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Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, oh my!

Posted Friday, August 19, 2011, at 7:25 AM

Do you remember the chocolate milk at school? Chocolicious! Some schools now serve strawberry and vanilla flavored milks too. My nephew tried strawberry milk for the first time at school this week. He's hooked.

Terri Neighbors, a local school Food Service Director, tells me that the majority of today's students prefer chocolate and other flavored milks over white milk. She's even seen students pouring chocolate milk into their breakfast cereal!

Many Kindergarten classrooms also have a milk break. Kindergarteners have the potential to drink chocolate and other flavored milks three times at school: breakfast, milk break, and lunch. Other students eating both breakfast and lunch at school may be drinking two cartons of chocolate milk per day (more if they buy extra).

A few months ago our family dinner conversation turned to whether school lunch rooms should offer chocolate milk. Ed argued that ounce-per-ounce some chocolate milks contain nearly as much sugar as colas and more calories. Ed thinks schools should offer neither flavored milk nor soda in the school lunch room or classroom. Some health experts are on his side, arguing chocolate milk should be ban in schools to help fight the childhood obesity epidemic.

I'm not so sure. Chocolate milk contains calcium, Vitamin D, and protein, making it more nutritious than soda, despite the added sugar. In addition, almost half the sugar in chocolate milk occurs naturally in milk.

Wobbly, I stand by this argument. I fully support the addition of a little (key word) chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry if a child will not drink milk any other way. When Lilly was a year old, she began refusing to drink milk. For a few weeks I added a tiny bit of vanilla instant breakfast mix to her milk. This got her drinking milk again. She now drinks white milk at home without insisting the deal be sweetened with any flavoring.

At some point during our chocolate milk debate (Ed can occasionally pontificate on and on), I pulled Lilly into the fold. I asked her, "Do you drink white or chocolate milk at school." Without hesitation she promptly replied, "Chocolate!" Horrified, I wanted to shriek. I couldn't believe she was no longer drinking white milk like she did in Kindergarten.

Why did I have a problem with Lilly drinking chocolate milk at school?

High fructose corn syrup--the sweetener in many flavored milks and many popular sodas. Don't be fooled into thinking vanilla and strawberry flavored milks have less sugar than chocolate flavored milks, they often have more. Unlike instant breakfast mixes and some flavored milk mixes, the syrup added to cartons of flavored milk is often a high fructose corn syrup mixture with no fortified nutrients such as calcium, iron, or vitamin C.

This school year, we'll still give Lilly the choice--white or chocolate milk. We'll then balance her snacks at home accordingly. She can still have chocolate milk at school--though I hope she won't--but she she'll get a more nutritious snack that evening. If she chooses to drink white milk, we may let her have a sweet treat for an evening snack. We'll use it as a lesson in moderation. We don't want her to eliminate all pleasure foods but rather learn to balance sweets with nutritious alternatives.

What are your thoughts on schools serving flavored milk? Should they serve them at all? Should they limit how many flavored milks a student can have each day?


Comments
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I DON'T SEE THE PROBLEM WITH CHILDREN DRINKING FLAVORED MILK - IT'S MILK - LET THEM CHOOSE THE FLAVOR (OVER & DONE WITH).

-- Posted by guitar.man on Mon, Aug 22, 2011, at 1:34 PM

Many milk distributors have been reformulating their flavored milks to reduce the sugar and calorie content. Is the milk distributor that your child's school buys from one of them? Would you like it to be? If so, contact the school food service director. Alternatively, contact the milk distributor for the latest information.

-- Posted by TraceyLinneweber on Thu, Aug 25, 2011, at 1:35 PM


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