For the first year of my daughter’s life, I had a strict no sweets rule. But the day my little girl turned 1, I caved. That morning, I gave her one small piece of dark chocolate to enjoy.
She devoured it and immediately began reaching her chubby little hand out for more. There was chocolate smeared all over her mouth, a grin spread across her face, and a new love that I knew she wouldn’t soon forget.
It was only after the fact that a friend said to me, “Weren’t you worried she might be allergic?” I was baffled. Honestly, the thought had never occurred to me. I’d never known anyone who was allergic to chocolate, and didn’t most babies get some sort of cake on their 1st birthday? Surely mine wasn’t the first to have an introduction to chocolate on this day.
But should I have been more cautious?
It turns out, the Internet is full of varying opinions on this one. Once upon a time, chocolate was listed as a food to worry about with kids. Allergic reactions were observed and parents were warned to proceed with caution.
But in recent years, it has become clearer that many of those suspected reactions were likely the result of something in the chocolate like nuts or soy. Both are included on the FDA’s list of the top eight food allergens. Chocolate itself is rarely to blame for allergic reactions.
Still, reading labels is always important, as well as talking to your pediatrician about any concerns you may have. And whenever introducing any new food to your baby, you should always be on the lookout for symptoms of an allergic reaction. These might include rashes, stomach irritation, or itching.
In severe cases, a food allergy can cause a child’s tongue or throat to swell. In this case, you should get medical help immediately.
Allergies aren’t a huge concern when it comes to chocolate and babies, but is there anything else to worry about?
Parents should consider the nutritional value of chocolate. Moderation is key with babies who aren’t eating a large amount of solid foods just yet. You don’t want chocolate (or any other form of candy or sweet) to ever become a main component of your little one’s daily diet. Too much sugar can contribute to obesity and diabetes, among other health concerns.
As a rare birthday treat? Go for it! But on a typical day, don’t make chocolate a regular part of your child’s well-balanced diet.
When to Introduce
Parents should be spacing out the introduction of new foods for baby. That way, if there’s a reaction to something new, it will be easy enough to figure out what it’s from. Most experts suggest not introducing sweets for the first year of your child’s life. You want them to develop a taste for other, healthier food items first.
But realistically, there are no specific medical guidelines for introducing chocolate to your baby. It’s up to parental discretion after solid foods have been started. But keep in mind, chocolate often contains some of those big eight allergens like dairy you might want to avoid for your little one.
Contact your pediatrician if you have specific questions or concerns about the best time to introduce a new food to your baby.
The health benefits of dark chocolate are now well-known. But even given some of the heart-healthy benefits, not all chocolate is created equal. Some chocolate is processed and contains more sugar than you might want your child to have. Paying attention to labels and providing chocolate only in moderation is key.
Dark chocolate tends to have less sugar than milk chocolate, but not all children will enjoy the bitter taste. But what about chocolate milk, a favorite with toddlers and older children? Is it appropriate for babies?
The answer is yes and no. Milk should not be introduced to babies under 1. After that, assuming your child has no allergic reaction to milk, chocolate milk is fine. But keep in mind that chocolate milk contains more sugar than a plain glass of whole milk. Again, moderation is key.
Once you get your pediatrician’s approval to introduce chocolate to your baby, you might be wondering how to serve it.
Here are some delicious and easy chocolate recipes to try. You can even make them together in the kitchen.
- Katharine Hepburn’s brownies from relish.com
- chocolate self-saucing pudding from kidspot.com
- 5 minute chocolate cake from netmums.com
And if that 5 minute chocolate cake seems like too much effort for a 1st birthday treat, I can personally attest to the fact that a small piece of dark chocolate makes a fantastic alternative.