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5 Hidden Sources of Caffeine

August 28, 2017

You purposely grab that cuppa joe to get through the morning—but caffeine lurking in unexpected places can get you more than you bargained for. And if you have one of these sneakily caffeinated foods later in the day, it might seriously mess with your night’s rest.

Here are some stealth sources of caffeine to watch out for.


Protein bars

Some bars may contain up to 50mg of caffeine, more than half of what’s in an average 8-oz. cup of coffee, warns registered dietician Vanessa Rissetto. Check labels carefully, especially if your bar of choice is coffee flavored or has a name like Clif’s Peanut Toffee Buzz.


Decaf coffee

You would think “decaf” means mostly or entirely without caffeine, but the actual amount in various brands can vary quite a bit.

Rissetto warns that some places, such as Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Peets, sell decaf with up to 36mg per 16-oz. cup, about one-third of what’s in a regular 8-oz. cup. Yikes.

If you’re craving a warm beverage in the afternoon, brew some herbal tea, or try a coffee substitute like Dandy Blend.


Coffee ice cream

Coffee isn’t just a flavoring agent in coffee ice cream. Brands made with real coffee can contain 20 to 45mg of caffeine, Rissetto says. Beware of coffee-flavored yogurt as well.

The same is true for anything coffee- or mocha-flavored, so watch out if you’re buying mixed nuts or other snacks.



“The exact amount of caffeine lingering in chocolate depends on the type and concentration of the chocolate. However, one Hershey’s Special Dark candy bar contains 31mg of caffeine,” says Dr. Konda Reddy.

And though dark chocolate has more antioxidants and minerals than lighter varieties, it also has more caffeine. Unsweetened cocoa and raw cacao powder also can be buzz-inducing.

So if you’re going to indulge, it might be wise to do so earlier in the day.


Pain killers

When a headache is weighing you down, you may be tempted to pop a painkiller–just be sure to read the label first, especially if it’s close to bedtime. Some painkillers have caffeine, which can help soothe migraines. But caffeine can also be a trigger for certain types of headaches, says Dr. David Greuner, MD, all the more reason to watch out for it in your remedy of choice.

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