Children and teens are
consuming far more caffeine - in soda, chocolate and even coffee - than
Starbucks is considered one of the major corporate success stories of
American business history, mainly because the company actually changed
American culture in a way that generates profit for itself.
Twenty years ago, most Americans brewed their own coffee at home
conveniently and cheaply. Starbucks somehow motivated millions of us to
drive out of our way, stand in line and pay ten times as much for coffee
as we paid at home (albeit the coffee is much better tasting at
Starbucks than the canned Folgers we used to buy at the grocery store
and make ourselves).
Starbucks has changed American culture in another way you won't read
about in the business press: They've made coffee drinkers out of
Sure, coffee houses have long been popular in Europe and major American
cities but, until Starbucks, weren’t considered hip hang-out places by
children and teens. When I was in High School, hardly any students drank
coffee. Nowadays, elementary school children can be seen ordering drinks
like Mocha Frappuccinos, which, in addition to toxic levels of fat and
sugar, also contain coffee. From an ingredient standpoint, a Mocha
Frappuccino is essentially a cup of coffee and a McDonald’s milkshake,
Starbucks coffee houses are cool places where families and people of all
ages like to meet.
The city I live in, which is a small beach town in Southern California,
has one Starbucks, which sits across the street from the town's middle
school. Before and after school, this Starbucks is mobbed by middle
school students, most of whom are ordering coffee drinks. This scene is
repeated in Starbucks across the United States.
As a culture, we're in denial about the increasing
by children and teenagers. I think we'd be shocked to see a
nine-year-old walk into a McDonald’s before school and have a milkshake
and a cup of coffee for breakfast. But when the same child drinks the
same thing at Starbucks, somehow it's OK.
Not only has the number of caffeinated beverages increased, but the
average percentage of caffeine in those drinks has risen, as new
"energy" drinks, with even more caffeine than a Pepsi, such as Red Bull
and others, become more popular with ever-younger children.
It's important to note that,
in general, new consumption of energy drinks and coffee isn't replacing
caffeinated soda, it's consumed in addition to it.
You can't blame Starbucks for the rise of child coffee drinkers per se.
However, you can blame them for being cagey about the caffeine content
of their beverages.
After seeing a mother actually suggest and recommend, then purchase a
tall Mocha Frappuccino for her daughter, who looked to be about eight
years old, I
a Starbucks "barista" about how much coffee was in the drink. He said it
was pre-mixed, and so he didn't know -- although he did know there was
caffeinated coffee in it.
Visiting the "nutrition information" page of the Starbucks web site
revealed nothing about caffeine content -- although the fat (18 grams!)
and sugar (69 grams!) numbers for, say, a venti Mocha Frappuccino were
A search for the word "caffeine" using Starbucks' search feature
revealed nothing. Apparently, the word "caffeine" appears nowhere on the
web site of the world's largest seller of caffeine.
Of course, soft drink makers have, for decades, been pushing sugar and
caffeine loaded soft drinks on our children. Many schools still allow
soda vending machines on campus. Coke, Pepsi and Mountain Dew, which are
loaded with caffeine, are popular drinks among children and adults alike.
Sure, caffeine is socially acceptable, widely available and far less
damaging to the body than some illegal stimulants like cocaine or
crystal meth. But it's still a drug, and a mildly addictive one at that.
Some research indicates that caffeine may induce hyperactivity and alter
the brain function of children. Coffee also contains many other
chemicals not well understood, scientifically, and it certainly
contributes to making one’s teeth yellow, which our children are getting
an early start with.
Caffeine is a form of "speed." High doses of this stimulant drug may
cause headaches, trembling, abnormally fast heart rate, sleeplessness,
irritability, nervousness, loss of fluids and other adverse effects on
those who use it.
Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of caffeine due to
their low body weight and initially, not being adapted to its use.
Children consume the same amount of caffeine that adults weighing two or
even four times as much consume. It’s no wonder that hyperactivity,
stress and sleep disorders are so rampant among school age children.
Now that nicotine-pushing companies are on the run, is it time we
started looking at who is selling or giving caffeine to children?
