March is National Caffeine Awareness Month, so what better time to talk about caffeine and your kids than right now. We get the question a lot: how much is too much? It’s time for some answers…
Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. It affects kids and adults similarly and, at lower levels, can make people feel more alert and energetic. Foods and drinks with caffeine are everywhere, but it’s wise to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum, especially in younger kids.
Because caffeinated drinks contain empty calories, kids who drink one or more sweetened soft drink per day are 60% more likely to be obese. When kids fill up on these caffeinated drinks, they aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals they need from healthy sources. Drinking too many sodas would mean the kids are missing out on drinking milk, which builds their strong bones and teeth.
In both kids and adults, too much caffeine can cause:
- jitters and nervousness
- upset stomach
- difficulty concentrating
- trouble sleeping
- faster heart rate
- higher blood pressure
Especially in young kids, it doesn’t take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects.
What Foods and Drinks Have Caffeine?
Caffeine is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It’s also made artificially and added to certain foods. Kids get most of their caffeine from sodas, but it’s also found in coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee ice cream or frozen yogurt, as well as pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines. Even iced tea can contain as much sugar and caffeine as soda.
Here’s how some sources of caffeine compare:
|Item||Size||Amount of Caffeine|
|Jolt soft drink||12 oz.||71.2 mg|
|Mountain Dew||12 oz.||55 mg|
|Coca-Cola||12 oz.||34 mg|
|Diet Coke||12 oz.||45 mg|
|Pepsi||12 oz.||38 mg|
|brewed coffee (drip method)||5 oz.||115 mg*|
|iced tea||12 oz.||70 mg*|
|dark chocolate||1 oz.||20 mg*|
|milk chocolate||1 oz.||6 mg*|
|cocoa beverage||5 oz.||4 mg*|
|chocolate milk beverage||8 oz.||5 mg*|
|cold relief medicine||1 tablet||30 mg*|
|*average amount of caffeine|
Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Soft Drink Association
Keeping your kids caffeine free is absolutely possible. We find the best way to cut caffeine and added sugar is to eliminate soda completely. Offer water, milk or flavored seltzer, even 100% fruit juice (in small amounts) is a better choice. You can still allow the occasional soda, but make sure it’s caffeine-free.
As with everything, moderation is key. If you have any questions regarding caffeine and your kids, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at our office at (540) 899-2555.