Question: At What Age Can I Introduce My Baby to Chocolate?
Answer: Great question! We all know that babies have delicate digestive systems and that introducing them to new foods needs to be a gradual process. At what age can you introduce a baby to chocolate?
It turns out that there are almost as many opinions about this as there are babies. As with the myth of chocolate causing acne, many of these opinions are holdovers from an earlier era when chocolate was incorrectly identified as a food to which toddlers/children were allergic (genuine allergies to chocolate can occur, but they are rare. Chocolate is not on the “Big 8”, the list of products that most often cause allergic reactions, but some products on the Big 8, such as milk, peanuts, and soybeans, are incorporated into chocolate or chocolate treats, and chocolate was often blamed for the resulting allergic reactions).
For many babies, their first introduction to chocolate is via chocolate milk. There are children who don’t like the taste of plain milk, and some parents flavor milk to get the children to drink it. Parents may be concerned about adding sugar and calories to their baby’s diet, but a study in the April, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that children who drink milk (either flavored or plain) consume more nutrients and have a lower or comparable body mass index (BMI) than children who don’t drink milk at all. The study included 7,557 children and teenagers, aged 2 to 18 years. Intakes of Vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and saturated fat were comparable among all groups who drank milk; intake of added sugars did not differ between children who drank flavored milk and those who did not drink milk at all.
As far as age, the most common recommendation we’ve seen for an introduction to chocolate milk is one year. For eating chocolate, it’s suggested that the children be at least two years old. As with the introduction of any food, gradual is the way to go. If your child has a problem with dairy foods, stick to dark chocolate, but recognize that it may not find favor with a young child. If your child has a problem with soy, look for a chocolate without soy lecithin (sometimes called soya lecithin).
If introduced correctly and in modest quantities, chocolate can be a part of a healthy lifestyle for your child.
Disclaimer: While this is general information, it may not apply to your specific circumstance. Please check with a certified health professional.