There’s a pretty common knowledge base in terms of drinking milk (or taking in calcium in some other way, shape, or form) leading to stronger, healthier bones. After all, who wants to develop osteoporosis, to have an increased risk of breaking a hip or something in a fall, of being deficient in vitamins or minerals that are fairly easy to get, nutritionally speaking?
After all, isn’t that why the standard beverage …
… accompanying a school’s hot lunch is milk?
The inclusion of “flavored” milks such as chocolate and strawberry is coming under recent fire, however, with school administrations all over the country contemplating getting rid of what’s basically the only regular source of calcium a lot of kids consume.
Does this make any sense whatsoever?
Nutritionists – and parents – are split over whether bans make sense, especially when about 70 percent of milk consumed in schools is flavored, mostly chocolate, according to the industry-backed Milk Processors Education Program.
Many, including the School Nutrition Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and National Medical Association, argue that the nutritional value of flavored low-fat or skim milk outweighs the harm of added sugar. Milk contains nine essential nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and protein.
A joint statement from those groups points to studies that show kids who drink fat-free, flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers.
“Chocolate milk has been unfairly pegged as one of the causes of obesity,” said Julie Buric, vice president of marketing for the Milk Processors Education Program.
Others note the nation’s child obesity epidemic and say flavored milk simply needs to go.
Between living with two daughters and teaching adolescents all day, I spend the lion’s share of my time around children. I’ve seen a lot of obese children over the years, and I can honestly say that not one of them spent their time guzzling chocolate milk … two-liter bottles of Mountain Dew or Dunkin’ Donuts coolattas are far more common beverages of choice for these kids.
I would argue, in fact, that replacing soda or sugary beverage treats with fat-free flavored milk might actually have a positive impact on the obesity epidemic.
But obviously some people disagree with me.
“Chocolate milk is soda in drag,” said Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District in Louisville, Colo., which has banned flavored milk. “It works as a treat in homes, but it doesn’t belong in schools.”
Flavored milk is also a target of British TV chef Jamie Oliver, who has made revamping school food a signature cause.
For a segment to be aired on his “Food Revolution” TV show, he recently filled a school bus with white sand to represent the amount of sugar Los Angeles Unified school children consume weekly in flavored milk.
“If you have flavored milk, that’s candy,” he told The Associated Press.
If you put it into a bigger picture, though, there’s a potentially detrimental impact that’s already shown up.
Efforts by some other districts turned sour after children drank less milk. Milk consumption drops by 35 percent when flavored milks are removed, according to the Milk Processors Education Program.
Cabell County, W.Va., schools brought chocolate milk back at the recommendation of state officials, and Fairfax County, Va., did the same after its dairy provider came up with a version sweetened with beet sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.
The Florida Board of Education also backed away from its proposed ban on chocolate milk after the state agricultural commissioner urged the board to look at all sugary food and beverages served in schools.
Ms. Cooper, however, evidently feels that this is some sort of power play or something.
Cooper and others argued children will drink plain milk if that’s what’s offered.
“We’ve taught them to drink chocolate milk, so we can unteach them that,” Cooper said. “Our kids line up for milk.”
As a parent, this issue is very important to me.
My older daughter has always hated milk (chocolate, strawberry, or otherwise), so I’ve had to make sure that she receives adequate calcium, Vitamin D, and protein in other ways.
I’m also the parent of a chocolate milk-aholic, for which I’m actually profoundly grateful. This is a kid who gives new meaning to the term “picky eater”, and any sort of nutrition she’ll take in is pretty much a gift. I should, however, note that her chocolate milks are rationed—she has a carton at school, of course, but she’s only allowed one cup with breakfast and dinner. She’s aware of this and is happy to drink “white milk” at all other times.
As far as I’m concerned, this whole thing is making completely needless mountains out of molehills.
What are your thoughts?