UK nutritionist, Julia Wolman, provided some valuable advice on giving the nation’s favorite sweet treat – chocolate – to a little one.
THE SUGAR ISSUE
Current weaning advice recommends that you avoid giving sugary foods such as chocolate to babies during their first year. Not only are sugary foods harmful to tiny teeth but they can also be quite filling for tiny tummies and, if given between meals, could reduce your baby’s appetite for – and acceptance of - nutritious foods during the important weaning period.
NO FOOD IS FORBIDDEN
From 12-months, toddler diets typically start to include more sugary foods, for example, at birthday parties. Occasional exposure to chocolate and other treat foods from one year is fine, as long as your little one doesn’t get used to it as a part of their everyday diet.
There is little guidance for food portion sizes for babies. However, the Infant and Toddler Forum* provides guidance for one to four year olds and suggests that a suitable portion of chocolate for this age group is 2-4 squares of chocolate, 1⁄2 - 1 chocolate coated biscuit, or 6-8 small chocolate buttons. The portion range is indicative of different ages and appetites from one child to the next, and for babies would of course be smaller.
PREFERABLE TO SWEETS
If you had to choose between sweets or chocolate for your baby, chocolate would be a better choice since it contains some milk and therefore provides a little calcium. Darker chocolate also contains some iron, an important micronutrient for young children. Sweets on the other hand offer nothing but sugar and, if in contact with the teeth for a long time (as with lollies or chewy sweets), could contribute to tooth decay.
NEVER AS A REWARD
If you do give your baby or toddler chocolate, it should not be as a reward for good behavior. Foods given as a reward can be perceived as having a higher value than other foods. Instead, give chocolate as part of a dessert alongside other healthier foods such as fruit or yoghurt.