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?


2 thoughts on “Chocolate Milk for Kids: Healthy or Not?

  1. Jennifer – I think you should investigate this a little further because what you will find is that if a child consumes flavored milk through out the school year, they would have consumed a GALLON of pure sugar. A GALLON? That equals an additional 10,000 calories in the 10 months that they are in school. If you don’t think consuming 10,000 additional calories will lead to obesity, then I’m not sure what will.

    I agree that there are other vises that are more harmful to our kids, but if we can make this small change that has a huge impact in our kids lives, then why not? I also agree that having choices like flavored milk is fun, but that should be for parents to indulge in, but it shouldn’t have a place in schools where we need our kids alert and in their best health.

    There is no silver bullet to the dilemma of obesity and childhood diabetes, but there are things we can change and again this is a small change that can make a major impact!

    Just my two cents.

    Note: You can look up Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution to support my statistics.

  2. Variety is fun, childhood is fun. Chocolate milk is much healthier than many other choices in the food environment of a school cafeteria. Discrimination comes in many forms and excluding a food because it contains sugar is not going to make childhood obesity go away. Schools have had chocolate milk as a choice since I was a kid (70’s). What we didn’t have was free choice of sausage pizza and nacho chips. A 4-8 oz serving of chocolate milk isn’t going to produce obesity or cancer. Add a plate of nachos with presto cheese sauce though. . . External restrictions can result in oppositional defiance and could lead to increased demands for chocolate milk – do we want to promote equal rights rallies in honor of chocolate milk? I may need to start a “root vegetables deserve some love” campaign, though. Root vegetables may be restricted in the school lunch program. The intent is probably to limit French Fries but it also limits sweet potatoes, parsnips, and rutabagas, when it would make more sense to limit the use of deep fried foods. Potatoes aren’t bad – deep fryers are bad.

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