A few months ago, the National Dairy Council launched a campaign called Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk. This was in response to a number of schools removing the popular, flavored milk from their menus. If you have kids in school, you might be familiar with this issue which continues to be debated by parents, educators and health professionals.
The reason for removing the questionable milk? The small amount of added sugar. Chocolate, like plain milk, contains nine essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin. Research shows that kids who drink flavored milk actually meet more of their nutrient needs, do not take in more sugar, and are not more overweight than non-milk drinkers. The belief is, if you remove the sweeter chocolate milk the kids will go with plain instead. But this is not the case. The studies show that removing chocolate milk resulted in up to a 63% decrease in milk consumption.
Now, I'm not saying that all kids must drink milk. I know some non-milk drinkers who eat other sources of milk's nutrients. However, my personal experience as a mom, and dietitian, has shown that most of the time, this isn't the case. I'm always surprised how few kids and teens are consistently drinking milk. Since many of these kids are also not eating a lot of vegetables, soy or other low-fat dairy, their diets are deficient in essential nutrients. At a time of rapid growth and bone formation, this is not a time to be missing out on nutrition.
I know, I recently wrote about limiting foods with added sugar. The key message here is making educated choices about the sweetened foods in your diet. Isn't it better for kids to have a little added sugar with a very nutritious food, than not choose this food at all? When it comes to the option of chocolate milk in schools, my hand is raised. Is yours?