Chocolate is a delicious treat that’s enjoyed the world over by kids and adults of all ages.
If you have a young child, it might also be something you’re consuming a lot more of right now in your search for a quick and tasty energy boost!
So you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to give to your baby.
Chocolate contains added sugar, which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend avoiding completely for children aged 2 or under.
You should also be aware that chocolate contains caffeine, which is another substance pediatritions recommend children under the age of 12 avoid.
When Can Babies Eat Chocolate?
There are 2 main things to consider before giving your child chocolate – allergies and the effects of sugar and caffeine.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Until recently, it was believed that people allergic to chocolate we in fact having a reaction to other ingredients found in chocolate, such as nuts, milk and wheat.
However, scientists now believe it’s possible to have an allergy to cocoa.
So although rare, it is in fact possible to be allergic to cocoa and therefore chocolate.
This means even chocolate in its purest form – raw cocoa – may pose an allergy risk to some children.
In fact, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains.
This is because caffeine occurs naturally in cocoa solids, and as dark chocolate has a higher content of cocoa solids, it therefore has a higher caffeine content.
Milk chocolate has less caffeine than dark chocolate, but even at these lower levels it can still affect your baby.
White chocolate on the other hand doesn’t contain any cocoa solids at all, but it is made with high levels of sugar, which is something babies should avoid (more on this below).
Below we’ve listed the amount of caffeine found in chocolate and coffee for reference.
One things to bear in mind is that although the caffeine levels in chocolate are lower than in a cup of coffee, they are still high enough to increase a child’s heart rate and blood pressure, worsen acid reflux and disturb sleep.
Caffeine Levels in Chocolate vs Coffee
- Dark Chocolate: 12mg of caffeine per ounce
- Milk Chocolate: 6mg of caffeine per ounce
- White Chocolate: zero caffeine
- Single Espresso: 64mg of caffeine
- Cup of Filter Coffee: 96mg of caffeine
The chocolate we buy is made with added sugar, with the amount varying depending on the type of chocolate.
Dark chocolate is generally made with 20% to 30% sugar, while white chocolate can contain as much as 60% sugar.
This means that if you give your child a bar of white chocolate, up to 60% of what they are eating is refined sugar.
Why Is Sugar Bad For Babies?
Many people are aware that sugar is bad for all of us, whatever our age.
But sugar is particularly bad for babies.
Some of the reasons why sugar is harmful for babies include:
- Reduces immunity
- Increases risk of heart disease
- Causes tooth decay
- Reduces concentration
- Lowers appetite for more nutritious foods such as vegetables and meat
Is Chocolate Bad For Babies?
The advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that babies under 2 should not eat added sugar.
Caffeine, which is also found in chocolate, is another ingredient that many pediatricians recommend you avoid giving your child until they are at least 12.
Given chocolate contains both sugar and caffeine, the decision whether to give any to your child will come down to you, and whether you think a small amount of chocolate every now and again is acceptable.
Can Babies Eat Dark Chocolate?
Some experts claim dark chocolate consumed in moderation can actually be good for us as it contains antioxidants.
So many parents wonder if it’s safe to give their baby some dark chocolate.
As we’ve seen, although dark chocolate is lower in sugar than white or milk chocolate, it still contains caffeine and sugar, so you should avoid giving it to your child until they are at least 24 months of age.
Is Chocolate Bad For Toddlers?
If your toddler is over 2 and you’re comfortable with them eating a small amount of added sugar and caffeine, then you may want to give them a little bit of chocolate, provided they are not allergic to any of the ingredients.
However, if you do give your little one some chocolate, it should be a treat which is consumed in moderation and perhaps after they’ve eaten a nutritious meal, rather than an everyday occurrence.
It’s also a good idea not to give your child chocolate in the lead up to bed, because the sugar and caffeine may impact their sleep.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that chocolate bars can be a choking hazard, and you should never give your child whole cacao beans as these are especially dangerous for young children.
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