Mmm, chocolate! A popular craving and a much-needed treat in pregnancy. Chocolate has an interesting write-up in the scientific community about its benefits (and drawbacks) in pregnancy, so I decided to find out more.
Is Chocolate Safe in Pregnancy? All chocolate (milk, dark and white) is safe to eat in early pregnancy, in moderation. You should cut back on chocolate in the third trimester. Chocolate contains caffeine, so you should monitor your intake. Also, there are a few chocolate dishes that may not be safe in pregnancy.
To help you safely enjoy chocolate in pregnancy I’ve found out the caffeine content of popular brands, written up the current scientific findings on chocolate, and also listed chocolate dishes that might need a bit more investigation before tucking in.
How Much Chocolate Is Safe To Eat When I’m Pregnant?
I’ll get the killjoy stuff out of the way first. Chocolate is high in calories, fat and sugar, so should be eaten in moderation. Most of us know that anyway, even when we’re not pregnant!
You should be particularly careful to limit your chocolate intake if:
- You’re overweight and are trying to control your calorie intake
- You’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes
- You are struggling to control your blood sugar.
In this instance, chocolate should be limited to small amounts (source: Diabetes UK). Around 20g (0.7oz) a day should be OK. Dark chocolate is better as it contains fewer calories and sugar, but also more caffeine – covered later in this article.
The above doesn’t apply to me, so how many bars of chocolate can I eat if I’m pregnant?
How much chocolate you can safely eat depends on how much caffeine you’re already having during your pregnancy, and how far along you are. Besides the sugar/calorie intake, chocolate contains caffeine, too. Pregnant women should limit their intake of caffeine to no more than 200mg daily (source: NHS).
Therefore the number of bars or squares of chocolate you eat also depends on how much caffeine you’re getting from other sources, like drinking tea or coffee. Different chocolate bars contain different amounts of caffeine. I’ve listed some of the most popular ones, below.
How much Caffeine is in Chocolate?
I went a bit crazy and researched the caffeine content of over 140 chocolate bars and brands and put them together in an ULTIMATE list. You can view the list here, on a separate page.
The most popular brands are summarised below, from lowest to highest caffeine levels. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on this page, check the ultimate list.
If you’ve got a huge chocolate bar in the fridge, for example, check the weight and you’ll know how much to break off – and stop at that to stay on the safe side of caffeine intake. Or you can read the weight of your favorite bar and calculate the caffeine accordingly:
|Brand or Type of Chocolate||Serving or Amount||Mg Caffeine|
|White Chocolate (generic, no cocoa solids)||1oz (28.3g)||0 – white chocolate is caffeine-free|
|Hershey’s Cookies & Creme||1 bar (1.4oz, 40g)||1|
|Chocolate Flavored Milk||1 cup (236ml)||2|
|Almond Joy||1 bar (1.6oz, 45g)||3|
|Bounty Bar||1 bar (57g)||3|
|Crunchie Bar||1 bar (40g)||3|
|Chocolate Chip Cookie (generic)||1 cookie (1 oz, 28.3g)||3|
|Milky Way (original)||1 bar (2.05oz)||3.5|
|3 Musketeers (original)||1 bar (2.13oz)||4|
|Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups||1 package (1.5oz)||4|
|Twix (original)||1 pack (50g, 2 bars)||4|
|Mars Bar (non-USA version)||1 bar (51g)||4|
|Snickers Bar||1 bar (48g)||5|
|Milk Chocolate (generic, up to 45% cocoa solids)||1oz (28.3g)||5 (average, may be slightly more or less)|
|Kit Kat (original)||1 bar (4 wafers)||6|
|Smarties||1 tube (38g)||7|
|Cadbury’s Flake||1 bar (32g)||7|
|Kit Kat Chunky||1 bar (40g)||7|
|Cadbury’s Twirl||1 bar (2 x 21.5g fingers)||8|
|Cadbury’s Dairy Milk||1 bar (45g)||9|
|Chocolate Cake (with frosting)||1 slice (1/12th standard cake)||9|
|Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar||1 bar (1.55oz, 43g)||10|
|Hershey’s Kisses||8 kisses||11|
|Dark Chocolate (generic, 45-59% cocoa solids)||1oz (28.3g)||12|
|Coffee Crisp Bar||1 bar (50g)||20|
|Dark Chocolate (generic, 60 – 69% cocoa solids)||1oz (28.3g)||24|
|Dark Chocolate (generic, 70% or more cocoa solids)||1oz (28.3g)||26, can be more if it contains more cocoa solids|
|Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar||1 bar (1.45oz, 41g)||31|
Sources: Manufacturer information, plus US Dept. of Agriculture’s FoodData Central.
