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September 1, 2011

Flavored Milk in Schools

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

When she was younger, my middle child drank nothing by chocolate milk and water for about two years. My friends would question me about the wisdom of her habit, but I wasn't worried in the least.

Flavored milk catches a lot of flak, and not always from nutrition experts, who understand the benefits of drinking milk with a bit of added sugar over drinking no milk at all or other sugar-laden beverages that lack the protein, vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients kids need to grow and develop.

Removing flavored milk from school cafeterias as a way to reduce student consumption of unhealthy drinks such as sugary soda seems to be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Unfortunately, flavored milk has become an icon for childhood obesity, but you can't pin overweight on a single food.

Yes, flavored milk has more calories than plain because it contains added sugar. But a healthy weight is about balancing calories with physical activity, not eating a Spartan diet with no added sugar or fat. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that kids and adults, no matter what their calorie "budget" for a healthy weight, are allowed some added sugar, and fat, to "spend" any way they like.

As a mother of three who worked as a volunteer cafeteria monitor, I can tell you that a lot of kids preferred flavored milk.  I hate to see food go to waste, especially milk.  Allowing your child to choose flavored milk may increase their intake of this highly nutritious food, rather than taking the white milk and not drinking it. 

Fortunately, Hood has reformulated all of the flavored milk it offers in school cafeterias. Hood Chocolate, Coffee, and Strawberry Milks are fat-free and contain 130 calories and 22 grams of sugar in eight ounces. In case you think 22 grams of sugar is a lot, remember that 8 ounces of fat-free milk supplies 13 grams of naturally-occurring carbohydrate called lactose, which must be counted as a sugar on the food label.  So, 13 of the 22 grams is what is already present in plain milk. 

At 15, my daughter remains a fan of milk, which is way more than I can say of most teen girls, who fall far below the recommended three eight-ounce glasses of milk daily.

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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