BY SHRUTI SHUKLA
It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone who appreciates the good things in life must be in want of a piece of chocolate. While Jane Austen may have had another idea, modern day gourmands really do know that the good things in life usually boil down to one simple thing—chocolate! From exam worries and office deadlines, to cheery celebrations and pregnancy woes, this scrummy friend has always been there for us. And despite its debatable image, it has fought time and again to prove its health benefi ts for heart, skin, brain and our mood.
Chocolate encourages feel-good endorphins in the body that justify our true love for it. In fact, a study by Katri Raikkonen at the University of Helsinki, Finland, has confi rmed that women who consumed chocolates during their pregnancy, gave birth to babies who were ‘positively reactive— a measure that encompasses traits such as smiling and laughter’.
“Chocolate consumption by expectant mothers, in moderation, can work as a source of iron”, says Dr Rahul Nagpal, director, paediatrics and neonatology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj. “However, pregnant women who have gestational diabetes should keep away from chocolates,” he adds.
The Right Age for Chocolate
As a new mum, you could be baffled about the right time for introducing chocolates to your little one. With all the festivities around the corner, they are bound to have a frequent presence in our homes. In such a scenario, it becomes exceedingly difficult to figure out whether it’s alright to give your bundle of joy some treats, or to hold out just a little while longer.
Ideally, a baby is allowed solid food once she completes six months, but this doesn’t include chocolates. Dr Rahul advices, “Babies shouldn’t be given any chocolate in the first year of their life. Very small and measured amounts can be introduced to them after they turn one, but it is advised to stick to white chocolate only.”
Now, Milkybar remains a childhood favourite and is a sought-after choice in this category. To top it off, Nestlé has amped up its health quotient with its new kid-friendly recipe, by adding more milk and reducing sugar. “As a wellness and health company, we bring out products which offer healthier choices by simplifying our ingredients and meeting the highest food quality and safety standards. We believe in delivering tastier and healthier choices to its consumers and improve the nutrient portfolio of products,” says Nikhil Chand, general manager, Nestlé India. He further adds, “We have also made concrete efforts to promote portion guidance and all our chocolate and confectionery innovations have lighter treats as part of the portfolio, several of which are less than 50 calories per serve.” So, if you’re looking for a healthier treat to introduce your kids to, you know where to look.
Dark chocolates contain caffeine. A baby’s system is very sensitive, and while caffeine might not have any long-term complications, it can make your child hyperactive, uncomfortable, and even cranky. “Dark chocolates and other varieties with cocoa should be given to children only after the age of two,” Dr Rahul asserts.
Even once your child gets acquainted with the taste of chocolate, it is important that you restrict her intake. This is due to the fact that chocolates are very high in sugar and fats, and hardly provide any protein. Furthermore, kids have small delicate teeth that are vulnerable to decay. The acid build-up around teeth after eating chocolates or any sugary food, can easily lead to poor oral health.
Dr Rahul says, “Tooth decay in kids is a very common condition these days. This can be avoided by limiting your child’s sugar intake and ensuring a good rinse and clean-up when the baby indulges in sweet treats.” This also implies that eating a piece of chocolate at once, instead of several small portions, is better for your child.
However, chocolate intake among children is not limited to chocolate bars alone. What is often ignored are the other sources through which chocolate sneaks into your child’s diet. For example, flavoured milk or cereals, cakes and even Indian sweets like chocolate mithai. One should look for these culprits and keep away from them.
Contrary to popular belief, cocoa allergy among children is very rare, almost negligible. It is the other ingredients like nuts, milk, gluten, etc., present in chocolate, that can have an allergic effect on your baby. Dr Rahul suggests, “Parents should consult a paediatrician for a better understanding of foods that might trigger an allergy. This will help them pick a product according to their baby’s physical restraints. Avoiding chocolates with almonds or other nuts is a safe option.” He also warns parents to beware of any liquor content in chocolates.
It is significant that you check the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA), the nutrition facts label on the product, to know the exact ingredients. If after consuming chocolate, your child experiences a rash, fever or even light diarrhoea, it should be reported to the doctor immediately.
As a parent, it is your role to inculcate healthy eating habits in your children. The food habits that you shape right now will form the foundation for their entire lives. Restricting them from eating sweets or allowing them to binge on them, are both a big no-no. Maintaining a balance is what you have to teach them.
Neetika Chabbra, mum to threeyear- old Samaira, tells us, “I did not introduce my daughter to chocolates till the age of two; the main concern was her dental health. Now, I allow her Kinder Joy or Milkybar once a week, and if she insists, I let her have some cheat chocolates too.” Moderation works for Neetika; it will work for you too.
In the end, we believe that you know your child best. And if, as parents, both you and your partner agree that a little chocolate every now and then, won’t do much damage, then go ahead and give your kids a taste. After all, a little chocolate does make everything better!| MB