Is chocolate okay for my kid?
As far as love for sweets is concerned, chocolates top the list for most kids in India. However, as a health-conscious parent, you might be aware that most chocolates provide sugar, fats and empty calories. They might contain added flavours as well. And, you might have a lot of questions and doubts, before you give your child a piece of chocolate. So, here’s all you need to know about chocolates and their contents. This article also focuses on why moderation is required when it comes to consuming these sweet treats.
Types of chocolates:
Chocolates can be categorized into three main types, based on their constituents - milky, dark and white chocolate.
- Dark chocolate consists of chocolate liquor, extra cocoa butter, sugar, an emulsifier, vanilla or some other flavouring. It might have milk fat to make it soft but doesn’t have a milky flavour. Instead, it is a bittersweet chocolate, with a higher percentage of cacao, as compared to the other chocolates.
- Milk chocolate has similar ingredients as dark chocolate, but contains additional milk solids. It has 10 percent of cacao by weight and 12 percent of milk solids. It is the most commonly eaten chocolate.
- In white chocolate, cocoa butter is the main ingredient. Along with cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, milk solids and vanilla, this chocolate might also contain different flavourings. It has 12 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent milk solids and 55 percent of sugar.
Benefits of chocolates:
Is chocolate good for kids? Now, it might help you to know that the main component of chocolate, which is cocoa, might reduce the risk of heart diseases. The flavanols in the beans have antioxidants in them, which reduce cell damage. These are especially present in large amounts in dark chocolate and they also help in lowering blood pressure, thus improving vascular function. Various studies have also proved that chocolates reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. However, all these studies are focused on adults and not kids. However, the benefits might be similar for your little ones.
Why is moderation necessary?
All the benefits of chocolates are attributed to cocoa, which is low in sugar and fat. However, many packaged chocolates for children have other ingredients like sugar, fats and extra calories, which might contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Hence, moderate consumption of chocolate is ideal. Or, you can add plain cocoa to low fat milk or oats, as this is one of the healthiest ways to give chocolate to your kids above the age of one.
Also, be aware that chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant and might cause sleeplessness. Some chocolates might contain nuts and soy, which are common allergens. So, you need to watch out for that. Reading the label is the best way forward.
Moderate consumption is also recommended as this will not hamper your child’s appetite for healthy and natural foods like whole grains, veggies, fruits and lean proteins. Remember that excessive chocolate consumption and poor oral hygiene can also lead to dental caries. Hence, occasionally treating your child to chocolates is alright.
Introducing chocolates to your kids
- Do not introduce chocolates along with other new foods to your child. Always space out new items as you can detect allergies easily this way.
- It is better to avoid giving chocolates or other sweets to kids below 1 year of age, as you want them to try healthy foods first.
- Dark chocolates have health benefits and have less sugar than other chocolates. But you also need to remember that each kind of chocolate is different. Some are more processed and have more sugar. So, do read the nutrition labels.
- Chocolate milk should not be given to children below the age of one. Post that, if they are not lactose intolerant, chocolate milk can be given. However, remember that chocolate milk has a lot more sugar than plain milk.
So, ensure moderation when it comes to giving chocolates to your kids. Try and go for chocolates that have above 70 percent cacao, so that your child gets to benefit from the antioxidants.