Reasons to limit kids' caffeine consumption

Foods with Caffeine

Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. It affects kids and adults similarly and, at lower levels, can make people feel more alert and energetic.

In both kids and adults, too much caffeine can cause:

  • jitters and nervousness
  • upset stomach
  • headaches
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trouble sleeping
  • faster heart rate
  • higher blood pressure
Especially in young kids, it doesn't take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects.

Here are some other reasons to limit kids' caffeine consumption:

  • Kids often drink caffeine contained in regular soft drinks. Kids who drink one or more sweetened soft drink per day are 60% more likely to be obese.
  • Caffeinated drinks often contain empty calories, and kids who fill up on them don't get the vitamins and minerals they need from healthy sources. Too much soda can mean missing the calcium kids need from milk to build strong bones and teeth.
  • Too many sweetened caffeinated drinks could lead to dental cavities from the high sugar content and the erosion of tooth enamel from acidity.
  • Caffeine is a diuretic that causes the body to eliminate water (through peeing), which may contribute to dehydration. It's wise to avoid excessive caffeine in hot weather when kids need to replace fluids lost through sweating.
  • Abruptly stopping caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms (like headaches, muscle aches, and irritability), especially for those who consume a lot of it.
  • Caffeine can make heart problems or nervous disorders worse, and some kids might not know that they're at risk.

What Foods and Drinks Have Caffeine?


Caffeine is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It's also made artificially and added to certain foods. Kids get most of their caffeine from sodas, but it's also found in coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee ice cream or frozen yogurt, as well as pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines. Even iced tea can contain as much sugar and caffeine as soda.

Here's how some sources of caffeine compare:

ItemSizeAmount of Caffeine
Jolt soft drink12 oz.71.2 mg
Mountain Dew12 oz.55 mg
Coca-Cola12 oz.34 mg
Diet Coke12 oz.45 mg
Pepsi12 oz.38 mg
brewed coffee (drip method)5 oz.115 mg*
iced tea12 oz.70 mg*
dark chocolate1 oz.20 mg*
milk chocolate1 oz.6 mg*
cocoa beverage5 oz.4 mg*
chocolate milk beverage8 oz.5 mg*
cold relief medicine1 tablet30 mg*
*average amount of caffeine

Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Soft Drink Association
Remember to keep your caffeine intake between 200-300 mg/day. Moderation is key!
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