Sugar Vs. Vitamins Debate Over Chocolate Milk

Discussion
Dec 21, 2009
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst,
Contributing Editor, RetailWire

In some arguments,
opponents can agree to differ but with an issue as important as children’s
nutrition and lifelong health, it is harder, and more important, to reach
a consensus.

School administrators
in Barrington, Illinois decided a year ago that elementary and middle-school
students should drink unflavored milk with their lunches and banned sweetened
chocolate milk from the menu. Many of those students disagreed and simply
stopped drinking milk. Finally they persuaded the powers that be to re-consider.
As Haley Morris, the ten year old who had gathered petition signatures
asking for the return of flavored milk, put it, “It’s better to have the chocolate
milk than nothing.”

While debating
whether the merits of getting calcium and Vitamin D into children outweighs
the harm they might suffer from swallowing it with some three teaspoons
of sugar per half-pint, the flavored version is back on the menu for Fridays
only.

Barrington is
not alone with its dilemma. So many school districts are holding similar
debates over chocolate milk that the dairy industry has invested “upward
of $1 million to defend the drink,” according to the Chicago
Tribune
.
Describing it as a “classic” school lunch drink, the paper says the Milk
Processor Education Program, a trade group for the dairy industry, believes
its healthy attributes need to be promoted.

There is little
argument about milk’s benefits for children but there are doubts as to
whether they will get those benefits if deprived of a chocolate version.
Vivien Godfrey, the milk trade group’s chief executive, insists “if kids
don’t care for [the taste of plain milk], they won’t actually drink it.”

On the other
hand, research by Marlene Schwartz of Yale University’s Rudd Center for
Food Policy and Obesity, found that “young children drank it (milk) happily” at
preschools offering a federally funded program. “Schools should not presume
that children will shun no-frills milk,” she concluded.

Compromises
include fat-free chocolate milk and Barrington’s once-a-week solution.
Ms. Morris and her young friends also pointed out the alternative for many
kids was fruit juice and Gatorade, which also have relatively high sugar
content.

Dr. Frank Greer,
former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee,
also somewhat agreed.

“Flavored milk
has more calories from the sweeteners that are in it. There’s no getting
around that,” Dr. Greer told the Trib. “It is an uncomfortable position
to be in when you’re asked this question. I say it comes down to too many
calories or, well, it’s better than other things in the soda machine.”

Discussion
Questions: Should chocolate milk be banned from schools? What guidelines
should be used to determine what should and shouldn’t be removed from
cafeteria menus? How does cafeteria food impact end-demand for products at
retail?

[Author’s
commentary] Part of the problem may be trying to take away what the children
are used to. If they’ve had flavored milk at home, or at school, unflavored
milk becomes an unpopular alternative. But there seems little likelihood of
persuading parents not to introduce it in the first place. And just think how
much the industry would spend fighting that one.

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15 Comments on "Sugar Vs. Vitamins Debate Over Chocolate Milk"


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David Livingston
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I grew up in the 1960s drinking chocolate milk at school and it hasn’t killed me yet. I had a phobia with white milk and chocolate was the only way I could deal with it. It should be kept as an option. We then went out for a 60 minute recess, playing all those politically incorrect games like tag, dodgeball, and teatherball to burn off the calories.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

The problem is not chocolate milk–it’s schools trying to take over as parent for “the child’s own good,” even when the schools are often screaming that they are not the parents. Go to fat-free, as we do here in Atlanta in most school systems and let the kid have some chocolate. Then, as David says above, send them out for recess and let them burn it off. A glass of chocolate milk a day is not going to make a kid fat.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
11 years 4 months ago

I must be missing something here? Chocolate milk without all the sugar is not the human genome. White milk with small packet of sugar free chocolate powder to mix in? In any event if you are going to offer sugary drinks, the kids are going to choose sugary drinks over non-sugary drinks as sure as the sun is going to rise.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

It would appear that the school nutritionists and administrators aren’t paying attention to their customers in “Bucolic Barrington.” While this is one of Chicago’s most affluent communities, the school systems must be short of oxygen and the biology departments aren’t sharing their wisdom–get the Vitamin D in the kids. It’s not as if they were drinking 6 cartons at lunch.

The average education level of adults in Barrington exceeds 19+ years. Presumably, the parents can figure out what “Little Johnny and Little Janie” can eat and drink for other portions of their meals.

Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Simple solutions are often the best. Low fat milk, chocolate or white. Add exercise. Output = healthier, happier kids.

This is not rocket science. We should let the math teachers and the nutrition/phys-ed teachers in schools develop a section of learning that helps the kids get to the right answers on calories and exercise. Once they have the information, we can empower them to help be the decision makers.

