Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Removal of chocolate milk from schools

Photo by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The New York Times recently ran an article that discusses arguments for and against the removal of flavored milk from schools.

With the amount of added sugar in the standard 8 fl oz serving of chocolate milk offered in schools, kids are getting more of a treat than a healthy beverage with their lunch on a daily basis. The added sweeteners in flavored milk can cause it to contain twice as much sugar as plain low-fat milk! Milk contains calcium, protein, and vitamin D, which support normal body functions such as locomotion and brain performance, and are essential for growing kids. However, cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are not. Milk is naturally sweet from lactose and does not require the added sugar that flavored milk contains.

High sugar consumption is a serious matter. In the long run, it can lead to weight gain and obesity and can disrupt absorption of required nutrients by the body, leading to numerous health effects. In the short term, high sugar consumption can lead to fatigue and migraines which can interrupt learning at school.

Currently, 71% of milk served in schools nationwide is flavored; the majority of it being chocolate. However, its unnecessarily high sugar content has lead some schools to remove it as an option in their cafeterias. This year, schools in Berkley, California are only serving plain milk and school officials in Florida are also considering the ban.

Milk consumption is falling though and is being replaced by sugary drinks such as soda. Recent studies show that on average, milk consumption in elementary schools decreases by 35% once flavored milk is removed from cafeterias. This, coupled with research confirming that nearly three-quarters of teenagers and adults are deficient in the essential nutrients contained in milk forces some to question if flavoring milk is necessary in order to get the kids to drink it and get those nutrients. Is it better for kids to drink milk with added sugar than to not drink milk at all?

Ann Cooper, who runs a national Web site,, aimed at reforming school lunch, and advocates for feeding kids healthier food, puts it succinctly in the article when she says… “Saying we need to add sugar and flavoring to milk to get kids to drink it is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples.”

Chocolate milk in moderation is all right for kids, but we shouldn’t be teaching them that it is a healthy choice for their daily diet.

We should not make food unhealthy just to get kids to eat it. This seems to defeat the initial purpose of consuming the once healthy beverage. If kids do not like plain milk, there are other ways for them to get their calcium while avoiding unnecessary amounts of sugar. Green leafy vegetables or grains are great options that are even more calcium-rich than milk.

Let us know what you think… Is it better to drink milk with added sugar than no milk at all? Or are schools heading in the right direction by removing flavored milk?


Malaney said...

It is definitely better to drink plain milk as opposed to flavored milk! Something else we should be considering is the fact that it is better to drink whole milk than reduced fat milk. Whole milk, cheeses and whole foods in general are chemically composed to work with our bodies' chemistry to give us the proper nutrition we need, and to make it run efficiently. Over the last century and specifically the past 50 years, when we started taking nutrients OUT of food, like fat, because we thought it was bad for us, we all started GAINING weight and the modern health epidemics we face today, were born. I saw a commercial this morning, advertising 1% fat Smart Balance milk, because (allegedly) 2% milk has the same amount of saturated fat as a serving of small fries, therefore it is bad for you. I'm not going to even comment on this, except to say that what has our world, and the world of advertising and the twisted marketing of food come to?! I mean seriously, advertising that a serving of fries is better for you than a serving of milk? In the likeness of Ann Cooper, are we trying to say that if you serve your child 2% milk its like serving them fries? Come on.

Michele Hays said...

What if we offered flavored milk as a dessert option? For instance, you could get a cookie OR flavored milk, but not both; it sends the message that chocolate (or "strawberry flavor") is a treat, but milk is food. I like this post a lot: The Chocolate Milk Mistake

Anonymous said...

Absolutely remove chocolate milk from school menus. I'll go further and agree that there are healthier alternatives which provide more calcium and protein without the hormones and pesticides that are more commonly found in animal by-products.

As a wellness coach, I prefer to adhere to the notion that our bodies were not meant to have milk past infantile age because the lactase enzyme is no longer functioning. Therefore, we cannot efficiently break the milk protein down and as a result, digestive issues grow out of control and turn into diseases of the bowel, etc. Lactose intolence is not just an African American malady. It a matter of biology. Cows milk is for kids; baby cows that is!
Michele Banks
Cherry Hill, NJ

OSP said...

The seed for school lunch reform has been planted and the debate on flavored milk is positive evidence that there is a growing concerned about what kids are eating at school and that the nation is beginning to shift towards a healthier approach!

Thank you all for your valuable comments that raise awareness on health concerns related to milk. Due to the added sugar, flavored milk should definitely be served as a dessert option opposed to a drink with your meal, and further discussion about the realities of our current diet, taking nutrients out of whole milk to get a reduced fat option, and drinking another animal's milk past infancy when we can no longer break down the milk protein efficiently, is necessary in order to develop a diet that is truly healthy for our kids, and ourselves.

Deciding what we feed our kids is an important decision that requires discussion from informed people like you. Stay tuned for further updates on how school lunch is improving step by step! And continue to comment and let us know what you think as we strive to improve what the kids are eating.