When Can Babies Eat Chocolate?

Young Girl Eating Brownie Mix In Kitchen

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There's no denying the allure of chocolate. Children and adults alike often love that smooth, creamy, and sometimes bittersweet flavor that you get from eating chocolate.

It has even been lauded for having antioxidants and some heart-health benefits. But is it safe for babies and toddlers? Find out everything you need to know about chocolate and young children.

Food Introductions and Allergies

When it comes to allergies to chocolate and cocoa, scientists used to believe reactions to chocolate were related to other allergens in the chocolate like nuts, peanuts, or milk. However, a recent study has found that—although rare—it is possible for children and adults to have a true food allergy to chocolate and cocoa.

That said, concerns over food allergic reactions should not keep parents from introducing potentially food allergic foods like fish, eggs, and peanut butter. After a series of reviews the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) determined that it's no longer necessary to delay the introduction of highly allergenic foods.

According to the AAP, delaying the introduction of these foods has no impact on the prevention of food allergies. In fact, not introducing these foods when kids have the necessary eating skills to consume them may increase the likelihood of a child developing a food allergy.

However, the AAP does not recommend that children under the age of 2 have foods containing caffeine or added sugar—both of which are found in chocolate. So while food allergies are not a reason to delay giving your young child chocolate, the added sugar and caffeine are.

Additionally, when introducing new foods to your baby or toddler, it's typically better to introduce one food at a time. But, many chocolatey baked goods contain multiple ingredients, so giving your baby or toddler chocolate-flavored items means introducing your child to more the one ingredient at a time.

Chocolate and Caffeine

Whether or not your baby or toddler can safely have chocolate is a conversation best saved for your pediatrician. Aside from the multiple ingredients found in most chocolate-containing foods, chocolate also contains caffeine.

Although there isn’t a lot of information on how caffeine affects a developing child’s brain, there is increasing concern about the side effects of caffeine. In fact, caffeine intake between 100 mg and 400 mg can cause nervousness, jitteriness, and fidgetiness. There also is some evidence that caffeine can interfere with a child's sleep, impact their bone health as well as cause elevated blood pressure.

When evaluating whether or not to give your child chocolate keep in mind how much caffeine your child will be getting with each serving. Even things like chocolate pudding cups and chocolate milk contain small amounts of caffeine.

Caffeine in Common Foods
Chocolate Sponge Cake 0.66 mg
Chocolate Milk (1 cup) 2.48 mg
Chocolate Ice Cream (1 cup) 4.05 mg
Chocolate Cupcake 4.5 mg 
Hot Chocolate (1 cup) 4.97 mg
Cocoa Powder (1 Tbsp.) 11.5 mg
M&M Candies (1 cup) 29.1 mg

Chocolate and Added Sugar

When it comes to kids under 2 years old, the best approach is to encourage foods that don't have added sugar. In fact, the AAP indicates that too much sugar can lead to obesity, tooth decay, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Yet, sugar makes up about 17% of what children consume each day.

For this reason, you should consider how much sugar your child is already getting before adding chocolate to their diet. This way, when you are at a birthday party or another special occasion, you have more freedom to make an exception if you want and allow your toddler to have a small taste.

You also should be wary of potential choking hazards with chocolate. While a piece of chocolate birthday cake is likely soft, baked goods and even some chocolate candy bars contain nuts or are hard and can be dangerous for a very young child. So, keep these things in mind before giving your child something chocolatey.

Reading labels and having a plan with your child's pediatrician about when and how to introduce certain foods is key. Talk to your pediatrician for guidance on when you can give your child chocolate.

Dessert for Babies and Toddlers

If your older toddler is able to request sweet foods like cakes or cookies, consider serving dessert occasionally 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. Presenting food this way stops dessert from being elevated above other foods.

It also changes it from a "reward" food or a bribe to just another option among many. However, because of the small amounts of caffeine and sugar 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, and giving them the right to choose what and how much they eat. This approach helps them develop healthy eating habits that lead to a well-balanced diet and a healthy relationship with food.

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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