I think I created a {Starbucks} monster

I am a coffee addict.  I’ve never hid that truth.  Many of my earliest childhood memories are of me at the kitchen table with my small  monogrammed mug of warm coffee with cream.  My grandmother was a heavy coffee drinker and we spent many a days at the table sipping, chatting and laughing–ya know, bonding while getting our coffee fix!   By elementary school I knew how to percolate coffee like the best of them.  In college I’m sure I could have gotten a job at any coffee house as a barista because I knew exactly how to make a caramel macchiato.  I kept my small dorm room fridge stocked with an assortment of  flavored frappuccinos and coffee beans from all over the world.  And now as a grown up, I plan my errands and outings based around the vicinity of the nearest Starbucks. I’ve been on my coffee grind (pun intended) for a while.

But I had to rethink how my love for coffee was starting to influence my kids.  Three-year-olds shouldn’t crave “Starbutts” or a cup of coffee first thing in the morning or know what “Grande” means.  It took a full on toddler meltdown one morning before I started to take heed to the problematic nature of allowing my kids to drink coffee beverages.  The last thing I  wanted to do was pass my caffeine dependence on to my kiddos.  I knew after the coffee meltdown with the Starbutts monster that I had to do something different.  So I scoured the internet to research a little more about kids and caffeinated drinks.  And I found a great blog post by a former Starbucks employee.  Her post underscored my concerns, kids shouldn’t be allowed to drink beverages that are loaded with caffeine and sugars.  In the post (which I enclosed below) she offers some alternatives that are and aren’t on the Starbucks menu.  They’re kid friendly and great alternatives to giving your kids coffee. Check it out:

  1. Kid’s Hot Chocolate–The old standby comes kid-sized (8 ounces) and kid-temperature (130 degrees). The littlest ones might like it even cooler—100 degrees is lukewarm. It comes with 2 percent milk, but nonfat, whole and soy are also available. Whip cream is optional … but yummy!
  2. Passion Iced Tea–This fruity, decaffeinated drink is totally kid-friendly. It’s hibiscus flavored, which is a fancy way of saying red and berryish. The barista will ask if you want it sweetened. This means adding three pumps (assuming you’re getting a tall, which is the smallest iced size—12 ounces) of a simple sugar syrup. Adding raspberry syrup or lemonade also tastes good. Green tea and black iced tea—your other options—have caffeine, so aren’t good for kids.
  3. Vanilla Steamer–Also available in kid’s size and temperature and with a variety of milks, a vanilla steamer is simply steamed milk with vanilla syrup. You will see sugar-free vanilla on the menu, but know it’s made with sucralose—the sweetener used in Splenda.
  4. Smoothie –Little known fact: Starbucks has smoothies … and they’re good! Flavors are orange mango, strawberry and chocolate. All the smoothies come with a banana (though you can’t really taste it), 2 percent milk, and whey protein and fiber (is derived from cow’s milk). Strawberry and orange mango smoothies are also made with fruit purees, while chocolate smoothies contain mocha syrup. Since they come in one size only—grande (medium), which is 16 ounces—you might want to share
  5. Babbycino–This is simply extra-foamy milk—like a cappuccino, but without the espresso. (Cappuccinos are about half foam and half steamed milk, while lattes have about 1/4 foam and 3/4 milk.) Little kids especially love the light, bubbly nature of foam. Ask for it bone-dry if you want the drink to be all foam.
  6. Blended Strawberry Lemonade–You won’t see this drink on the menu, but it’s a winner. It’s made of strawberry puree, lemonade, cream base (the syrup used to make Frappuccinos blend better) and optional sweetener. The result: A sweet, slushy treat that kids love. You can also get just plain lemonade at Starbucks—it’s a little sour on its own, so you might want to have sweetener added.
  7. Heated Horizon Milk–In the front display case, you’ll see cardboard cases of chocolate and vanilla Horizon milk. They’re great cold, but you can also ask the barista to heat them for you—instant hot chocolate. Why would you make it this way when it’s already on the menu? Starbucks hot chocolate is pretty dark, so if your kid likes a more milk-chocolate flavor, this is a better option.
  8. Caramel Apple Slice–This is apple juice with cinnamon dolce syrup, heated up with caramel and whipped cream on top. If your child likes a more classic apple cider case, just ask for heated apple juice. You can also simply get the apple juice cold, in a cup—even though there are probably apple juice boxes in in the front display case, some kids find it more fun to get a bar drink of their own.
  9. Raspberry Ittalian Soda–This drink isn’t on the menu, but kids will love it. Grab a Pellegrino from the front display case, then ask the barista to add raspberry syrup (about four pumps) and—if you want—sweetener. The bright, bubbly, fruity drink is fun one.
  10. Syrup Crème Frappuccino–Many Frappuccinos (the blended, milkshakey drinks) have caffeine, but a few are OK for kids. Strawberries & Crème, Vanilla Bean and Double Chocolaty Chip are all made without coffee and with a caffeine-free base (the syrup that helps the drink blend). You can also get a syrup crème Frappuccino, which is made with milk, a caffeine-free base, ice and whatever kind of syrup you’d like. If your kid wants a caramel Frappuccino, this is the way to go.

Do you have a little one who’s a Starbucks drink guru?  What kid drinks do you order him/her?  Leave your comments below.

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Categories: Feature, Food, Health, Parenting


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