EAT THIS

Making a choice — Chocolate milk better than none for kids

Posted Sept. 26, 2011, at 1:44 p.m.

Today (Sept. 27) is National Chocolate Milk Day and National Crush a Can Day. Really quite ironic that the two are occurring on the same day. Many people believe that nothing of any nutritional value comes in a soda can or in a container of chocolate milk. Nothing can spark a debate amongst a group of parents of young children quicker than the mention of flavored milk.

Chocolate milk is not new. It was first produced in 1828 by Casparus van Houten Sr. who patented his method for pressing the fat from roasted cocoa beans using a hydraulic press. This process reduced the cocoa butter content and created a cake that could be made into cocoa powder that became the basis of all chocolate products.

Most national health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association and American Heart Association, argue that the nutritional value of flavored low-fat or skim milk outweighs the harm of added sugar. The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement “Soft Drinks in Schools” encourages schools to offer low-fat or fat-free white or flavored milk, water or real fruit or vegetable juice as healthful alternatives to soft drinks. Research has shown that children who drink flavored milk have lower intakes of soft drinks compared to those who do not drink flavored milk.

The recommendation for children 2-8 years old is to drink two cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or equivalent milk products daily and for children 9 years and older to drink three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or equivalent milk products daily. Drinking low-fat or fat-free white or flavored milk helps kids get the three daily servings of milk recommended and provides three of the five “nutrients of concern” that children do not get enough of — calcium, potassium and magnesium as well as vitamin D. Children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrients needs, do not consume more added sugar, fat or calories and are not heavier than nonmilk drinkers.

Removing flavored milk from schools has been shown to result in a 62-63 percent reduction in milk consumption in children in kindergarten through 5th grade and a 50 percent reduction in milk consumption by children in grades six through eight. Adolescents in grades 9 through 12 had a 37 percent reduction in milk consumption when flavored milk was removed.

In order to develop strong bones and teeth, as well as for overall health, adequate intake of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and vitamin D — all found in flavored and unflavored milk — are necessary. The most critical time to build bone mass is in childhood and in particular in adolescence. Research has shown that adequate intake of milk and other dairy products during childhood benefits adolescents’ bone health and that low intake of such products during childhood and adolescence is related to low bone mass and increased risk of fractures in adulthood.

So what exactly is in a cup of milk?

A cup of nonfat/fat-free or skim milk

90 calories

Total fat: 0g

Saturated fat: 0g

Total carbohydrate: 13g

Sugars: 12g

Protein: 8g

Calcium: 30 percent daily intake

Vitamin D: 25 percent daily intake

Hood 1 percent Premium low-fat Chocolate Milk

170 calories

Total fat: 3g

Saturated fat: 2g

Total carbohydrate: 28g

Sugar: 26g

Protein: 9g

Calcium: 50 percent daily intake

Vitamin D: 25 percent daily intake

Oakhurst ½-percent Chocolate Milk

150 calories

Total fat: 1.5g

Saturated fat: 0.5g

Total carbohydrate: 27g

Sugars: 25g

Protein: 8g

Garelick Farms TruMoo Chocolate Milk

150 calories

Total fat: 2.5g

Saturated fat: 1.5g

Total carbohydrate: 24g

Sugars: 22g

Protein: 8g

A cup of milk on average provides you with 13g of carbohydrate, 12 of which comes from lactose (milk sugar) naturally. The 2-4 teaspoons of added sugar in flavored milk accounts for about 60 more calories per serving. This is a lot less added sugar than what is found in a bottle of soda.

For the nutritional benefits that a cup of flavored milk provides I believe it is more important to get the calcium and vitamin D into the child and not to worry so much about a little added chocolate flavor.

Luckily for me my daughter doesn’t like “that black milk” or soda and it has absolutely nothing to do with anything I have or haven’t done. But if I had to make the decision to give her chocolate milk or no milk, you betcha she’d be getting the chocolate stuff.

The bottom line is that low-fat chocolate milk is the most popular milk choice in schools and kids drink less milk and therefore get fewer nutrients if it is taken away. There are bigger issues to deal with in the lunch room.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.

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