A recent headline in the United Kingdom’s Metro paper cautions, "You might want to stop feeding your kids Costa babyccinos if you want them to have teeth." Wait, what?
Apparently, a UK-based coffee chain, Costa, now offers what is known as a "babyccino," or a cappuccino for kids. Now, before you get all up in arms about the caffeine, it’s important to note that the babyccino doesn’t actually have any coffee in it - it’s just milk, chocolate, marshmallow and sugar. Lots of sugar - and therein lies the problem.
The babyccino may not have caffeine, but at 13.7 grams of sugar per 100ml, it’s got more sugar than a can of regular Coca-Cola (10.6 g/100ml).
But the babyccino isn’t just a big deal in the United Kingdom. Babyccinos are all the rage in the United States, too, with some coffee shops selling their own versions that contain steamed milk with decaf espresso, steamed milk with cinnamon sprinkled on top or plain hot chocolate. But while many of these drinks are decidedly healthier for the teeth than sugary fruit juices and sodas, does that really mean they’re good for your kids?
Though coffee is rich in antioxidants and has no sugar or calories, it's generally not recommended for kids. Why? Because caffeinated coffee can block the absorption of calcium in the bones and stunt growth. It’s also an addictive stimulant, which can cause jitters, hyperactivity, mood-regulation problems, appetite-control problems and even anxiety.
Decaffeinated coffee doesn’t have any of the harmful side effects of caffeine, but it is still not usually a preferred taste for most kids. This means that most likely they’ll want to add cream and sugar to make it more palatable - and that’s where the problems begin. All that cream, sugar and sweetened syrup can make your child’s mouth a breeding ground for s. mutans bacteria, the bacteria that causes cavities.
A kids-sized hot chocolate at Starbucks is just 8 ounces, but in that 8-ounce cup, there are 230 calories, 24 grams of sugar, 15 mg of caffeine and 10 grams of fat! When you consider that, on average, toddlers need about 1,000 calories per day, that’s nearly 25 percent of their daily caloric intake in one drink.
Steamed Milk With Cinnamon
Of all the babyccino options, this one is the best, provided that the milk temperature isn’t hot enough to burn your child’s mouth. To avoid serious mouth-burns, ask your barista to make your child’s drink below 140 degrees Fahrenheit, or in the 130- to 140-degree range. This will ensure that the milk is still warm, but not warm enough to cause injury.
Ultimately, when it comes to making your child feel like a grownup, it’s actually what’s on the outside that counts. It’s not the drink itself, but the cup it comes in that your kids are so crazy about. So, the next time you take your tot on a coffee date, there’s no need to splurge on fancy designer kids’ drinks. Just ask for a child-sized cup and pour his or her drink of choice into the cup. Voila! Even water can feel special when it looks like mom and dad’s drink.