Chocolate milk in schools is not a black and white issue – there are some groups who stand to lose from this elimination: dairy farmers will get less income from the sale of flavored milks, school districts may have less students buying milk overall (reducing revenue for the school’s meal program) and students will have fewer beverage choices – will they suffer nutritionally from chocolate milk’s removal from the menu?
When I circulated this news on Twitter, I received some challenges from people in the dairy industry about the wisdom of this decision, and you can see many dairy farmer comments in reply to Simple, Good and Tasty’s post.
Then, when the Minneapolis Star Tribune posted its article, the news generated a huge number of comments, many of them very negative.
Frankly, I was a bit flabbergasted by the vitriol flying around about this topic. After reading through the comments, it’s clear that there’s a segment of the population who abhors anyone telling them what they cannot eat or drink; any restriction of food choices in the name of health is seen as an example of the “nanny state”. Some said chocolate milk is not the problem, why don’t those kids just get out and exercise.
Some thoughts based on my personal experiences with this:
I breastfed both of my children, and while my son took to cow’s milk after I stopped nursing him, my daughter never accepted milk no matter how many times I offered it to her.
When I spoke to the pediatrician about this, she wasn’t too concerned, saying that you can get calcium from other sources like cheese and yogurt plus certain vegetables and fruits (did you know that there are high amounts of calcium in dark leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard, and even oranges contain some calcium?). Also, many other foods like juice and packaged items are now fortified with calcium.
She was more concerned about excessive milk consumption and had seen more health issues with kids who drank too much milk.
Still, it has been so ingrained in our culture at this point that “milk does the body good”, that I feel like a deviant at the well-child appointments when the nurse asks me how many glasses of milk my daughter drinks and I say “zero”. But she is perfectly healthy.
I’m not against dairy products or the dairy industry – hey, I love cheese, yogurt and ice cream as much as anyone else and I use white milk regularly – but I do think that sweetened flavored milk is unnecessary.
I used to think “what’s the big deal about chocolate milk, at least you are getting the nutrients in milk”, but with the various articles I’ve been reading lately about the negative effects of excess sugar consumption, whether sugar is toxic to the body and the role that sugar may play in obesity and chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, my attitude has changed.
Maybe it comes down to your perception of whether excessive sugar in the diet is a problem or not. As a parent, I’m concerned about the amount of sugar that my kids ingest every day, because it seems to be in practically everything.
In the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, he staged a vivid demonstration representing the amount of sugar contained in flavored milks from just one week’s of meals within the LA school district. Here’s the clip.
I found this demo completely appalling.
Chocolate milk tastes good; of course kids are going to want to drink it.
Yes, you can teach your kid that chocolate milk is a treat (implying that it’s a special circumstance), but if they get it every day at school lunch (and maybe school breakfast too), that becomes the de facto expectation. I think it negatively trains the taste buds to expect sweetness in everything.
Parents can certainly offer chocolate milk to their kids at home if they want, nobody is restricting them from doing that. But I don’t see why the schools need to offer it.
Why do we have to bribe kids to drink milk, anyway? It seems ridiculous to me. In the case of my daughter, I’m perfectly fine with her drinking water at meals if she refuses to drink white milk.
The bigger questions to me are: Can kids be re-trained to drink white milk once they’ve become accustomed to drinking sweetened milk? If there are no other options besides white milk to drink at school lunches, will kids eventually drink it?
I’m curious to see how this all plays out in the Minneapolis school district.
What are your thoughts about this – is chocolate milk a big deal or not? Do you think chocolate milk should be offered as an option in schools?