If your child seems a bit too “energized”, you might want to throw out the theory that it’s simply overstimulation from sugar. Instead, give some thought to hidden caffeine-like compounds in the diet. While Johnny may not be drinking Starbucks with you in the morning, there are actually plenty of opportunities for kids to get caffeine-like compounds into their bodies. Caffeine, and another dietary compound called theobromine, are commonly found in foods we give our kids.
Common food sources of both caffeine and theobromine
Lemonade, bottled teas, non-cola soda, vitamin water, hot cocoa, chocolate milkshakes, and energy smoothies can all contribute varying amounts of caffeine-like stimulants. While your 5-year old may not be consuming energy drinks, your teen probably is, and these beverages are loaded with excessive caffeine. Because these beverages may be hidden sources of caffeine or other stimulants, read any available labels of all beverages you provide to your child and teen.
Noting that a standard cup of drip coffee has about 150 mg of caffeine, check out how some of these common beverages stack up with regard to caffeine content:
8 ounces of most popular energy drinks range from 80-300 mg
12 ounces of Coke Zero, Classic Coca Cola, Diet or Regular Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange Soda- 30-45 mg
12 ounces of Diet or Regular Mountain Dew has 55 mg
Diet Snapple Tea-42 mg
White Tea or Green Tea-15 mg-25 mg
Foods may contain either caffeine or the caffeine-like stimulant theobromine. Chocolate flavored cereals, desserts, ice cream, and candy may have theobromine. Coffee ice cream and yogurt could contain varying amounts of actual caffeine and should be discouraged for children. A 6-ounce serving of Dannon Coffee Yogurt contains a whopping 36 mg of caffeine. And, Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream has 50-60 mg of caffeine per one cup serving.
You won’t find the caffeine content of these foods listed on any Nutrition Fact Panel, so all you can do is be aware of the potential foods containing caffeine or theobromine.
Certain adult medications may contain caffeine which speeds pain relief. Examples of non-prescription pain relievers containing caffeine include: Excedrin, Anacin, and Dristan. Parents should avoid these medications and choose medications that are caffeine-free. Another medication an adolescent female might take which does contain caffeine is Midol for relieving menstrual cramps.
While a little caffeine will not harm your child, if your kid is bouncing off the walls or having trouble sleeping it’s wise to assess if he or she is consuming too much “hidden” caffeine.
Thoughts on how else caffeine gets into our kids’ diets?