The Starbucks Question

It’s after school and you have a few minutes to kill before you drop your kids off at practice — and of course there’s a Starbucks right around the corner! You’re tired and that 4:00pm pick-me-up is just what you need to get through the crazy evening rush. Naturally, the kids are asking for something too. There’s always Very Berry Refreshers, Caramel Frappuccino’s and Smart Water, but what about when they ask for a “leaded” beverage?

And to your teens who have hours of homework and studying to do – what do you say when they ask to have a coffee to keep them awake? The National Institutes of Health tells us that the USDA says caffeine use is “generally recognized as safe,” but that is largely based on studies of its use in adults. So that really doesn’t tell us much. The same studies show us that in the past three decades, caffeine consumption has increased in general, but children and adolescents increased their intake by 70%.

There are many new caffeine-containing products such as gum, energy drinks and even water that market to younger consumers — our kids!! We all know a huge amount of caffeine is not great for us (negative health effects include sleep dysfunction, obesity, and dental problems, not to mention it’s addictive!) and we certainly want to be cautious about how we and our children use it.

So what do you do? Well, that’s a personal choice.

Spark the Conversation: If your kids ask for caffeine, find out why they want it. I know my youngest daughter sometimes just likes to look cool sipping a Java Chip Frapp on our way home from hip hop class. But when I looked it up on Starbucks site I saw that the caffeine content was 110 mg and so I decided to allow her to drink it — sparingly. But what to do when your teens start to think they need the perk-up effect of the real stuff, it’s time to spark a more detailed conversation about caffeine and it’s pros and cons for adults and kids Then you can agree on some limits to keep them healthy — it’s up to you both to make sure her caffeine intake doesn’t interfere with their sleep or ability to focus.

The Mayo Clinic suggests a maximum of 100mg a day for adolescents and none for younger children. A comprehensive list of caffeine content in drinks can be found at

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