Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On the Chocolate Milk Fence

I have been reading about the possibility of a chocolate milk ban in schools for several months now. This ban will include other flavored milks as well. It appears as though the potential for it to happen is really gearing up. It's particularly newsworthy as the Los Angeles County school district, which is the nation's second largest, is next to consider the ban.

Doesn't that glass of chocolate milk look so good?

Sorry. It does look really good. But I'm not a school kid. I can't remember the last time I had a glass of chocolate milk. I'm an adult, and while I really don't have the best will power, I choose to refrain from chocolate milk because of fat/calories/health reasons. I'm not a growing child, and though osteoporosis is a concern for women, I don't really need to drink milk. Even on the rare occasions I have chocolate milk, I NEVER buy the pre-flavored kind, I like to mix it myself at home because I really think the kind in the carton is WAY too sweet.

Sometimes, I stop and think about how humans are the only species that actually drink milk that comes from other animals. In nature, animals drinking another animal's milk doesn't happen. Kinda makes me go...yuck. However, I was raised drinking milk. I rarely ever had chocolate milk, and grew to love and appreciate the taste of an ice-cold glass of unflavored milk. My kids are both milk drinkers. If they grow big and strong because they like it, I'm in full support of them drinking milk, even though it comes from a cow.

Buddha won't even drink chocolate milk. I am completely happy about this. Why add the sugar and fat if he's perfectly happy with drinking it plain? Monkey loves chocolate milk, and I only add a small amount of chocolate flavoring. The funny thing is, whenever he has some, something clicks in his little 4 year-old mind and suddenly he remembers chocolate milk exists. He will ask me for it for the next couple days. And I keep saying no. The answer is, in all honesty, I don't want him to have chocolate milk. He is perfectly fine with plain milk (1%) and apple and orange juice (which I still water down) as his daily beverages. He knows chocolate milk is a special treat, which he only gets once in a great while. As I sit here, I cannot remember the last time he had chocolate milk. It's been at least 4 months or so.

So, I know I've got it pretty good. I have 2 kids who love plain milk. They aren't exposed to school lunches yet, although Monkey will be going to kindergarten in the fall. Suddenly I see the concern. Will my son have the choice between plain and chocolate milk? If so, let's be honest, my kid is going to go with the flavored milk. That is no bueno. 

 Apparently some flavored milks have as much sugar as a soda, or in some cases high fructose corn syrup. Ugh, that grosses me out. And apparently, according to this article in the L.A. Times, Chocolate milk could be banned in some schools -- here's what might be lost, chocolate milk contains some sort of thickening agent which gives it that nice rich consistency, and prevents the chocolate particles from separating from the milk. And some other stuff that I have no idea what it is. The concern of those opposing the ban is that some children will only drink milk if it is flavored and that ingesting all the added sugar and God-only-knows-what else is better than their child drinking no milk at all. Sigh.

I have obviously determined having chocolate milk available to my son at his own free will on a daily basis is not an ideal situation. I don't believe chocolate milk is the root of all evil either. I think parents need to start teaching their kids healthy eating habits. I also think we do need to reform the school lunch program. I think that a lot of parents look at school lunch as easy, they don't have to worry. But they don't have any idea how bad the food is that most schools are feeding their children. Anyone interested in reading more on this subject should check out Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project which is a great blog written by a teacher who ate school lunch every day for a year and blogged about it undercover. We also need to cut down the time spent on video games and get our kids active again, play with them outside and get fresh air...get them moving. We are the best examples we can give them.

That's all broader spectrum stuff. To address the flavored milk ban specificially, I propose this. Someone needs to come up with a healthier version - maybe only offer low or non-fat, with reduced sugar, and nix the high fructose corn syrup. I am for the ban against flavored milk as it exists today as one of many changes that needs to be made, but not completely against flavored milk if there is a healthier alternative to the type of flavored milk currently offered. I do recognize that there are some kids who will only drink milk if it is flavored, and I do think they deserve to have access to milk. If there is no healthier alternative, then the school districts should ban the flavored milk but allow parents to send it to school with their child if they choose to. I don't think this ban should be about stripping people of their rights, just about promoting healthier options.

How do you feel about the chocolate milk ban? Do you think it's extreme or as one of many things wrong with what is provided to our kids in schools?


  1. I'm iffy on this. I'm pretty horrified about how much crap is in flavoured milks. There is no reason HFC should be anywhere near milk. My issue is the apparent lack of other choices presented, though.

    When I went to school, you had a choice of red or blue milk (whole and I think 2%). If you didn't drink milk, you didn't have a drink with lunch. I can't stand the taste of plain milk, so I regularly didn't drink anything between 8 and 4, which wasn't super healthy, either. I would have killed to have the option of flavoured milk, juice, or even just water. In all reality, though, with the quality of the food they serve in schools, this is one teeny drop in the bucket.

