Chocolate Milk … The great debate!

We removed chocolate milk and strawberry milk from our schools, and it started a revolution. The revolution came from a funny place too: parents (and of course the National Dairy Council…). Of all people, parents were the most often heard voices in the great debate, fighting for sugar-filled milk to be put back on the shelves at their children’s schools.

There is a reason Chef Ann Cooper, Renegade Lunch Lady, calls chocolate milk “soda in drag.” Milk contains sugar on its own, and when you add flavors, the typical sugar upgrade is 3 teaspoons per serving (Huffington Post). This may not seem significant, but consider the effects of offering a child chocolate milk in schools in addition to plain, old, white milk: Would your child ever choose the plain milk on their own, over the flavors? After tasting chocolate milk, would your child become used to the “sweet” and not turn back unless strongly encouraged? Could you come to terms with the fact that if your child chooses flavored milks over plain, they will be adding 2-3 pounds of extra weight to their body every year?

Watch the Video: Eliminating Chocolate Milk in Schools

Even more disconcerting was the introduction of chocolate flavored formula to American grocery shelves. Infant formula company, Enfamil, recently introduced a chocolate flavored formula into the consumer world, and then quickly pulled it from the shelves. Enfamil claims they created the product to encourage fussy babies to eat, but to me it seems the harder task would be weaning your child of sugar dependency after raising them on a sugar-filled infant formula. Talk about cradle-to-grave…

Choosing to add a little chocolate flavor to your child’s milk when you are at home, as a treat every so often, is not the problem here. The problem comes in the form of offering students the choice to have flavored milk instead of plain milk on a daily basis at school.

Flavored milks have 50% more calories than plain milk and often contain high fructose corn syrup and other artificial ingredients. They coax children into drinking what is normally a nutritious drink. According to Dr. Marlene B. Schwartz, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, an active 6-year old has 170-195 extra calories to spare per day after the “essential” calories are added up. By drinking flavored milks, which typically contain 75 extra calories, your child is consuming 40% of these “discretionary” calories. Chocolate milk should be considered a dessert and not a means of “getting down” beneficial nutrients. Dr. Schwartz notes: “Many children have been given sugar-sweetened beverages from a young age and have come to expect all drinks to be sweet.”

When we removed flavored milks from our schools here at the Boulder Valley School District (Colorado), and replaced cartons with a “cow,” serving organic Colorado milk, the local paper published an article about the change. They quoted 8 year old Ethan, who said, “I think its [chocolate milk] really good for you…it has white milk, and they just put flavor in it.” This quote is then followed by this statement: “But his classmate, Aiden 8, said he drinks just as much white milk now as he did when chocolate milk when it was available” (

Let’s give our kids one option for school lunch: good, old, white milk, “that icon of purity.” (New York Times)

For more information on how to help change lunch at your school, please visit us online at At we provide free tools and resources to: schools and school districts, parents, students, and school food advocates.

Published on: September 14, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Sunny Young
Sunny has become a Jill of all Trades- working with the Boulder Valley School District’s School Food Project as well as with the Chef Ann Foundation and The Lunch Box website which provides free tools and resources to anyone who needs help changing school food.
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