Your local schools may not. In recent years, as a result of growing concerns over childhood obesity, many schools and districts have discontinued their sales of chocolate milk as a way of slashing added sugars and seemingly unnecessary calories. If they do serve chocolate milk, it must be fat-free (in May of 2017, this regulation was changed to allow for 1 percent chocolate milk in the school meal programs – See 1% Chocolate is Back for more). But has this well-intentioned effort resulted in unintended consequences?
According to a new study published in the Journal of School Health, perhaps.
The study found that children (ages 2-18 years old) who drank flavored milk drank more milk overall and were more likely to meet recommendations for calcium than children who did not drink flavored milk.
This research adds to the body of evidence that points towards the idea that removing flavored milk from schools may have unintended consequences, including reduced overall milk consumption and increased milk waste. Past research has shown that in general, kids who drink flavored milk drink more milk overall, 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 consume flavored milk. In fact, flavored milk contributes only about four percent of added sugars to children’s diets (children ages 2-18 years old).
In recent years, dairy processors have proactively reformulated flavored milks available in schools, recognizing that many schools want to reduce sugar content in their menu offerings. The average flavored milk available in schools today has about 122 calories (only 25 more than white milk) and about 55 percent less added sugar than flavored milk 10 years ago.
Additionally, milk, including flavored, is the leading food source of leading food source of nine essential nutrients including protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, B12, D and riboflavin – and is an invaluable source of key nutrients during growth and development.
As noted by health and wellness authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, some added sugars can be included as part of healthy eating patterns to help increase consumption of nutrient-rich foods.
Maybe you’ve been wondering if flavored milk is a nutritious choice for children. No matter what the flavor, milk delivers great taste and a unique package of essential nutrients. All flavored milk – whether reduced-fat, low-fat or fat-free – provides the same nutrients as white milk.
As a registered dietitian and mom of 3 young kids, nutrition is important to me. But reality tells me that taste dictates everything. It’s not until we are able to put down our ideals and embrace that reality, that we all win.
-Jenna Allen, MS, RD