flavored milk and school lunch programs

Chocolate Milk Debate Rages On

Can chocolate milk really be healthy? An ad campaign promoting flavored milk in school lunch programs has some parents mooing in discontent.

Chocolate Milk Debate Rages On

A dairy industry ad campaign claims a glassful of sugar helps the milk go down.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Don't have a cow, really. It's just chocolate milk, says the dairy industry. But an ad campaign promoting flavored milks over healthy, plain white milk has some nutritionists up in arms.

THE DETAILS: The debate started at the beginning of November, when the industry-supported National Dairy Council, citing research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dietetic Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and other health organizations, launched the campaign, which touted chocolate and other flavored milk in school lunch programs as a healthier alternative to sugary sodas and fruit drinks. Research has shown, the group notes, that kids who drink sugar-sweetened dairy products are more likely to get their recommended allotment of calcium than kids who drank sodas, and less likely to drink those sodas and fruit drinks, than kids who didn't drink flavored milk. The AAP has stated in the past that milk of any sort provides 72 percent of a child's calcium requirements, 22 percent of their vitamin B12, 19 percent of their daily protein, and 15 percent of their vitamin A. The group also recommends that children drink dairy products during adolescence to ward off hip fractures, the risk of which can increase up to 50 percent among kids who experience even a slight 5 percent deficit in bone mass while they’re young. The Dairy Council says that without flavored milk, kids would gravitate towards sodas and sugary fruit drinks, which provide little, if any, nutritional value.

However, critics of the campaign, including the "Renegade Lunch Lady" Ann Cooper, the director of nutrition services in Boulder, Colorado’s school district, who has made a name for herself by advocating for healthier food in school lunch programs, point to the fact that the sugar in flavored milk (usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup) adds 40 to 60 calories to each pint. That can give a kid five extra pounds of weight over the course of a school year. Given the rising rates of childhood obesity, critics argue, the benefits of flavored milk don't outweigh the detriments of weight gain. This side of the debate prefers total removal of flavored milks in favor of white milk, no-added-sugar fruit juices, and water.

The National School Lunch Program still promotes the option of chocolate milk. It's also supporting "Flavored Milk Friday" surveys, being conducted in some schools and school districts to see whether, in the absence of flavored milks, kids will still drink white milk, and whether they'll opt for white over flavored milks when both options are offered. The results of these surveys are expected in January.

WHAT IT MEANS: It may be difficult to overcome kids' innate desire for sweet things, and if sweetened, flavored milks are the best delivery system for vital nutrients like calcium, perhaps we should back off, says Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and a nutrition-policy consultant for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "Sometimes a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down," she says. "Of course, we would prefer that kids not have any sugar, that they would prefer plain milk over flavored. But it's more important to teach children that flavored milks are better than drinking soda." She says that research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association has found very little difference in the weights and nutrient intakes of kids who drink flavored milk and kids who drink plain milk, and that should give parents some comfort, she adds.

"Chocolate milk is really the least of our problems right now with our children," she says. "We have more problems with them eating other unhealthy snacks and junk food. What they're getting in school lunches is much healthier than what they're getting in vending machines."


Published on: November 30, 2009

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I recently finished a Masters

I recently finished a Masters in education and we discussed a few times about the importance of school boards. There are a lot of local school boards across the United States, each independently addressing one of education’s most critical challenges: how to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Parents could hire people who

Parents could hire people who have a homeland security degree to keep their kids away from such unhealthy products that are being sold in schools. I don't understand how this is possible. Such products should have never been sold in schools in the first place.

My opinion is that people who

My opinion is that people who have criminal justice degrees should find a way to change this current order. We can't simply let our schools feed our children what ever they feel like. Responsibility should be in high regard. Hope you understand my point of view.

It's pretty much the

It's pretty much the proverbial bottom of the barrel milk. We're not supposed to be catering to kids' sweet-tooth. We're supposed to be teaching them to make healthy lifestyle choices but yet most school kids are not going to base their food choices on health over taste
Project server 2010

I think that people who have

I think that people who have a communication degree could help with starting a national campaign against unhealthy food in our schools. If we educate our youngsters to eat healthy, they will grow up having that habit. This is a positive fact and it should be done as soon as possible.


I think they should let them serve it because they get the choice they choose what they want to drink as long as its still healthy

chocolate milk

i think schools should serve chocolate milk cuz it's da ppls choice to drink it or not



chococlate milk

your right we should make better choices!! So that we don't end up fat!! =)

Chocolate milk

I think schools should not have chocolate milk we should have 2% milk instead od 1% so kids would like it better!! then we should have water to drink it is way better for our health. Plus chocolate milk has 27 grams of sugar in it thats not good for our health we should be making better choices. Please make the right choice for our health

Chocolate Milk

They are worried if we get rid of chocolate milk, they won't have enough calories in school lunches? Are you kidding me? Here's a typical lunch my kids' school: Biscuits & Gravy w/ Sausage; Tater Tots, Apple juice, Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake. First of all, I don't think milk is good for my kids and even if I did, schools don't get organic milk. It's pretty much the proverbial bottom of the barrel milk. We're not supposed to be catering to kids' sweet-tooth. We're supposed to be teaching them to make healthy lifestyle choices but yet most school kids are not going to base their food choices on health over taste. Why do we have to give them unhealthy choices at all?

Re: Chocolate Milk

I had read the same information while researching this article. The chemical you're referring to, oxalate, does exist in chocolate to some degree.

However, I asked Andrea Giancoli about the levels of oxalate in chocolate milk, and she said that because the chocolate in milk is mostly flavoring and sugar (with very little actual chocolate), it's unlikely that oxalate will exist at the levels needed to interfere with calcium absorption.

You're very correct, though--moderation is key, if not for the oxalate, for cutting back on sugar intake.
-Emily Main

Chocolate milk

When my kids were small, the experts always said that chocolate contains a chemical that ties up calcium and keeps their bodies from using the nutrition found in milk. Has this been disproven? Some more of this damned if you do and damned if you don't B.S. I suppose. Somebody is always finding fault with everything parents try to do for their kids. What is considered bad, horrible and awful today will be touted as wonderful, wise and exactly what the doctor ordered next month, and vice versa. It's all about moderation, folks, and plain old common sense. If adding a little chocolate or strawberry powder to milk gets the kids to drink it, then go for it. Put half a banana and a teaspoon of sugar in a blender and dump their milk in and take it for a spin. Make it an adventure and they'll be more likely to look forward to drinking it.

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