The majority of parents may read all this and respond by saying: “What's
the harm?” Caffeinated drinks for children are "normal" and most kids
who drink sodas and consume caffeine have no detectable health problems
as a result. Unfortunately, attention deficit problems, hyperactivity,
anxiety disorders, depression and sleep disorders among children and
teens are increasingly “normal” as well. What’s the connection? I think
it's safe to say that we really don't know how regular caffeine use
affects kids' health -- especially in the much higher quantities that
today's kids and teens are taking.
So my response is: What's
the harm in NOT giving them caffeine?
Without any resistance or awareness or concern, we're experimenting on
an entire generation of children. Huge corporations are profiting
massively by pushing the drug caffeine on our kids in record quantities,
and we may not know for decades what it's doing to them.
Caffeine is a drug. Adults should limit its intake. As for our children,
just say no.
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Q: Amira, I just found your online newsletter and was going
through the archives. I just finished reading the second newsletter. I
plan on reading them all, and probably subscribing, but I do have a
question for you, since you seem to have a pretty good handle on
I've often contemplated going in a more lacto-ovovegetarian direction,
or maybe even lactovegetarian, but I'm concerned about my protein
consumption. I'm a 24 year-old male that is trying to build muscle and
the protein demands are rather high. All of the literature I have looked
into regarding soy references how there is a component of the product
that mimics estrogen. Excess estrogen in my system potentially counters
any efforts I could put towards muscle development, as it's testosterone
that aids in the development of muscle tissue, from what I understand.
I'm not looking to go Arnold, but I do want definition that will gain
some attention from the fairer sex. Have you any information in regards
to soy products and its impact on men, or maybe information on
professional male body builders who've had success on a vegetarian diet?
Again, not because I'd like to obtain the body builder physique, but
because that's undeniable proof that a vegetarian diet is comparable in
protein distribution as one that includes meat. Really, any information
regarding vegetarianism and muscle development would be ideal.
Thanks for your time and consideration.
Victor G., Austin, Texas
A: Dear Victor,
I'm always happy to see people interested in taking charge of their own
diets in an educated manner--taking the time to learn about nutrition is
critical in order to maximize the health benefits of an eating plan
while reaching one's own optimum health. Your intention to read all of
my archives will definitely be fruitful.
I suggest you read
for more information on soy consumption.
I always stress that eating too much of any good thing not only leads to
neglecting some food groups but also that eating too much of any good
thing can be bad and sometimes even toxic. Moderation and variety are
key to any well balanced diet.
No matter what type of vegetarian diet you adopt (i.e. lacto or lacto-ovo-vegetarian),
all the calories you consume should be loaded with nutrients important
in the development of muscle mass, healthy bones, skin and teeth and all
bodily and nerve functions. While your consumption of protein needs to
be high if you're weight training, the same is true for complex
carbohydrates and all other nutrients. In fact, your consumption of all
power foods such as beans, grains, nuts, fruits, seeds and vegetables
need to increase. These will provide you not only with healthy fats and
fiber, important vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals, but
also essential complex carbohydrates and proteins to help you reach your
We have been led to believe that meat is the best source of protein.
That’s a myth. Eggs, dairy, grains, seeds, nuts and legumes are all
excellent foods that give you all the benefit of protein but without the
health-damaging penalties of eating meat.
High quality proteins can be created even when eating a fully
plant-based diet by simply combining foods that eaten together provide
complete protein. For example, grains, nuts and seeds make great
complements to beans, brown rice to tofu, peanut butter to grains, such
as whole wheat, etc.
In your case, if you’re eating eggs and dairy, then those provide
complete protein. (Note, just eat the egg whites and dump the yolks.)
Other great meat alternatives that provide complete protein are
I would put more emphasis on making sure that everything you eat and
drink at each meal is packed with nutrients from widely varied sources.
An adult usually requires about .8 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds
of body weight. If you weighed about 170 right now, your requirements of
protein would be about 61 grams. Depending on a training schedule,
athletes may require about 10 to 30 additional grams of protein per day
during a period of accelerated muscle growth (about 10 to 20 percent
from total daily calorie intake should come from protein, 20 to 30 from
healthy fats and 50 to 60 from complex carbohydrates). It’s advisable to
take breaks in between such training as the constant demand on the body
to process the extra proteins is counter to longevity and can accelerate
the aging process. It is good to also focus on cardiovascular activity
and increase the intake of complex carbohydrates for additional required
A well-balanced and varied diet provides plenty of protein. One serving
of seitan, for instance, provides 31 of protein, one serving of beans
with rice provides about 20 grams of protein (that’s not adding grains
that you may have for breakfast and seeds and nuts that you may have for
lunch). Too much protein can be detrimental to a person’s health so it’s
important to not overdue it.