    (For what it's worth, my school was absolutely stupid about food. You couldn't drink from the bubblers because the well was contaminated and we weren't allowed to have our own thermoses because they "might break and students could swallow glass". They also thought teaching us how to use cow brains to tan leather was more useful than home ec.)

  2. I am totally with you on this 100%. My kids (6-8) rarely have chocolate milk. I do have the syup in the house for the occasional treat for chocolate milk or on ice cream. My husband drinks it more than they do. I always use it sparingly. My kids school serves flavored milk. For a while there I was letting them buy 2 times a week. I nixed that as I found that the meals are unhealthy and they were getting the chocolate milk. Way to much fat, sugar and calories. We have discussed why I won't let them purchase school lunch or chocolate milk and they seem to understand. We constantly discuss good eating habits. My son has a harder time with it but he understands the importance. I feel that the system needs to be changed because it is truly effecting our kids health. Especially those of low income families that can not afford to send in lunch for their child. Thanks for your awesome post!

  3. I'm not at all on the fence. I think all processed foods should be banned from schools. There are actually schools in the US like that and the kids are more well-behaved and have more energy. My son is allowed a chocolate milk if he wants but prefers regular. I would prefer when it comes time for school that he not get sugar when he's expected to sit and concentrate.

  4. I agree with Jill- I think that our schools should have healthy foods, and should think about how much sugar, salt and fat they are serving our kids.

    The milk debate is a good one too. I stopped giving my kids cow's milk about a year ago (when it was time to start Monkey on whole milk). When I started thinking about how we're the only species that drinks another species' milk, and that cow's milk is made for (get ready for it....) cows who are 200 lbs with 4 stomachs, it gave me pause. I do give them some cow's cheeses, but their cow dairy is limited. I give my kids rice milk and almond milk, and sometimes hemp milk (I'm such a hippie!). I sometimes give them unsweetened chocolate hemp milk, and they are SO excited when they get it. I look at sugar content all the time- I'm glad you're asking questions and thinking about what will work for you to help Buddha and Monkey grow up healthy. You're doing an awesome job!

  5. I just think it's hard to ask a little kid to make the healthy choice most of the time. Marketing genuises are at work to make sure that doesn't happen. So I guess my preference would be that it not be included. If a parent is really concerned then they can decide to give it to their kid in a bag lunch...I mean, people CAN bring bag lunches still, right??!!

  6. I'm all for plain milk. Once in a blue moon, I might agree to chocolate milk, not that my kids like it much.

  7. I love all of your well thought out, insightful comments. I think we all agree that there needs to be changes in the food/drink offerings at school. I hope everyone has signed the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution petition! Do you know he filled a whole school bus with sugar to demonstrate how much sugar is consumed in flavored milk alone? I believe just in the L.A. school system! Crazy! Liz, I drink almond milk myself and use soy milk for my coffee. I should try giving my Monkey the chocolate hemp milk for a treat instead...good idea! Next year I am thinking I am just going to send his lunch with him and keep him as far from the cafeteria food as possible! And Stephanie, you can still bring your own lunch, unless you live in Chicago where I do believe they did ban it! Crazy!

  8. Mommy's Juggling Act - that is awesome that you keep the lines of communication open about healthy food with your kids. I know Monkey is going to ask about some of the treats that are sold at school and why he can't have any. Clairity - I am also all for plain milk for my kids. The presence of flavored milk could prove too tempting for my Monkey. Samantha - you must have been one dehydrated school girl!

  9. Ack...sleep took me the night I was coming here and then with all the Blogger jazz, I couldn't comment!

    But, I'm back! :>

    And I think it's really sad that we have to have schools ban a food that would not be extraordinarily awful if it was used as an occasional treat or like you mentioned, made healthier.

    When the kids occasionally ask for chocolate milk (or a latte...no, they don't have coffee of espresso, but the chocolate milk alternatives over ice with a straw are a great substitute for an 'iced latte' "like" Mamas), they get unsweetened chocolate almond milk or coconut milk or hemp milk (it's creamier than the thin rice milk and has protein...but, we usually go with almond milk because that's the one I like the best!;> ...aka we *all* can drink it).

    Since we have a kidlet who doesn't consume casein (any animal milk products) due to a sensitivity, I admit, these are all easy substitutes for us.

    In general though, there is so much sugar in schools. It feels so counterintuitive!

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  11. My oldest son doesn't like chocolate milk but drinks sugar-free strawberry milk every day. I disagree with banning milk choices in schools; I agree that soda pop should not be offered, but lowfat chocolate milk, sold in a small container will not cause any real harm. In fact it may benefit those students who would otherwise choose not to drink their milk at lunchtime..

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  12. I think the real problem lies in what parents and schools feed children period and chocolate milk is just one of the issues. I treat chocolate milk like a candy so my daughter can have it once in a while but we often have her drink it (lactose-free actually) plain as a regular beverage.


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