More than great taste.
Chocolate milk contains the same great nutrient-rich package as white milk, including vitamin D, calcium and potassium – “nutrients of concern” that most kids fail to get enough of, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Low-fat and fat-free milk (white or flavored) contain a unique contribution of nine essential nutrients, which are important for growth and development. In fact, authoritative nutrition guidance recognizes the positive role of flavored milk.
Milk in Schools
Flavored milk, especially chocolate milk, has come under discussion in many schools across the country. The issue has triggered strong emotions as well as many myths.
Drinking fat-free chocolate milk can help children get their three daily servings of milk as recommended by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Plus, when kids drink nutrient-rich flavored milk, they improve their overall diet quality.
Today’s milk in schools is regulated by nutrition standards through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2015. Schools must provide low-fat or fat-free white milk and/or fat-free flavored milk to children. To comply with these standards and meet consumer demands, most milk processors have reformulated flavored milk for school, lowering the sugar and calorie content. Many schools are currently serving milk with the following:
- 0 grams of fat
- 130 calories
- 18 grams of total sugar (12 grams of lactose naturally found in all white milk and 6 grams of actual added sugar)
Concerns About Added Sugar
Every eight ounce glass of milk, white or flavored, naturally contains 12 grams of sugar in the form of lactose. Today’s flavored milk in school contains an average of only 6 grams of added sugars – the sugars we want to minimize in the diet.
On average flavored milk contributes just three percent of added sugars and two percent of calories to children’s diets. In comparison, on average, carbonated soda and fruit drinks contribute 45 percent of added sugars and 9 percent of calories to kids’ diets, and many of these beverages provide few nutrients. Research published by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association recognized in 2008 that Drinking Flavored or Plain Milk Is Positively Associated with Nutrient Intake and Is Not Associated with Adverse Effects of Weight Status in US Children and Adolescents. Children who drink flavored milk have better quality diets, do not have higher intakes of added sugar or fat and are just as likely to be at a healthy weight compared to kids who do not drink flavored milk.
The Unintended Consequences of Eliminating Flavored Milk from Schools
A national study reviewing The Impact on Student Milk Consumption and Nutrient Intakes from Eliminating Flavored Milk in Schools demonstrated that eliminating flavored milk from elementary schools resulted in a dramatic 35% drop in milk consumption which did not rebound over time. Similar results occurred in Colorado.
More recent studies showed similar decreases in milk consumption when flavored milk is removed from schools. The following studies provide support for how flavored milk helps students drink milk and consume valuable nutrients:
- Impact on Milk Consumption and Nutrient Intakes from Eliminating Flavored Milk in Elementary Schools – 2013
- Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluating the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Cafeterias – 2014
A Canadian study published in 2015 concluded that overall milk consumption decreased by 48% in a 4-week period when flavored milk was removed from school milk programs.
- Flavored Milk in Perspective (National Dairy Council, September 2009)
- American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Soft Drinks in Schools, 2004
- Children and Adolescents’’ Choices of Foods and Beverages High in Added Sugars Are Associated With Intakes of Key Nutrients and Food Groups (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2004)
- Children Who Avoid Drinking Cows Milk are at Increased Risk for Pre-pubertal Bone Fractures (Journal of American Dietetic Association, 2004)
- The Nutritional Consequence of Flavored-Milk Consumption by School-Aged Children and Adolescents in the US (Journal of American Dietetic Association, 2002)
- Flavored Milk is a Nutritious Choice for Children
- Studies and References Regarding Flavored Milk
- Just the Facts: Flavored Milk
- The Truth About Flavored Milk
- Flavored Milk and the School Meal Environment
- Flavored Milk Provides Nine Essential Nutrients