You’re sitting at the kitchen table drinking your morning cup of coffee when your kid asks if they can try it. What do you say? Is caffeine really that bad for kids?

Though the occasional caffeinated treat probably won’t harm them, regular consumption can be detrimental to your child’s health.

Caffeine consumption has increased in children in recent years. Now, about 77 percent of children regularly consume caffeine. However, caffeine has numerous negative effects on children, including negative physical and behavioral changes.

Not only can caffeine affect your child’s heart rate and blood pressure, but it can also  make kids fidgety, lose their ability to focus, make them impulsive and give them insomnia, among other effects. There is also a correlation between consuming caffeine and poor academic performance.

Even if you don’t let your children drink coffee, there could still be caffeine hidden in many of the foods they eat every day.

Watch out for these hidden sources of caffeine:

  • Breakfast foods: Many of the breakfast foods your kids may be eating can contain caffeine. Foods like cocoa puffs, Dannon coffee yogurt and other coffee-flavored foods can have caffeine in them. Make sure to read the label before giving them to your kids!
  • Vitaminwater: You probably know that your kids shouldn’t be drinking energy drinks that are laden with caffeine. But Vitaminwater is a staple in many schools’ vending machines and some flavors contain caffeine. Next time you’re in the grocery store, check out the labels for caffeine and show your kids which flavors they should be picking.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate made with natural cocoa always contains caffeine, making caffeine-free chocolate impossible. Even some hot chocolate brands can be hidden sources! Make sure to let your kids enjoy it in moderation, and opt for milk or white chocolate as they contain less caffeine.
  • Tea: Many well-known tea brands contain caffeine, including Early Grey black tea, Nestea peach green tea and Snapple lemon tea. Instead, brew your own decaffeinated tea and either refrigerate it or serve it hot. This will also save you money, rather than buying each individual drink!
  • Coffee ice cream: Some brands of coffee ice cream can have as much caffeine as half of a cup of coffee. Seeing as most kids eat ice cream for dessert, this can be disastrous for bedtime. Try to steer clear of coffee flavors and instead offer fruity or vanilla flavors.
  • Granola bars: Some granola bars, like Peanut Toffee Buzz Clif Bars and Kashi Dark Mocha granola bars can be hidden sources of caffeine. Make sure to check the labels before purchasing to ensure you’re getting caffeine-free bars.

You can’t control what your kids are eating 100 percent of the time. The most important rule you can teach them is how to enjoy treats in moderation, especially if you know they contain caffeine!

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