Caffeine shows up in many beverages and foods in the American diet. The smell of coffee permeates restaurants, walkways near coffee shops and workplace break rooms. Many holidays and parties involve prominent displays of chocolates, desserts and drinks laced with chocolate and sometimes coffee. In many places espresso bars outnumber bars serving alcohol. For anyone needing or wanting to avoid or reduce caffeine, it helps to learn about caffeine-free food and beverage options.
Coffee substitutes can help ease the transition to a caffeine-free diet. Health food stores carry numerous teas and grain beverages designed to provide full-bodied flavour without the caffeine. Read labels as some may contain caffeine from black tea. Some substitute beverages made from herbs and roasted grains give a satisfying taste without the caffeine.
The Villanova University Office of Health Promotion website points out that coffee is addictive and that withdrawal symptoms include headaches and drowsiness. If reducing caffeine gradually is an option, the side effects may be reduced.
Decaffeinated coffee and other beverages can still contain some caffeine. Colour isn't an indicator of whether or not a beverage has caffeine. Always check the label.
The Seek Wellness website advises that all foods made with chocolate contain caffeine, and that restricting caffeine may help with overactive bladder and other urinary problems.
Many candies, ice creams, sauces, cakes and cookies contain chocolate. Watch for any form of chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cocoa, mocha (coffee and chocolate) or espresso. Desserts made with fresh fruit are usually a caffeine-free choice. Choose sorbets, fruit ices, apple sauce and fruit salad.
Carob, also known as St. John’s bread, provides natural sweetening and can be used in place of chocolate in recipes. Health food stores carry cookies, brownies and other baked goods made with carob. Roasted carob powder makes a cocoa substitute, although the flavour is different from chocolate.
The Ohio State University's Medical Center's No Cardiac Stimulant Diet limits chocolate to one small serving per day of certain foods and beverages. Consult with your health care provider to make the best choices for your situation.
Whole, unprocessed foods provide a good source of healthy, caffeine-free nutrition. Purchasing foods in their natural state reduces the risk of eating undesirable additives such as caffeine, sugars, hormones, preservatives and other ingredients that could affect the heart or blood sugar.
Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Add beans, peas and nuts. Eggs and dairy foods provide caffeine-free choices, except for flavoured yoghurts with coffee or chocolate added. Read the label before purchasing flavoured yoghurts.
Avoid cereals with chocolate flavourings and any product with coffee, espresso or tea listed in the ingredients.