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The Effects of Eating Chocolate on a Toddler's Behavior

by Susan Revermann

Most adults can think back to their childhood with fond memories of enjoying a tasty candy bar or two. Now that you’re on the giving end of the candy front, you may be a bit more hesitant to have the stuff in the house. Before you hand some chocolate to your toddler, you may want to consider how it may affect her body and behavior.

Sugar

A toddler should get no more than 13 teaspoons of sugar per day, according to MayoClinic.com. This may sound like a lot, but sugar can be found in many of the foods found in your kitchen, so it adds up quickly. MedlinePlus indicates that refined, processed sugars may affect a child’s behavior and activity level. The refined sugar found in candy such as chocolate enters the bloodstream quickly and causes blood glucose levels to rise. This might trigger a spike in a child’s adrenaline level, potentially causing a child to be more active than usual. However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out that there is a substantial body of research indicating there’s no link between sugar and hyperactivity. Since the debate is still on, the best you can do is be aware of your toddler's sugar intake, consider its possible influence on your child's behavior and use your own discretion.

Caffeine

One ounce of milk chocolate or 8 ounces of chocolate milk has around 5 mg of caffeine, which is not considered a high level of caffeine. AskDrSears.com points out that not all children are greatly affected by low levels of caffeine. However, it is possible for a child to become a bit jittery, experience a rapid heart beat or have trouble sleeping after chowing down some chocolate. Plus, chocolate is a mild diuretic and it may cause your little one to urinate more than normal. If you pair this sweet treat with other caffeine-containing foods, you may see more dramatic side effects than the chocolate alone.

Allergies

Chocolate by itself rarely poses an allergy threat. However, if the chocolate also contains milk or nuts, it may be a different story. When a toddler has a nut or milk allergy, he may have a physical and behavioral reaction if he eats milk chocolate. If he starts experiencing a headache, stomachache, wheezing, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting or hives, which are possible allergy indicators, his mood and behavior are going to go from pleasant to poor in no time.

Nutrition

When your kiddo has developed a taste for chocolate and sugary or overly-processed foods, especially if offered on a regular basis, he may start displaying undesirable behaviors when it comes to eating more nutritious meals and snacks. He may turn his nose up to those veggies, pick at his food, complain about the meal or even refuse to eat. However, if your child has a well-rounded diet, with the occasional chocolate treat, his nutritional needs are most likely being met and this behavior issue shouldn't be a problem -- at least not because of the chocolate.

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