Have you ever wondered when or if you should give your baby or toddler chocolate?

Chocolate ideally shouldn’t be given before the age of 2 due to the caffeine and sugar content, however, in my experience, most children have had chocolate before this age.

Due to the acidity, chocolate can worsen digestive problems such as reflux, colic and wind. Caffeine in chocolate can increase heart rate and disturb a child’s sleep. Sugar in chocolate can hinder acceptance of more savoury foods, cause tooth decay, and lead to obesity long term if eaten in excess.

Different chocolate has different sugar and caffeine content. White chocolate contains no caffeine at all, but tends to have the most sugar, and dark chocolate has the most caffeine, but usually the least sugar.

Chocolate can contain allergens such as cacao, milk, wheat and nuts, so should be avoided if your child is allergic to any of the ingredients.

My Advice about children and chocolate

Promoting healthy messages to our children is equally important as the food we give them, and they should know that no foods are “bad”. If older siblings are having chocolate easter eggs, it would be difficult to exclude the younger child.

I would recommend avoiding chocolate if:

  • They are under 1 year
  • If they have an allergy to any of the ingredients
  • If they suffer from digestive issues
  • It is near bedtime

If a child has a good weaning diet with a variety of foods and textures, and the chocolate doesn’t present a choking risk, giving your child a small amount of chocolate on an occasion should do no harm, but this shouldn’t turn into a regular treat.

A healthier alternative would be chocolate milk as this contains less caffeine, sugar, provides calcium, and doesn’t present a choking risk.