Chocolate Milk for Kids: Healthy or Not?

Is it a good idea to add sugar to milk to encourage more children to drink it?

Or is chocolate milk just another sugary beverage that will add unnecessary calories to kids’ diets?

If you follow health news at all, you’ve probably noticed this nutrition controversy getting a lot of news coverage. Here’s one story.

Here’s what we know:

Milk contains significant amounts of calcium and is fortified with vitamin D, important for children’s bone development and growth. Milk consumption has decreased significantly in the United States, by about 1/3 since 1968.

Chocolate milk contains added sugars and therefore more calories that can lead to more overweight and obesity. In the United States, 1/3 of children are already overweight and obese and at higher risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Calories in 1 cup milk:

1% white milk = 102

1% chocolate milk = 158

Fat-free chocolate milk = 130

The concern with removing chocolate milk from schools is that children will drink less milk.

What’s the evidence?

I couldn’t find much.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2006 New York City public schools began switching from whole milk to lowfat and fat free milk. The milk industry warned that student demand for milk would decrease. Although it did initially decrease, by 2009 children actually did drink more milk than in 2006.

According to one study (poster presentation report here) however, removing chocolate milk from schools did lead to a decrease in children choosing milk. This study was funded by the Milk Processor Education Program.

What do you think? Should chocolate milk be served in schools? Or is it adding too many calories and sugar to children’s diets?