To study the quantity and quality of water intake from beverages among pre-schoolers and investigate associations with gender and socio-economic status (SES).
Kindergarten-based cross-sectional survey within the large-scale European ToyBox-study. A standardized protocol was used and parents/caregivers filled in sociodemographic data and a semi-quantitative FFQ.
Kindergartens in six European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Poland and Spain).
European pre-schoolers (aged 3·5–5·5 years) and their parents/caregivers (n 7051).
Mean water intake was 1051 ml/d; plain water, 547 ml/d; plain milk, 241 ml/d; other fruit juice, 104 ml/d; pure fruit juice, 59 ml/d; soft drinks, 55 ml/d; tea, 45 ml/d; sugared and chocolate milk, 37 ml/d; smoothies, 15 ml/d; and light soft drinks, 6 ml/d. Boys had a higher water intake than girls due to a higher consumption of plain water, but more importantly to the consumption of beverages of less quality. Lower-SES pre-schoolers scored better on quantity than high-SES pre-schoolers, but as a consequence of consumption of sugared beverages. Nevertheless, the associations differed by country.
The water intake from beverages did not meet the European Food Safety Authority standard of 1280 ml/d; especially in Western European countries water intake from beverages was low. The most important water sources were plain water, milk and fruit juices. Interventions aiming at a proper and sufficient water intake should focus on both quantity and quality. Messages about water and water sources should be clear for everyone and interventions should be sufficiently tailored.