When Can You Give Your Baby Chocolate?

When It's Safe and How to Do It

Young Girl Eating Brownie Mix In Kitchen

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You may have heard conflicting advice about when to give your baby chocolate for the first time, because it's usually used in foods that contain added sugar. You also may wonder if eating chocolate can cause an allergic reaction, and if so, what that reaction looks like.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding serving food and drink with added sugar to kids under two years of age. Allergies to cacao (the bean that's the main ingredient in chocolate) are possible, but extremely rare. In addition, in recent years the thinking about the timing of offering potentially allergenic foods has changed. While it used to be recommended that parents delay giving these foods to their children, research now suggests that introducing them between four and six months may actually benefit an infant at high risk for developing an allergic disease.

Toddler, Meet Chocolate

Whether or not your toddler can safely have chocolate is a conversation best saved for your pediatrician. In general, the AAP recommends skipping chocolate until kids are at least two, since it contains added sugar. Other than this, there are no specific guidelines about when or how to give chocolate to a child for the first time. Aside from the added sugar that is in many chocolate-containing food and drinks, chocolate also contains caffeine. The AAP recommends that children under 12 years of age shouldn't eat or drink caffeine-containing foods or drinks.

There isn’t a lot of information on how caffeine affects a developing child’s brain. Keep in mind that one ounce of dark chocolate contains 23 mg of caffeine, one ounce of milk chocolate contains 4 mg, and one tablespoon of cocoa powder contains 12 mg. Even things like chocolate pudding cups and chocolate milk contain small amounts of caffeine (4 mg and 2 mg, respectively).

Reading labels and having a plan with your child's pediatrician about when and how to introduce certain foods is key, especially if your child is at an increased risk of developing an allergic condition.

Encouraging foods that don't have added sugar and caffeine is best for kids under 2. But the reality is that sometimes a toddler may be at a birthday party with chocolate cake and they might want a taste. Be wary of choking hazards of chocolate. While a piece of chocolate birthday cake is likely soft, chocolate bars or baked goods that contain nuts or are hard can be dangerous for a very young child.

A Note on Dessert

If your older toddler is able to request chocolate and foods, consider serving dessert with (some) meals to encourage balance. Put the dessert food on the plate along with all the other foods and allow your child to eat the foods in whatever order they wish. This stops dessert from being something that is seen as elevated above other foods, and changes it from a "reward" food or a bribe to just another option among many. However, because of the (even small amounts) of caffeine in chocolate, it’s probably best to opt for non-chocolate desserts until kids are a little older.

A Word From Verywell

Encouraging healthful eating habits involves offering your children plenty of nutritious foods at home, letting them be a part of meal planning and shopping as much as possible, and giving them the right to choose what and how much they eat of what you offer at each meal and snack. This can help them develop the healthy eating habits that lead to a well-balanced diet and a healthy relationship with food into their teen years and adulthood. If chocolate is something that older toddlers want to try at an occasional birthday party, remember that what is eaten most of the time—and what you keep in your home—is what matters most to a child’s overall nutrition.

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Article Sources
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  2. Duckett SA. Choking. StatPearls [Internet]. Published April 9, 2019.

  3. Birch L, Savage JS, Ventura A. Influences on the Development of Children's Eating Behaviours: From Infancy to AdolescenceCan J Diet Pract Res. 2007;68(1):s1–s56. PMID: 19430591

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