Although I specialize in maximizing overall health and lifestyle, other
commentators out there focus on body-building and muscle building on a
vegetarian diet, including former Mr. Universe,
Steve Holt and others.
The bottom-line is that eating a diet abundant in grains, legumes or
beans, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds will ensure that your body’s
metabolism functions at its best to obtain the results you’re seeking.
The additional intake of protein should be done in moderation and should
come from foods rather than protein supplements.
Good Things In Store
My youngest son, who recently turned seventeen years old and does weight
training, enjoys protein health smoothies. I always tell him that as
long as he eats all the
I make for him, he is getting sufficient protein to meet the added
demands of exercise. Nonetheless, he insists on having blended protein
I make sure that the
ingredients in those drinks are wholesome, organic and all natural.
Recently, I discovered that Source Naturals makes the first Certified
Organic, 100% natural, whey protein powder concentrate called
Health. I ordered it online because my local health food store
was selling it for twice as much. My husband is the smoothie expert in
our family, and he sometimes makes a peanut butter smoothie for our son
(a scoop of whey, three or four tablespoons of peanut butter, a
glass-full of ice, a cup or so of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla and enough
Rapadura to make it barely sweet enough, all blended together.)
So if you’re looking for a protein powder, and are not a vegan, an
organic powder from Source Naturals is the “whey” to go.
Words of Wisdom
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of
life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet".
- Albert Einstein
Not all meats are equal in the
degree to which they
cause colon cancer. People in a recent study who eat the most processed
meats, for example (hot dogs, sausages, cold cuts, etc.), had a 75 %
higher chance of developing an "advanced polyp" than those who ate the
least processed meats. However, those who at the most chicken were 39%
less likely to develop such a polyp than those who ate the least.
NOTE: To keep up with vegetarian, organic and health-related research
news on a daily basis, check my
Vegetarian Organic Life
Blog every day.
Food For Thought
Plant foods can be great sources of protein when eaten in combination --
even if not during the same meal but the same day. For instance, eating
one item from two or more different food groups below will provide
Seeds & Nuts
Other nuts and seeds
Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the
Click on the picture for a closer look!
Luscious Lentil Salad (vegan)
Serves 4 to 6
Legumes are awesome to eat because they are high in nutrition and low in
fat. Lentils, the smallest of the legumes, are loaded with protein,
iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin A and B and fiber. Quinoa, though optional
to this recipe, adds more high-quality protein to this dish, making it a
delicious guilt-free, complete-protein meal that’s good for your
waistline and your heart.
Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 35 minutes
Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
Lentils and quinoa:
1 tablespoon oil (safflower or canola oil)
4 fresh garlic cloves
1 small onion, cut in half
2 cups brown lentils (picked over and washed)
4 cups fat-free vegetable stock
4 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup quinoa (optional)
6 fresh garlic cloves, pressed or minced
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup freshly ground flaxseeds
¼ cup flaxseed oil
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 head red leaf lettuce (butter or green leaf lettuce work as well)
2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
4 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped for garnish
1. In large pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil on low heat. Add garlic and
onion, stirring and sauteing for 3 minutes. Add broth, water, lentils
and black pepper. Cook on medium heat until boiling, then cover lightly
with lid, simmering for 20 minutes. Add quinoa, stir well and cook for
an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the lentils and the quinoa are
soft enough to the bite, but not falling apart. Remove and set aside to
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the
vinaigrette and whisk until the mixture looks thick and fully mixed. Set
3. Drain lentils completely and add ¼ cup of the vinaigrette. At this
point, place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble salad.
4. To assemble each salad, set 1 leaf of the lettuce on a plate. Place a
small portion of lentils over the lettuce sprinkling with some fresh
cilantro. Add sliced avocado, tomato and red onions around the lettuce
and drizzle with the left over vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
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