As a registered dietitian and mom, I strongly believe that flavored milk is a nutrient-rich beverage. The facts are undisputable.
• Flavored milk has nine essential nutrients, the same nutrients as white milk: calcium, potassium, protein, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus and vitamins D, A and B12.
• Milk provides 3 of the 4 nutrients often missing in adult’s and children’s diets: calcium, potassium and vitamin D.
• Milk is the number one source of protein for children age 2-11
• Flavored milk has a small amount of added sugar: 3-5 teaspoons in an 8-ounce serving.
• The big picture: Flavored milk accounts for less than 3% of the added sugar in children’s diets.
• Looking to cut sugar? Consider the major sources of sugar that aren’t nutrient-rich: regular soft drinks, energy drinks, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, sports drinks, candy and some baked goods such as pastries.
• Children and teens who drink flavored milk have higher nutrient intakes and lower BMI (body mass index) than non-milk drinkers.
• Children who drink flavored milk do not have higher intakes of added sugars or total fat than children who do not drink flavored milk.
• Drinking chocolate milk after intense physical activity provides fluid, replenishes lost electrolytes such as potassium, and refuels muscles with protein and carbohydrates.
My mantra: If someone doesn’t like white milk, flavored milk is a healthy option. My viewpoint is backed by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and reputable health organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
My daughter is a case-in-point. At age five, she declared she didn’t like white milk. The reason for the sudden change in food preference didn’t matter: What she wanted to eat and drink from what I provided was her prerogative. Maybe she was asserting her independence. Maybe she wanted to try something different. Maybe a friend said he didn’t like white milk and my daughter decided, well, neither did she.
Knowing she needed the nutrients in milk, I considered my options. Switching to flavored milk was one; another was offering more yogurt and cheese. We tried chocolate and strawberry milk. My daughter liked both and drank flavored milk exclusively for a while, then decided she liked white milk, too.
What if I hadn’t offered flavored milk? It’s very likely that my daughter would not have drank milk at all.
This is what can happen in schools when flavored milk is banned. One study showed that when flavored milk was banned in elementary schools, milk consumption dropped dramatically (35%) and didn’t bounce back. As a result, kids may not get the nutrients they need.
It’s difficult and expensive for schools to make up for the loss of milk’s nine essential nutrients with other foods and beverages.
If that weren’t enough food for thought, dairy processors are proactively reformulating fat-free and low-fat flavored milk to lower the amount of calories and added sugar. There are flavored milks on the market with 150 calories and 25 grams of sugar or less per 8-ounce serving (this includes lactose, the natural sugar in milk, and added sugar).
At home, at school–anywhere–flavored milk is a healthy option and a smart choice.
Karen appears on “Moms Everyday” WILX-TV, Lansing, MI
Why Chocolate Milk? United Dairy Industry of Michigan
Doctors and dietitians explain why chocolate milk is always a good choice United Dairy Industry of Michigan
Does chocolate milk belong on school menus? Consumer Reports
Milk: What’s in School Lunches? Phil Lempert, Supermarket Guru
The Changing Face of School Cafeterias by Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, pediatrician, posted on Parenthood.com