Your toddler needs healthy foods to grow and develop, but you can offer sweet treats once in awhile. Chocolate is a safe dessert option for your toddler, as long as you are aware of the potential effects of too much caffeine and sugar.
Chocolate contains some caffeine, which can cause your child to feel jittery, have trouble sleeping and experience a rapid heart rate. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it can also make your child urinate more frequently. An ounce of chocolate and eight ounces of chocolate milk have only 5 mg of caffeine, so as long as your child does not consume excessive amounts or other caffeine sources, like soft drinks, the caffeine in chocolate is not likely to have a negative effect.
Chocolate contains fat and sugar that may not always be the healthiest choice for your toddler. Her small stomach can only hold only so much food at a time, so it is important to make meals and snacks count and leave room for healthy and nutritious foods. The KidsHealth from Nemours website says that a chocolate bar can have about 230 calories and 13 g of fat. If your toddler has chocolate, make sure it is offered sparingly. In fact, ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends that toddlers have no more than 135 empty calories, such as those from chocolate and other foods with added sugars.
A 2008 study published in the "Journal of American Dietetic Association" found that children who drank plain or flavored milk consumed more nutrients and had a lower body mass index than children who drank no milk. If you have a hard time getting your toddler to drink enough milk each day, adding some chocolate flavoring can make it more appealing and help him consume the two to three daily servings of dairy he needs.
Although chocolate is safe in moderate amounts for older toddlers, you probably shouldn't give chocolate or any other caffeine product to toddlers under the age of 2 years. You may want to avoid offering chocolate if your toddler has a milk allergy or is lactose intolerant. If you are unsure about giving chocolate to your toddler or if eating it causes him to experience intolerance or allergy symptoms like swelling of his lips, abdominal pain or vomiting, talk to his doctor.
- Medline Plus: Age-appropriate diet for children
- American Dietetic Association: Does Chocolate Have a Lot of Caffeine?
- Kids Health: Smart Snacking
- EurekAlert.org: New study shows children benefit from drinking chocolate/flavored milk
- American College of Allergy, Astham and Immunology: Food Allergies
- Kids Health: Milk Allergy
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Many Can I Have?