work, and play:

Child Care and School

  • Download or pick up FREE 5-2-1-0 posters for your classroom reminding visitors that the recommendation for children 0 to 5 years old is zero sugary drinks.
  • Use a cart to wheel around a sports cooler of water that can easily be moved outside or to a playground.
  • Make your own “Rethink Your Drink” display to educate staff, parents, and kids on the hidden sugars.
    • Ask about availability of water at your children’s school or child care.


  • Have water pitchers or coolers with paper cups available for adults and kids to self-serve.
  • Make water delicious by adding lemon, lime, or orange slices for a good alternative to juices and other sugary beverages.


  • Consider including an informal or formal policy that calls for water to be served at celebrations or meetings where food is provided.
  • Consider including an informal or formal policy that subsidizes or provides discounts on water in vending machine, cafeteria or snack bar.
  • Purchase or encourage the use of reusable water bottles to support drinking water.

5-2-1-0 Healthy Numbers for Kentucky Families is a campaign designed to give parents, healthcare professions, and child care providers a memorable way to talk about the key evidence-based behaviors that reduce childhood obesity. For more information, downloadable resources and free tools, please visit the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky.


Sugar-Free Kids Maryland

Water First – Think Your Drink
Zero is Our Hero When It Comes to Sugary Drinks
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