Coffee contains caffeine, a natural stimulant that can help with alertness and make people feel more energetic.
However, when consumed in large amounts it can have negative effects such as insomnia, headaches, difficulty with
concentration, jitteriness and an increased heart rate – something you don’t want a child to experience.
KwaZulu-Natal-based dietitian Claire McHugh, who has a special interest in paediatrics, doesn’t recommend coffee
for kids. ‘I discourage coffee for children because of the caffeine, which hinders their ability to sleep and concentrate well at school on a daily basis,’ she explains.
Too much caffeine can also interfere with the absorption of calcium in the body, which is essential for children in their
development stages to build strong bones and teeth. Trying to sneak in decaf coffee isn’t a good idea either as – contrary to popular belief – it contains caffeine, albeit a smaller amount than the normal beans.
Claire suggests healthier alternative hot drinks such as warm milk, or rooibos tea, which contains antioxidants. ‘The ideal would be to serve the tea unsweetened so that your child doesn’t develop a sweet tooth from an early age.’
A later stage, about 16-18, would be a safer age to drink coffee as they’re more mature and their bodies can handle
the effects of caffeine. To satisfy your little one’s curiosity, a few sips here and there from your cup won’t do any harm,
but make sure they don’t turn into whole servings on a daily basis.
COMPILED BY NOLWAZI DHLAMINI PHOTOS: FOTOLIA.COM