Do You Need to Decaffeinate Your Child?
A new report looking at kids and caffeine had some shocking findings. Here’s how to help your kid decaffeinate!
What I found most surprising was the sheer number of young kids drinking caffeine daily. In the two- to 11-year-old age group, a shocking 73 percent drank some caffeine every day. That number has stayed steady since 1999. Among two- to five-year-olds, 63 percent drank caffeinated beverages every day. That seems crazy to me!
The study authors looked at dietary survey data from 1999-2010 (pdf alert) and discovered that kids are drinking less soda and more coffee. Soda still outranks coffee when it comes to kids and caffeine, but that seems to be in flux. One surprising finding is that while soda consumption among kids ages two to 11 has dropped from 62 to 38 percent, coffee consumption has increased from 10 percent of a child’s caffeine intake to 24 percent. That is a dramatic increase!
Kids and Caffeine
While the jury is still out on whether caffeine in moderation is harmful for adults, it is definitely not a good idea for kids, whose brains and bodies are still developing. Here are a few of the problems with kids and caffeine:
- Most of those drinks – - like soda, fancy coffee drinks and energy drinks — are also sugary, which means they contribute to childhood obesity.
- Caffeine makes you feel full. That means kids are loading up on the sugar in those coffee drinks and eating less of the healthy foods that their brains and bodies need at meal times.
- Kids are more sensitive to caffeine. That means they’re more likely to experience the jitters, mood swings and dehydration that come with too much caffeine after fewer drinks than an adult.
- Caffeine is addictive. Do you get a headache when you skip your morning cup? Your kids can get hooked on caffeine just like adults can.
At the end of the day, caffeine is a drug that’s being marketed to kids in the form of soda, energy drinks and candy-like sugary coffee drinks. If marketers aren’t going to change their tune, then we as parents need to do our best to keep our kids from drinking caffeinated drinks.
Caffeine Alternatives for Kids
If your kids like caffeinated drinks, and you’d like to help them get off of the caffeine train, it might take some doing. Breaking habits can be tricky!
Talk to your kids about your caffeine concerns, and work together on a plan to ditch the caffeine. It’s probably tempting to just tell them that their caffeine days are over until they’re older, but they’re much more likely to listen if you have an honest talk where you create a plan together.
Here are some drinks to help your kids replace the coffee, soda and energy drinks:
- Fizzy water – Plain carbonated water has a little bit more zing than flat water but is worlds better than soda.
- Herbal Tea – Keep a pitcher of iced herbal tea in the fridge for your kids. Make it fun by hitting the tea aisle with them and letting them choose a few sorts to try.
- Fruity Fizz – Float pieces of frozen fruit in fizzy water. The fruit infuses the water with flavor, and they get the goodness of whole food, instead of just sugar.
- Infused Water – Lots of fruits and herbs are good for infusing plain water. A squeeze of lemon is typical, but you can also use any other citrus fruit. Cucumber and mint makes a nice infused water, too. Have your kids recipe test with you. They’re more likely to try and like things if they helped make them.
I’d love to hear from the parents out there! How do you keep your kids away from caffeine? It seems really tricky, since so many caffeinated drinks are marketed to kids.