Is It Okay for Kids to Drink Chocolate Milk?

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on November 17, 2016 · 0 comments

Many parents and school districts have decided that chocolate milk is not a good choice for kids. Milk is the single largest contributor of calcium in the diet of kids in the US and many children, most particularly teenage girls, fall far short of their needed calcium intake each day.

Flavored milk – chocolate, vanilla or strawberry – has the same nutrient rich profile as plain milk. Depending on the brand it may contain more sugar or additives. These are concerns that can be controlled by careful brand selection.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to giving flavored milk to children. The major disadvantage is that chocolate and other flavored milk contain added sugars. Though this is true, when children pass up milk for other beverages they often wind up drinking more sugar than they would have with a container of chocolate milk.

Surveys have shown that the added sugar in flavored milk contributes only 3% of the total sugar children eat daily. When flavored milk is taken out of the school lunch line, overall kids drink less milk. They do not go back to plain milk.

Most kids who drink flavored milk also drink plain milk. They might have plain milk with cereal for breakfast and chocolate milk at school improving their overall milk and calcium intake.

Studies have shown, that for children of normal weight, drinking chocolate milk did not cause a weight gain over time. In one study with overweight children when flavored milk was offered it replaced soda and other sugary drinks for a reduction in daily calories and an increase in daily calcium and other important nutrients.  

As parents it is our job to provide the healthiest foods possible for our children but these choices should be made based on facts that are proven. Chocolate or other flavored milks offer a low-cost, accepted, healthy choice for kids. Brands with less sugar and less fat are available and should be chosen. Eliminating these milk choices, especially at school, may not be in our children’s best interest.

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