Can Caffeine and Coffee Beans Harm My Teen?: Elissa’s Monday Munch With Teens

Should your teen be drinking as much coffee as a mom (a la Jennifer Garner or Jessica Alba?) Listen up…

The aroma of coffee wafts through my kitchen and I wonder who is brewing the pot? My husband is still at work and I drank my daily cup of java at breakfast. That leaves one possible budding barista: our teenage daughter.

When did she develop a desire for coffee and should I be concerned? Less worrisome but equally important, when did she teach herself how to use the coffeemaker? Are there other helpful household appliances she secretly knows how to operate, like the dishwasher or vacuum?

A few years ago my husband offered our daughter an innocent sip of his Coffee Coolatta at Dunkin’ Donuts. The taste was irresistibly sweet, icy, and refreshing. Soon she wanted her own frothy drinks, and she was congregating with her friends at Starbucks, slurping swirled cold coffee delights in the summer and steaming specialty coffees in the winter. Gulp! Had we unknowingly contributed to our daughter’s slippery slide down a road toward caffeine addiction? Not to mention, had we perpetuated her financial woes and broken her dream of saving for a laptop, because she could easily spend half of her weekly allowance on those high priced coffee drinks? Thankfully, she is not a fourteen-year-old coffee junkie. Not yet.

According to a study done in 2007 by the market research firm NPD Group, 13 percent of visits to gourmet coffee and tea shops were made by customers under the age of 18. Coffee consumption among adolescents is climbing. Teens may not be aware of the high levels of caffeine they are ingesting and they probably don’t consider the harmful effects. Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wants the FDA to change regulations to require that amounts per serving be listed on labels of foods containing caffeine. He notes, “It’s a pharmacological agent, a drug, and it leads to physical dependence in people who use it regularly.” After just one week of consuming caffeine daily, Griffith says most people who don’t continue this routine will be tired, drowsy, experience a decline in alertness, and develop headaches.


I doubt that my daughter knows or cares about the caffeine content of her treats. But I do. Her occasional after school Grande Starbucks Frappuccino contains between 110 and 115 milligrams of caffeine. That’s three times the amount of caffeine in a Classic Coke. If she thinks tea is a better choice, I’ll tell her to think again (she’ll hate that I’m right.) A Starbucks’s Tazo Chai Latte has 100 milligrams of caffeine.

The next time my daughter buys herself a frosty drink at a coffee café, I’ll suggest she goes fruity. A Starbucks Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino has no caffeine. Since she can afford the calories (she’s a petite waif whose body type is the funhouse mirror image of mine), I’ll okay the once in a while splurge.

It’s unrealistic to think I can forever keep our daughter from coffee, but I can establish this list of rules to quell my daughter’s caffeine craving:

1. Lunch comes first; “whateverachino” comes second.
These dessert-like drinks are not substitutes for healthy meals.

2. Until further notice, she cannot drink it, unless I made it, she made it or the restaurant server assures her that the double chocolate creamy concoction she puts to her lips is decaffeinated.

3. At some predetermined time before she leaves for college, she’ll get a green light on caffeinated coffee. But the rule is, no coffee at night. Her internal time clock is already set to night owl.

4. If she has as much as one cup of coffee, she must brush and floss her teeth to gleaming perfection, and agree to Calcium supplements to counter-act caffeine’s effects on her smile and bones.

5. When it comes to a coffee habit, I’ll stress moderation, moderation, and more moderation. Well, I’ll explain this rule to her with more restraint and with more moderation.

The next time my teenager feels the need to turn on a counter top appliance that heats up, I’ll put an iron in her hands, steering her away from the coffeemaker. When she’s demonstrated she knows what to do with that household device, I’ll whirr up a mango-banana smoothie in the blender, and we can enjoy a naturally caffeine-free snack together.

Are you sick of dealing with picky eaters, opinionated teens or attempting to please your entire family? Join Elissa C. Rosenthal for personal rants, raves and reasonable ways to please everyone (while still eating healthy).

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8 comments on “Can Caffeine and Coffee Beans Harm My Teen?: Elissa’s Monday Munch With Teens
  1. Ellen McKeon says:

    Love the hard stand…plus..who is funding these $5 drinks? I do agree to an occasional coffee related drink but not more than one a month!

  2. I am personally such a coffee-aholic (WAY to many cups per day), that I worry for my little ones when they’re older! However, it was so hard switching to decaf when I was pregnant with my second daughter, that I have stayed decaf ever since (I don’t know if I can go through that again!) ; )

  3. Carol Lee says:

    She can always ask for a decaf Frappacino- don’t they make those? On the flip side, if caffeine is the worse thing she does, you done good as a mom! Keep that control whil you can! (Says the mother of 18 and 20 year old sons!)

  4. Barbara Zinaman says:

    You are too much! I’m probably the BIGGEST coffee drinker in your friendship circle–I’ve been at it since I was Marlee’s age! BUT my favorite part of the article is where you question whether she knows how to use the other household appliances: vacuum, iron, oh and what about snow blower and lawn mower????
    Ah, this is a great way to catch up on “The Adventures of Marlee and her VERY STRICT Limit SETTING Wonderful Mom.” Maybe you can call it “Marlee and Me 2.
    ” Can’t wait for the next installment and/or
    BOOK!!!!
    Terrific entertainment and scientifically based, YET! That’s YET as in “OY.”
    xox, bz

  5. forex robot says:

    What a great resource!

  6. Anavar says:

    One coffee a day is suppose to be healthy. And I think it has nothing to do with colored teeth. More than 3 cups of coffee a day is not recommended. But all extremes in drinks and foods are not healthy.

  7. George Castar says:

    I am going to have to rethink my “coffee habit”, my morning cup.
    perhaps it has something to do with my not being able to play
    tennis anymore … a useful thought? … dad

  8. fredi roasenthal says:

    Great article. I was unaware of the milligrams of caffinated coffee. I love it. Hey, I’m 83 years old. So, what difference does it make Now? It tastes SO good! Keep writing.

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