Can’t find your favorite chocolate on this list? Here’s the ultimate list.
Bear in mind that just because a chocolate bar is low in caffeine, it doesn’t mean you can eat lots of them! Again, chocolate is best eaten in moderation during pregnancy. Which leads us on to the benefits and drawbacks, below.
What Are The Benefits of Chocolate in Pregnancy? (Is It Good or Bad?)
Chocolate has long been studied for possible benefits, in pregnancy and otherwise. Here’s a roundup of some of the scientific papers and research concerning chocolate.
There have been a couple of studies (one in 2010 and 2016) that make a positive connection between the consumption of chocolate as a high-flavonoid food, and a lower risk of preeclampsia and better placental function.
In 2004, a Finnish study found that babies born to mothers who had eaten chocolate in pregnancy were more ‘positive’ and ‘reactive’. This led to sensationalist headlines such as “Eat Chocolate for a Happy Baby”. However, again, this was not a straight cause-and-effect conclusion, as the researchers pointed out that there may have been other factors besides chocolate (source: New Scientist).
There’s also the theory that eating chocolate lowers stress and makes you happier (source: WebMD). However, yet again, the results weren’t conclusive.
The takeaway from all this? Until there are further, conclusive studies, eat chocolate in moderation if it makes you happy to do so! One thing that has been scientifically established by the Society for Endocrinology is that the mother’s mood affects the baby, so if chocolate lifts your mood, there’s no reason to avoid it, as long as it’s enjoyed in moderate amounts.
Can I Eat Chocolate in Every Trimester?
In your first and second trimesters, treating yourself to chocolate every now and then is safe, in moderation.
In the third trimester, you should cut down on foods containing polyphenols, and chocolate is one such food. This is because a 2010 study found that dietary sources of polyphenols may trigger fetal ductus arteriosus constriction, a rare but serious condition that causes too much blood to circulate in the baby’s lungs and heart.
Remember, chocolate in moderation is usually perfectly fine in pregnancy – there’s no need to panic if you’ve eaten it in late pregnancy. You can enjoy chocolate safely, but cutting down and monitoring your intake is the key. If you have any concerns about your diet, then consult your physician or a medical professional.
Why Am I Craving Chocolate During Pregnancy?
It’s not known exactly why women crave chocolate more than some other foods in pregnancy. In the USA, chocolate has been reported as the most-craved food of all (source: PubMed).
In 2014 a group of researchers put forward several hypotheses on why chocolate was craved so much and so often in pregnancy. There was no conclusive link between chocolate cravings and hormone levels. Nor was there any nutritional deficit that might have caused the biological response of a craving.
There was, however, some evidence to suggest that chocolate cravings are down to psychological and cultural influence. Pregnant women are often encouraged to eat more or ‘eat for two’ (despite the fact that excess weight gain isn’t good in pregnancy. Source: NCBI).
Therefore it was put forward that we crave chocolate because it’s somewhat of a ‘naughty treat’, and seen as a way to indulge oneself (and hey, if you’re pregnant, you deserve a treat!). Whether or not this is the definitive reason is still not known, but it’s a pretty good hypothesis.
Craving chocolate is perfectly normal, and so long as your intake is controlled properly, it’s a safe treat to have in pregnancy. Many dishes with chocolate in them are listed below, along with information on how safe they are to eat in pregnancy.
