Tweens and Caffeine

Limit the caffeine your tween consumes, for a healthier diet

Cocoa, tea, and chocolates are all high in caffeine. iStockphoto.com

A soda here, an energy drink there, some iced tea with dinner, and then maybe chocolate for dessert. Caffeine consumption among tweens and teens is on the rise, and that's not a good thing for their health, study habits, or for their growing bodies. While it's nearly impossible to cut caffeine completely from your tween's diet, and usually not necessary, parents should do all they can to educate their child about caffeine and its drawbacks, and limit caffeine consumption as much as possible.

Here's what you should know about caffein and your tween. 

Caffeine and Preteens -- The Lowdown

Caffeine is Everywhere: It's almost mind boggling when you think about all the products and foods that contain caffeine. Sodas, teas, energy drinks and even foods like chocolate can contain large amounts of caffeine. Coffee is, of course, a major contributor to caffeine consumption for teens and tweens. Even over the counter medicines can contain significant levels of caffeine. How much caffeine is safe for tweens? Depends on who you ask, but generally you don't want your tween consuming more than 85 mg of caffeine a day -- and that's roughly equivalent to two cans of soda. 

How Much Caffeine is In...: Before you let your tween guzzle another soda, consider how much caffeine is in these common products. 

  • A cup of brewed coffee = 95 to 220 mg
  • Bottled iced tea - 5 to 40 mg
  • Soda = up to 47 mg
  • 5-Hour energy drinks = 200 mg
  • A quarter cup of chocolate chips = 25 mg
  • A latte or mocha - up to 175 mg
  • Soft serve frozen yogurt (chocolate) = 4 mg

There are ample more products that contain caffeine, from puddings and cookies to energy bars and snacks. And it's difficult to track how much caffeine your child is consuming, but nutritional labels don't always include the amount of caffeine in the product.

 

What Caffeine Can Do: We all know caffeine is helpful in the morning to give you a little boost to the day, but too much caffeine can be harmful to tweens and teens, and there have even been incidences of children dying from an overdose of caffeine. Problems associated with caffeine can include the jitters, trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping, irregular heart beat, and caffeine can even interfere with the absorption of calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis later in life. For these reasons, it's important that your tween know that small doses of caffeine may be OK, but large doses are harmful and are to be avoided. You can help your tween understand moderation by modeling the behavior yourself -- cutting down on caffeine is never easy, but it can give your health a boost!

Cutting Down on Caffeine May be Difficult: Habits are hard to break, and if your child is used to a certain amount of caffeine it might be hard curbing the habit. Don't attempt to go cold turkey, but rather reduce the amount of caffeine consumption slowly over time.

Scale back on sodas and teas, and replace them with healthier alternatives such as water and fruit juices. Strive to cut back on chocolates and other products that have caffeine as an additive and replace them with healthier choices such as fruit, bagel chips, or popcorn. Who knows, once you convince your tween to curb caffeine consumption, you might just attempt to limit your own daily caffeine intake.

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