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October 15, 2013

Should Kids Drink Chocolate Milk?

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Sometimes, and with good intentions, we focus on single foods, such as flavored milk, as dietary villains. It's tempting to make chocolate milk a scapegoat for what's wrong with kids' diets, but it may actually do kids a disservice.

Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

Chocolate milk provides as much calcium, protein, and vitamins A and D as plain milk. Research shows that chocolate milk is better than sports drinks after exercise for replacing lost fluid, energy, and protein. Even better, many kids like to drink flavored milk more than they do plain.

A recent study from Nutrition Today highlights the important role of flavored milk in a child's diet. The study examined school milk consumption and found that removing flavored milk, including chocolate milk, significantly reduced total milk intake.

Avoiding milk may worsen major nutrient shortfalls in children. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, kids fail to get enough calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Low-fat and fat-free milk, such as white and flavored, supply these missing nutrients, and more, including protein, and phosphorus, a mineral needed to build strong bones.

Flavored Milk: The Bottom Line

Chocolate milk is higher in calories - about 60 more per eight ounce serving - than plain, but you can't blame it for childhood obesity.

The calorie content of any food must always be evaluated in relationship to the entire eating plan. For that reason, 60 calories per serving does not worry me as a dietitian and a mother, largely because the return on those calories is significant. Put simply, flavored milk is a nutrient-rich food that's worth it.

What's more, there's little convincing evidence that flavored milk, including chocolate, has fueled the increase in childhood obesity since the late 1970s. In fact, milk consumption has dropped significantly during that time which may help explain why kids often don't get the nutrients they need.

Let's stop demonizing flavored milk and let our kids enjoy it in reasonable amounts. Balance is the key to any nutritious eating plan that promotes good nutrition and a healthy weight, for kids and adults. 



Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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