Dishes Containing Chocolate That May Not Be Pregnancy-Safe
There are a handful of chocolate dishes that may not be safe in pregnancy, and these are listed here:
- Chocolate Mousse may not be pregnancy-safe if it’s homemade. This is because mousse is often set with raw egg, which remains uncooked. If the eggs aren’t pasteurized, then there is a risk of contracting salmonella. Click here to read more about egg and pregnancy safety. Commercially-made chocolate mousses are often made with pasteurized ingredients and are safe (but check the label first).
- Chocolate Fondants (the type with the gooey center) aren’t always pregnancy-safe as they are also made with raw egg, and the ‘runny’ center means the eggs aren’t cooked enough to be pregnancy-safe if the eggs aren’t pasteurized. You can read more about eggs and pregnancy safety here.
- Raw or uncooked chocolate cake or brownie batter is unsafe for the same reasons, and this will also contain raw flour as well as raw egg. You should avoid raw flour and eggs in pregnancy. Cooked chocolate cake and brownies are fine (see below).
- Chocolate ice cream is safe if it’s commercially made, with pasteurized eggs. Homemade ice cream may contain raw egg and is therefore unsafe. You can read all about the safety of ice cream in pregnancy here.
- Chocolate Liqueurs, Truffles and Rum balls contain varying degrees of alcohol in them. If making them yourself, you can control the alcohol in the recipe. If you’ve had them bought for you (lucky thing), then the amounts of alcohol are negligible if you only eat one or two a day, maximum. If you’re likely to polish off the whole bag or box, then avoid these types of chocolates or save them until your baby is born.
- Chocolate covered coffee beans – they’re so massively high in caffeine that it’s best to avoid them entirely in pregnancy. One 1oz serving delivers up to 336mg of caffeine. That’s about five and a half espresso shots! As a teenager, I ate a huge bag full of these things and didn’t sleep for two days, unsurprisingly.
Dishes Containing Chocolate That Are Safe When Pregnant
So long as you’re keeping an eye on your caffeine, sugar and fat intake, there’s nothing to stop you from having a chocolatey treat when you’re pregnant. The following dishes are often queried, but they’re safe to have in pregnancy:
- Hot Chocolate or Drinking Chocolate – if making it yourself, use whole milk for extra calcium and try to use less sugar if possible. Some commercial chocolate drinks (e.g. in coffee shops) can rack up the calories, so have them as an occasional treat, rather than a regular thing.
- Chocolate Eclairs – So long as the cream inside them is pasteurized, eclairs (or similar desserts like profiteroles) are safe to eat. The same issue of moderation applies, though (sadly).
- Chocolate breakfast cereal – this is fine to eat in pregnancy with pasteurized milk (as most commercially produced milk is).
- Chocolate Cake or Gateaux – is safe when pregnant, as it’s usually a layer of chocolate cake and cream. If the dairy in the cream is pasteurized, then chocolate cake or gateaux is fine. If it’s homemade or contains ice cream, check that the ingredients are pasteurized first.
- Chocolate ganache – is often used in desserts, and it’s usually melted chocolate and cream. So long as the cream is pasteurized, as most are, then it’s pregnancy-safe.
- Chocolate chip cookies – are safe to eat if you’re pregnant, if the cookie is fully baked. Cookie dough, on the other hand, may not be safe in pregnancy. You’ll find more information on this under my article all about cookie dough ice cream.
- Chocolate coated raisins, peanuts – or other chocolate-coated fruit & nut varieties are all safe to eat when you’re pregnant.
- Chocolate milkshakes – chocolate milkshake is safe to have in pregnancy if it’s made from pasteurized milk. However, take care if it’s an ice-cream based milkshake or if it’s dispensed from a soft-serve machine. See more about this on my ice cream article.
- Flavored chocolates – such as peppermint or hazelnut chocolate, is also safe in pregnancy. There are no particular flavors of chocolates that you need to avoid, other than keeping an eye on your caffeine intake if you have a weakness for coffee creams, or other coffee-flavored desserts that have an above-average amount of caffeine in them.