Chocolate Milk: It’s Whats For Lunch

HERD ABOUT IT?

by Ana Grarian

When I was in my 30’s I went back to college to work toward an advanced degree in computer technology. While I was there I figured I’d minor in finance. Part of what drove me out of that process was learning about the stock market and how companies work. At the time Kraft had just merged with RJR Nabisco. I was horrified that Elsie the Cow would now be smoking cigarettes. The same brand of cigarettes I might add, that we believe led to my father having a serious stroke, and later dying from cancer.

This morning on Facebook a local milk cooperative, posted a news article about flavored milks in schools. According to the article, when children are not offered flavored milks at school, a “Decline in Milk Drinking Translated to Substantial Loss of Nutrients that Could Negatively Impact Children’s Health”.

The researchers estimate that this decline in consumption translates to an alarming drop in nutrients – including calcium, vitamins A and D, potassium, magnesium and protein.  This includes three of the four “shortfall nutrients” the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has said both adults and children need to consume more of. The researchers concluded it would require up to four different foods to match the nutrient contributions of milk, yet these foods would add back more calories and fat and cost up to $4,500 more annually per 100 students.

Conducted by Prime Consulting Group

& funded by the Milk Processor Education Program

Now Ana loves her dairy products. In school I had the option of choosing chocolate milk. I would argue (though I don’t have a nutrition label to back me up) that chocolate milk has changed in the past few decades. I beleive that chocolate milk in the 50’s was made with milk, cocoa and sugar. It was vitamin D fortified, I don’t know about vitamin A.

In order to do some research Ana went shopping. The products are locally available, national brand, products in CNY.

What I found was that flavored milks had significantly higher calories than 2% milk, almost twice the sodium, three times the sugar. Vitamins A & D were the same for all products, and were in fact ADDED to the product. As was sugar and salt. (Why do you need salt in chocolate milk? more later) I did not find information on potassium or manganese on these labels.

On the other hand, a name brand soy milk product, had calories more in line with 2% white milk, half the sodium of chocolate milk, higher calcium, iron and vitamin D levels and listed magnesium at 10% RDA. Total Carbs were between the white milk and chocolate milk levels.

My problem with the flavored milks, including the soy milk, is that they are WAYYYYY too sweet. In order to make them palatable I need to mix them with at least two containers of plain milk. Which leads us to why they need salt in chocolate milk. The food industry knows that foods high in sugar, fat and can alter your brain chemistry in the same way as highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin. High sugar levels in food products is a way to dipose of HFCS and thanks to a genetic prediliction for sweet things, hooks us.

As far as the contention that it would be difficult to provide those nutrients any other way – well beans, nuts, meats and leafy greens are healthy foods that are high in protien, potassium, magnesium, calcium. Vitamin D? It’s an additive in milk anyway – it can be added to other things – or – we could get our kids outside in the sunshine more – our bodies actually manufacture vitamin D.

Pushing unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, fat, additives on kids, is not the role of an ethical food company. We didn’t get in this mess overnight, and it might take a while to wean kids off unhealthy foods and into good choices. One way is to start reducing the levels of sugars and salts in products, and offering good quality healthy alternatives.

We’re the adults here. Let’s start acting like it.