Kids & Caffeine: Where to Draw the Line
To begin on a positive note, kids today consume less soda and sugary drinks than they did ten years ago. However, an increase in childhood consumption of coffee, tea, and energy drinks means kids today are getting more caffeine in their diet than ever before, and this finding has some children’s health professionals worried. When is it okay for your child to have caffeine?
How much caffeine is too much?
Caffeine can pop up in unexpected foods in ways that can be hard to detect. Naturally occurring caffeine, like the kind in chocolate, does not need to be indicated anywhere on product packaging; only caffeine that is added needs to be on the label. This can make it particularly difficult for parents monitoring their child’s caffeine intake. Luckily, you can look online for the caffeine
content of most items.
What about toddlers?
Kids under the age of 5 should have little to no caffeine in their diets. Even one serving of cola can make your little one jittery, something you’ve surely noticed. If you keep energy drinks around the house, make sure to keep them away from kids. Poison Control gets thousands of calls a year related to young kids consuming energy drinks – often finding them at home and thinking they are soda – and “overdosing” on caffeine. Although one energy drink won’t be lethal, it can make your child incredibly uncomfortable and may even require hospitalization. Store energy drinks out of a young child’s reach.
When and how much?
The question of when and how to allow caffeine in older children’s diets is more hotly debated. Jessica Lieb, a dietician at the Children’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says, “I think there is no place for caffeine in a child’s diet until they become young adults, at age 18.” This, however, may be difficult in a world where high-powered energy shots are sold on every corner and older kids find their peers hanging out at the local coffee shop instead of the playground.
Teens & Caffeine
If your tween or teen is starting to drink caffeinated beverages regularly, talk to them about setting some common-sense rules on caffeine consumption. Talk about avoiding fortified energy drinks and instead having a small coffee or tea, not consuming caffeine after 6 PM, and only having one caffeinated beverage per day. If your child complains they’re running low on energy, talk to them about the habits that will save them from needing an extra cup of coffee: more sleep, daily exercise, and healthy eating.
If you put in the time now to help your child find solutions for a
less-caffeinated lifestyle, they’ll be healthier (and a lot less jittery) in
the long run.