There have been many strides forward to help improve the nutritional quality of school meals over the years – including the removal of soft drinks, candy and other high sugar items from the menu at schools. However, some schools and activists are calling for another change that could cause more harm than good: removing chocolate milk.
It’s hard to get children to eat healthy and get enough of the vitamins and minerals they need to grow and thrive, and children are falling short of the recommended servings of dairy and key milk nutrients critical to growth and bone development. Offering low-fat and fat-free milk is an excellent and healthy way to increase milk consumption among students!
- A common myth about flavored milk is that it’s less healthy than its unflavored counterpart. The truth is that just like unflavored milk, chocolate milk contains the same nine essential nutrients, including three of the five “nutrients of concern” that children don’t get enough of – calcium, potassium and magnesium as well as vitamin D.1
- Despite common misconceptions, children who drink chocolate milk have better quality diets and don’t consume higher amounts of sugar, fat or calories. Those who drink flavored milk have lower intakes of soft drinks compared to those who do not drink flavored milk.2 In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages schools to offer milk, water or real fruit juice as healthy alternatives to soft drinks.3
- Offering flavored milk helps increase consumption and boosts overall participation in school meal programs. Two out of three children choose flavored milk at school – most of which is low-fat or fat-free4 – and studies have shown that flavored milk drinkers consume more milk than unflavored milk drinkers.2 Studies have also shown that removing flavored milk from schools results in an average of 50 percent reduction of milk consumption in all grade levels.5
As you can see, there are many reasons to keep flavored milk in school cafeterias! It’s vital to help children reach the three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Fortunately, kids today have many dairy choices at school and can find more nutritious milk, cheese and yogurt options in their cafeteria, including recent innovations such as reduced-sugar flavored milk.
- Frary CD, Johnson RK, Wang MQ. Children and adolescents’ choices of foods and beverages high in added sugars are associated with intakes of key nutrients and food groups. J Adolesc Health 2004;34(1):56-63.
- Johnson RK, Frary C, Wang MQ. The nutritional consequences of flavored milk consumption by school-aged children and adolescents in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002; 102(6):853-856.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on School Health. Soft drinks in schools. Pediatrics 2005; 113152-154
- ENVIRON International Corporation. School Milk: Fat Content Has Declined Dramatically since the Early 1990s. 2008.
- Patterson J, Saidel M. The Removal of Flavored Milk in Schools Results in a Reduction in Total Milk Purchases in All Grades, K-12. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109,(9): A97.