When I was at BlogHer Food a couple of months ago, one of the ideas offered by Laurie David, author of “The Family Dinner,” that was simple and brilliant was to always have a pitcher of water on the dinner table. Not a big, unattractive plastic Tupperware pitcher of water, but an attractive glass pitcher filled with water and natural flavorings.

I put this idea into practice when I returned home from the conference, and a pitcher of water has been a staple on our dinner table ever since. The pitcher, seen in the photo above, is one that was handed down from my grandmother so it’s rather old. It’s nice, thick glass with a simple design at the bottom.

When I started putting water on the table, I stopped asking the boys what they wanted to drink with dinner. I just put an empty glass at everyone’s plate. If anyone wanted something else to drink besides water with meals, he could get milk or juice after we prayed. When I first started putting the water on the table, the boys chose other beverages once in a while, but now they stick with the water.

One of Laurie David’s tricks to making this so inviting is to make the water fancy by adding fresh fruit or herbs. On her own blog, she posts about adding a cinnamon stick, a few mint leaves, cucumber slices, and wedges of citrus. I found that my boys like it a little simpler – just one citrus fruit at a time. I rotate lemon, lime or oranges each night, often having my 9-year-old cut the fruit and prepare the water.

Why is this a big deal? A recent study found that in the United States, we buy more soda than water every year. Now, that’s bottled soda compared to bottled water, the study didn’t include water from the tap. Still, people are purchasing soda more than any other beverage, and a lot of that soda ends up on dinner tables.

It would be such a simple, economic, healthy switch to leave the soda or other sugary drinks (including 100 percent juice) off the table and provide fresh, naturally flavored water. Summer is the perfect time to start, when fresh fruits and herbs to flavor the water are abundant, maybe even right in your back yard. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Water at the dinner table
Forget the soda. A pitcher of naturally flavored water on the table with dinner satisfies everyone's thirst.