How to survive WITHOUT coffee, according to a busy working mother (and a dietitian says her hacks really do work!)

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Working mum with a caffeine intolerance shares her tips to surviving without it
  • Drinking plenty of water and eating breakfast might help you to keep going 

For millions of tired parents juggling children and work, a steaming cup of coffee (or six) is a crucial crutch to get them through the day.

But what do you do if, like me, you can’t have caffeine at all? 

Or are one of many seeking to cut down after suffering some of the side effects, like twitches or jitters? 

A caffeine intolerance, which began in my early teens, means even the smallest trace can make me feel so faint and dizzy I can’t function, as well as triggering severe nausea and shakes.

As such, coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks and even dark chocolate are all off the table.

So as a 36-year-old working mum, how do I survive?

For millions of tired parents juggling children and work, a steaming cup of coffee (or six) is a crucial crutch to get them through the day. But what do you do if, like me, you can’t have caffeine at all? Pictured, Rosie Taylor

Rosie Taylor, a 36-year-old mum who has a caffeine intolerance, says her hacks to staying alert without coffee include drinking plenty of water and eating a good breakfast (stock image)

Rosie Taylor, a 36-year-old mum who has a caffeine intolerance, says her hacks to staying alert without coffee include drinking plenty of water and eating a good breakfast (stock image)

Keen to find out if I’ve stumbled across a magical hack, I shared my go-to methods with Kate Hilton, registered dietician at feelgut.co.uk and dietsdebunked.co.uk. 

She told me which are working for me and which aren’t — and what you should do if you’re thinking about kicking caffeine too.

Drink plenty of water

I always carry a bottle of water with me everywhere I go and have a sip whenever my energy levels start flagging.

Kate approves of this, as she says dehydration is a key cause of tiredness. 

‘If you are dehydrated, everything in your body is working harder, so staying hydrated is key,’ she adds.

What contains caffeine and how much is safe to drink?

  • Coffee, tea, colas and energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine. 
  • Caffeinated drinks are unsuitable for toddlers and young children.
  • Pregnant women should have no more than 200mg of caffeine a day because high levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birthweight.
  • One mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine.
  • Energy drinks can contain 80mg of caffeine in a small 250ml can. This is the same as two cans of cola or a small mug of coffee.
  • The NHS advises that tea and coffee is fine to drink as part of a balanced diet.
  • But caffeinated drinks can make the body produce urine more quickly. 

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Get outside, even just for a few minutes

I typically start the day with the school run. 

It’s only a five-minute walk but the burst of fresh air and physical activity helps me stay alert at my desk all morning.

Kate agrees that even a short time outside can be an energy boost. 

‘The way a lot of us live nowadays is unnatural,’ she adds. 

‘Many of us spend all day staring at screens and our down-time is very sedentary as well.

‘Getting outside and seeing sunlight can boost your mental health, help your circadian rhythm recalibrate so you get a better night’s sleep and help increase vitamin D levels, which all can help fight tiredness.’

Have snacks for a boost

My main secret to surviving the mid-afternoon slump without caffeine is resorting to carb-heavy or sugary snacks like cakes and biscuits, and sweet non-caffeinated drinks like juice or lemonade.

Kate agrees there are times we all ‘just need an emergency brownie’ – but cautions against relying on sugary snacks alone, as they can make energy levels spike then drop, making us feel worse.

‘If possible, have your snack alongside something healthier like a handful of raspberries or a protein yoghurt,’ she suggests. 

‘Mixing carbohydrates and sugars with protein, fibre and healthy fats helps slow down the energy release so there’s less of an intense boost then crash.’

Find tasty herbal teas

I won’t pretend herbal tea is anywhere near as satisfying as a cup of regular tea or coffee, but they can help as a warming pick-me-up, especially in winter. 

I splash out on quality brands with lots of taste (like YogiTea or Clipper) so it feels like a treat.

Kate agrees herbal teas can give a boost but warns you should always check the label as some herbal teas, including green tea, contain caffeine.

One mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine, with other sources including tea, colas and energy drinks

One mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine, with other sources including tea, colas and energy drinks

Start the day with breakfast

I can’t do anything in the morning before I’ve eaten something – I feel exhausted and slow if I haven’t at least had some toast or cereal first thing.

Kate says energy from food is vital to get us going. Caffeine can artificially replace this boost but it can make energy levels crash as it wears off.

She says my breakfast choices are okay but could be better. She recommends a mix of protein (such as milk, yoghurt or eggs), wholegrain carbs (like cereal or toast), fruit and vegetables (like berries or tomatoes) and healthy fats (like nuts and seeds).

‘This helps the energy burn slowly so you don’t crash and get tired mid-morning,’ she says.

Listen to your body and take a break

Without caffeine to keep me powering through, sometimes I simply run out of energy and have to chill for half an hour on the sofa or have a nap.

I hate to admit defeat but Kate says this is actually a good thing. 

‘We are all so busy that we are continually pushing through tiredness and not acknowledging we need to rest,’ she adds.

She taking breaks this is not easy in the modern world but that even half an hour to yourself every day can help. 

She adds: ‘Realistically, if it is getting to the point where you are relying on caffeine to keep going, it is probably time to stop.’

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