What’s the deal with chocolate milk?

Baystateparent Magazine
Health experts have a concern about children developing a taste for sweetened beverages if this is all that is offered.

The calcium, protein and vitamin D in a glass of milk are important nutrients that kids need, but what if they just won’t drink it? That’s where chocolate or strawberry milk comes in … right? 

While regular white milk is usually considered to be a healthy drink, adding chocolate flavoring usually adds extra sugar and calories. 

So, chocolate milk: to drink or not to drink? Here’s the deal:

The sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts panel of milk is the total sugar, which includes the naturally occurring sugar (lactose) in milk as well as added sugar. The amount of added sugar in chocolate milk can vary depending on the brand of chocolate milk, so you may see 8 to 12 grams (and sometimes more) of added sugar. 

One level teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams of sugar, which equals 15 calories. So, if chocolate milk has 12 grams of added sugar, that’s 45 additional calories from sugar.

If you compare milk with sweetened soda (in which all of the calories are from added sugar), a flavored milk is definitely a better choice. 

While milk, including flavored milk, is a nutrient dense beverage that contains protein, potassium, calcium and vitamin D, health experts have a concern about children developing a taste for sweetened beverages if this is all that is offered. For children over the age of 5, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health organizations recommend plain milk (or soy beverage), water or limited amounts of 100 percent fruit juices. While previous AAP recommendations for school-age children have allowed for flavored milk as a strategy to help encourage milk intake, they say flavored milk is best avoided in children younger than 5. Young children generally are willing to drink recommended amounts of plain milk if not given an alternative, and avoiding flavored milk helps minimize added sugar intake and prevent establishing a preference for sweet taste.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says chocolate milk should be seen as a treat and not a staple beverage. If you are able to make your own chocolate milk at home with powder or syrup or by mixing plain milk with flavored milk, you can control and reduce the amount of added sugar.