Q: “At what age is it safe for children to drink tea and coffee?”
Colleen, via email
A: Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) Maddison Fox replies:
“Drinks like tea and coffee can contribute a significant amount of caffeine to anyone’s diet. Caffeine is a stimulant, not a nutrient, meaning you don’t need a certain amount to be healthy. It is a natural chemical found in tea leaves, coffee beans and cocoa. But caffeine can also be added to soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and some medications.
Although some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, as little as 50mg per day (about a 150ml cup of weak tea or 1/2 a shot of espresso) has been shown to have various health effects on children including increased anxiety, jitteriness, increased blood pressure and sleep disturbances.
So, it is wise to keep any caffeine consumption to a minimum, especially in primary school-aged kids. Healthy drinks for kids include water and low-fat milk (after 2 years). Fruit juice, cordial and soft drinks should be occasional treats.”