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Gatorade and sweetened fruit juices (by name only in many cases) are no substitute for real nutrition, much as chocolate milk is no substitute for real milk. There is no substitute for the real thing, and allowing children to decide policy for school systems is hardly a solution. Schools are not replacement systems for parents, and children should be strongly urged to drink milk when in school…by their parents, not just the school system.

Growing up, we had no Gatorade, soda or other choices when choosing a drink. It was milk or nothing. Everyone bought and drank milk and we enjoyed it!

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Saturated fat, lactose intolerance among non-white ethnic groups, childhood obesity, environmental havoc and plenty of other concerns…actually, plenty of doubt exists regarding the “benefits” of non-human milk for children (beyond mother’s milk for infants). Great marketing by the dairy folks and a business-friendly USDA? Or a childhood nutritional essential?

Tonia Key
Guest
Tonia Key
11 years 4 months ago
Even as a child in elementary school, I never liked the option of having chocolate milk served in school. I noticed that some of the [kids] that I went to school wouldn’t drink regular milk if no chocolate milk was available. Their excuse was they didn’t like milk. If you don’t like milk, you don’t drink any kind of milk, period. I was later on the nutrition council in my school in 6th grade (that was back when they first thought it was a good idea to give the kids a part in the planning process) and do believe that I asked that chocolate milk be removed. Chocolate milk is a treat and it should be viewed as such. It should never be given to a child daily. Elementary school children should not be allowed to dictate what they will and won’t eat or drink. Children should should remain in a child’s place and do what they’re told. Letting 10 year olds dictate what they will and won’t do is [a] reason why the last… Read more »
Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 4 months ago

Chocolate milk was stocked in school milk machines and served along with regular milk in cafeterias in the 1950s and ’60s. Soft drinks such as Coke were NOT available at schools then, except at ball game refreshment stands. Kids were not even remotely obese in those days, both as memory serves and as vintage class pictures well prove. Yes, there is a problem now–there are myriad causes of childhood obesity–but chocolate milk is not one of them.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
11 years 4 months ago

Another case of the schools trying to make up for the lack of proper parental input? Any milk, flavored or plain, is much better than most of the other drink options. And I totally agree that good exercise when added to the curriculum will overcome any negative effects of having some sugar in their milk.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Banning chocolate milk is “nutritional correctness” run amok. I say this as a former child whose mother smoked for 50 years, was taken for rides in cars that didn’t yet have seat belts, was unfamiliar with the concept of bike helmets, and took turns with my siblings lying on the back deck of the car. Let the kids drink chocolate milk, and reinstate recess!

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
11 years 4 months ago

Talk about overboard. This school needs some real issues to deal with. Chocolate milk? You’ve got to be kidding me. Let the kids drink chocolate milk. If a kid trades his peanut butter sandwich for a cupcake, will the school board step in then too? How about they ban bologna? That has far too much fat! They should also ban peanut butter because of the fat (I guess protein shouldn’t count).

Carbs, calories and fat are all part of a balanced diet. Calcium, protein, vitamin C, etc…are all needed. You can’t ban a product because the schools deem one element bad. By the way, kids need those calories for recess and the calcium for growing bones. The point is, this is not the school board’s job. We have too much government interference (state, local and federal) in our lives as it is. I guess our government just “knows better.”

Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
11 years 4 months ago

Sugar is not the problem in chocolate milk at school. Schools would be better off taking out the soda vending machines and Doritos machines. BTW–it’s the parents who shovel sugar by the pounds into their kids mouths at home that need to be educated. Not sure the schools should get into policing food when the dropout rates in big cities like L.A. are at 50%. If they are that concerned, then buy organic chocolate milk at Costco for the kids and keep everyone happy.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I’m torn here: the Nanny State vs. Augustus Gloop…I’m not really sure who to root for (nor do I have any stories to relate about how old Uncle Elmo used to slug down a half-pint of Jack while riding bareheaded to school every day and lived to be 108) But I do know I’m grateful Congress isn’t involved…yet.

Joe foran
Guest
Joe foran
11 years 4 months ago

Chocolate milk is the THE best exercise recovery product there is–tremendous antioxidant benefits, ideal carb/protein ratio and great taste.

It is unbelievable how much ignorance there is of nutrition. There is very little out there that is entirely bad or good for you; heck, drinking water in excess can kill you in extreme circumstances.

Guiding and supporting families in finding balanced nutrition is the answer–dictating what can be had or what cannot be brought in for snack isn’t the answer. No chocolate milk in school? The kids will just buy it at the C-Store on the way home from school (and pay more for it…).

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