Is driving through a coffee shop on your must-do list most days, whether the kids are in the car or not? Maybe the coffee shop is the most kid-friendly place to take a break at the shopping center you need to go to today. Maybe the kids just love the fun drinks at coffee shops. Whatever the reason, sometimes you take your kids to the coffee shop. When you do, what are the healthiest options for your kids?
The big questions here are caffeine and sugar. Almost every drink contains some caffeine, including hot chocolate and even some juice drinks. They’re also heavy-handed with the sugar. Most coffee drinks contain more sugar than ice cream, so these drinks should be treats, not the equivalent of a glass of water.
They also come in large quantities, so sharing can be a great plan. Baristas are not allowed to share one drink between two kids, but they are allowed to give you an extra cup so you can do it yourself.
Water or sparkling water will be available at most coffee shops, including the big chains. You can also get milk, including vanilla or chocolate milk. These can pack up to 26 grams of sugar, but they are also good sources of calcium and Vitamin D.
Some coffee shops offer 8 oz apple juice boxes. That’s 26 grams of sugar, so it’s a good choice to share. Other juices contain up to 36 grams of sugar, and some even contain caffeine. Check the labels before you order.
Juice-based refreshers have 19-32 grams of sugar, but that’s for 12 ounces (the smallest size). Split one with your child or between a couple of children for a more manageable amount of sugar. These cold drinks are customizable, and they can be made with whole milk.
Hot chocolate is a classic for kids. Hot cocoa often comes in a kids’ size of 8 ounces, which is identical to the smallest adult size. With 16 grams of sugar, this is one of the lowest sugar items in the shop. It also has 6 grams of protein and some caffeine.
White hot chocolate is the same quantity, but it has 28 grams of sugar and 8 grams of protein.
Steamed apple juice also comes in an 8 oz size, with 27 grams of sugar. Gussy it up with whipped cream and caramel for a Caramel Apple Spice, with 36 grams of sugar.
You can get a cup of steamed milk with just 10 grams of sugar, unless you add syrup. Two pumps of vanilla syrup, for example, brings you up to 19 grams of sugar. No caffeine, though.
Adding a cookie or brownie will double your total of sugar, significantly increase the fat, and offer nothing in the way of protein or fiber, because those things are special treats, not wholesome meals.
If you’re at the coffee shop with your kids often and want to provide a healthier food choice, consider egg bites or an egg sandwich. Sandwiches are generally high in protein but also equally high in fat.