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Great Eat-spectations is my outlet for sharing recent news that sparks my interest (and hopefully yours), tasty recipes that I have tried, fun food facts, and fascinating articles for you to enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Massachusetts' Schools Are Giving Chocolate Milk the Boot.

Chocolate milk has been like a controversial celebrity in the news over the past several months.  The superstar of the cafeteria has been demonized and praised in the media. School nutrition experts can’t even agree on whether removing this sweet treat from schools is a necessity.  Questions have emerged on both sides of the debate. Will the children drink white milk? Does the added sugar and excess fat lead to childhood obesity? Will children be getting enough calcium, a nutrient that many school-aged youths are deficient in?

According to CDC data, 31.7% of children in the United States ages 2-19 years old are overweight. Overweight and obesity in children can have harmful short and long-term health effects and an endless list of contributing causes. The typical 8-ounce chocolate milk contains 160 calories, 15 grams of added sugar (about 3½ teaspoons) and 1½ grams of fat. If a child drinks chocolate milk instead of 1% low-fat milk with lunch they could be consuming an extra 50 calories per day, 250 calories per week and an extra 1,000 calories per month. Based on a 180-day school year a child could consume an extra 9,000 calories per year, which in theory translates to a possible weight gain of 2 ½ pounds.

Time Measurement
Add’l kcals from Chocolate Milk with Breakfast vs 1% White
Add’l kcals from Chocolate Milk with Lunch vs 1% White
Breakfast and Lunch Add’l kcals from Chocolate Milk vs 1% White
Year (based on 180 school days)

9,000 (or 2.5 lbs)
9,000 (or 2.5 lbs)
18,000 (or 5.14 lbs)
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the Institute of Medicine emphasize limiting the amount of added sugar because it can contribute to excess calories. “Saying we need to add sugar and flavoring milk is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples” said Ann Cooper, Chef and school nutrition pioneer. The USDA Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which regulates the school lunch programs, requires that flavored milk be fat-free. In addition to the USDA Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the newly passed Massachusetts School Nutrition Bill requires that 8-ounce flavored milk have less than 22g of total sugar. Unless products are developed that meet these standards, full implementation of non-flavored milk will occur in the state by 2013.

Will children drink white milk? Many studies funded by the Dairy Council report that children will not drink white milk, while many independent studies suggest otherwise. A preliminary report by the Harvard School of Public Health, The Healthy Lunch Study, evaluated 3,188 school lunch trays and reveals “when only 1% white milk was served instead of chocolate milk, students still drank the same amount of milk.” Lauren Smith, Medical Director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, commented on the issue saying  “Studies have shown that when flavored milk is banned, milk consumption drops slightly but then rebounds.”

Many parents are condoning the removal of chocolate milk complaining that schools are acting as food police. According to the CDC’s Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report, 2011 “The environments to which children are exposed in their daily lives—schools, child care facilities, and their communities—can influence the healthfulness of their diets. With the high prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S., supporting healthy food environments is a key strategy to reach the public health goals of reducing childhood obesity and improving nutrition.” Children typically eat 2 out of 3 meals per day at school, therefore schools need to provide children with a healthful food environment and model healthful habits that children can become accustom to and continue into adulthood.

Sorry chocolate milk, although you are just one of the many, many culprits in this epidemic, you may have to take the fall on this one. 


  1. Great post, Jessica. This is a concept I struggle with, but I think a lot of the issue stems from home. If kids are used to white milk at home, why would the leap to white milk at school be so great? That being said, I would much rather see kids drinking fat-free flavored milk over a juice drink like Capri Sun that is brought from home. Given the health benefits of milk, whether colored or no, I think it should be here to stay. That being said, I see no reason why it shouldn't be fat-free and lower in sugar.

  2. Great point Katie, I actually attended the MDPH meeting where they set the standards for the new law. Currently there is no fat free chocolate milk available to schools in Mass. The federal standards are specific about the fat content and the state regulations are concerned with the added sugar. So I think part of the legislation is intended to put pressure on the dairys who are supplying the milk. The formula is out there, we know this because many other cities across the country have lower added sugar and fat free chocolate milk. I am betting that by September 2012 a fat free, lower sugar version will make its way back to school!