Highly caffeinated beverages and kids are not the best mix

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist
NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, I need coffee; coffee, I tell you!” my 12-year-old daughter announced
dramatically as she wandered around the house early one morning. She was
gathering her school supplies at 6:30 a.m. before leaving to attend a “super-
early” orchestra rehearsal.

I glanced sideways at my husband and raised my eyebrows.

“She has started making her own coffee concoction with coffee, milk and hot
cocoa mix,” he said a bit sheepishly.

“I’m still wide awake during my third class!” our daughter happily announced as
she took a sip of her homemade mocha beverage.

I was about to comment about her caffeine consumption, then I thought back many
years to when I was her age. Let’s just say she’s a chip off the old block. At
her age, I even made the coffee for my parents in the morning.  I drank plain
black coffee, though.

On a positive note, my daughter was getting some calcium and vitamin D from the
added milk. I would estimate the caffeine in her milk-diluted beverage at 50
milligrams of caffeine or about the amount of caffeine in a cola beverage. A cup
of brewed coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine.

About 90 percent of adults consume caffeine in some form, whether it’s coffee,
tea, cola or another food or beverage. Most caffeine consumers have the
equivalent of about two cups of coffee per day.

Some caffeinated “energy drinks” marketed to children and teens contain as much
as 500 milligrams of caffeine.  That’s quite a caffeine jolt, with the
equivalent of five cups of coffee in one “serving.”

Are highly caffeinated energy drinks an issue for kids? According to some
research, the excess consumption of energy drinks is linked with risky
behaviors, including smoking, drinking alcohol, aggressive behavior and drug

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system. In moderate doses, it wakes you up and
enhances your ability to concentrate. According to some studies with children, a
moderate amount of caffeine can increase alertness, but it doesn’t necessarily
improve academic performance.

Moderate doses of caffeine can enhance our energy level, making our reactions
faster and more accurate. Many adult and youth athletes have used moderate doses
of caffeine to improve athletic performance.

Although caffeine consumption has not been widely studied among children, too
much caffeine can result in jitteriness, fidgeting and sleeplessness.
Withdrawing from caffeine can result in headaches and tiredness.

Beyond the caffeine content, remember that special coffee drinks, colas and
energy drinks also can be high in calories. Drinking excess calories easily can
contribute to weight gain. If you enjoy regular trips to the “coffee bar,” ask
to see the Nutrition Facts for your beverage choice. You might be surprised.

Here’s an easy cocoa mix recipe. You can package it in smaller containers to
give as gifts for family and friends. You might want to mix it with coffee to
enjoy an occasional homemade mocha.

Hot Cocoa Mix

10 c. dry nonfat milk powder

1 3/4 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 3/4 c. powdered nondairy creamer

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined. Store
in an airtight container or divide into smaller amounts and add directions to
give as gifts. To make cocoa, place 1/3 cup mixture in a coffee cup or mug. Add
3/4 cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve.

Makes 45 servings (15 cups).  Each serving has 140 calories, 1.5 grams (g) of
fat, 27 g of carbohydrate, 6 g of protein and 85 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University
Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the
Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


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