Got chocolate milk? Then you’ve probably got controversy

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: July 8th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Chocolate milk, that sweet staple of childhood, is souring dispositions throughout the health community these days. A fierce debate is raging in public school cafeterias throughout the country over whether the beverage should be offered.

On one side are those who feel the drink is too sugary and calorie-laden for everyday consumption. On the other are those who fear banning the chocolate version will make kids skip milk altogether — and therefore miss out on important bone- and muscle-building vitamins and minerals.

It’s an important question because more than seventy percent of the milk distributed in schools is flavored, according to the Milk Processor Education Program.

Regular lowfat milk has twelve grams of sugar per half pint, compared with twice as many grams in chocolate milk. And many of the formulations served in schools have more calories, ounce for ounce, than a Coke. That’s worrisome at a time when childhood obesity is on the rise.

The problem is, studies have shown that when chocolate milk is removed, kids drink less milk. A study released recently by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that when chocolate milk was taken off menus in a Connecticut school district, total milk consumption dropped sixty-seven percent in grades three through eight.

Some schools are attempting to appease both sides by adjusting the formula to make the drink less fatty. A number of schools have replaced the high-fructose corn syrup usually used to sweeten the milk with sugar, which is less processed. But some nutritionists say the gestures are meaningless if they don’t reduce the overall calorie count.

It’s a question without any easy answers. For concerned parents, the best option may be talking to kids about making smart, healthy choices for lunch.