Nutrition: Raise your hand for chocolate milk

Tags: news, texas family physician, nutrition, milk, dairy council

Raise your hand for chocolate milk

By Teresa Wagner, M.S., R.D./L.D.
Director of Dairy Confidence and Medical Outreach, Dairy Max Incorporated

There has been a lot of debate over the state of school lunch lately and there have been many steps forward; however, increased discussion about taking chocolate milk out of schools has many health experts agreeing this move could do more harm than good.

Groups calling for chocolate milk to be taken out of the cafeteria due to concerns over added sugars are quite possibly overlooking the research. Chocolate milk is one way to make milk more appealing and the research supports that many kids are drinking milk because it is available in flavors. According to the research:

Flavored milk provides the same nine nutrients as unflavored milk and kids drink more of it when it is flavored.

  • Just like unflavored milk, flavored milk contains nine essential nutrients—calcium; potassium; phosphorous; protein; vitamins A, D, and B12; riboflavin; and niacin (niacin equivalents)—and can help kids meet their calcium recommendations.(1)
  • Kids like the taste of flavored milk. Flavored-milk drinkers consume more milk than exclusively unflavored-milk drinkers.(2)

Offering flavored low-fat or fat-free milk helps increase milk consumption and boosts overall participation in school meal programs.

  • Removing flavored milk from schools has been shown to result in a 62- to 63-percent reduction in milk consumption by kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, a 50-percent reduction in milk consumption by adolescents in sixth through eighth grades, and a 37-percent reduction in milk consumption in adolescents in ninth through 12th grades.(3)

Children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs; do not consume more added sugar, fat or calories; and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers.

  • Milk drinkers, in general, consume more calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A than non-milk drinkers.(1)
  • Flavored-milk drinkers do not have higher total fat or calorie intakes than non-milk drinkers.(4)
  • Children who drink flavored and unflavored milk don’t have higher body mass index (BMI) than those who do not drink milk.(4)
  • Flavored-milk drinkers have lower intakes of soft drinks compared to those who do not drink flavored milk.(2)

Our nation’s leading health and nutrition organizations including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, and the School Nutrition Association recognize the valuable role milk, including flavored milk, can play in helping children meet their daily nutrient needs.

A new program created by National Dairy Council and National Football League empowers students to make changes at school that will help them “get active and play” for 60 minutes daily and “fuel up” with critical nutrient-rich foods missing from their diets like low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.(5) The program is designed to help combat childhood obesity and help youth develop life-long healthy eating and daily physical activity habits. It emphasizes that these nutrient-rich foods need to be both available and appealing to help kids be successful.

Sue Hubbard, M.D., a Dallas pediatrician and co-host of The Kid’s Doctor, a popular radio show, website, and newspaper column (The Dallas Morning News) that targets parents, families, and pediatricians, and delivers “advice on the best ways to raise kids,” gives her advice on chocolate milk on her Daily Dose blog. She discusses that when looking at the calorie content for low-fat chocolate milk compared to low-fat plain milk, the difference is only about 30-50 calories per cup. She acknowledges that calories may be cumulative but suggests that if children spent more time playing actively, the extra calories would never be noticed. While “banking calcium” and receiving the unique nutrient package that milk provides, the payoff is about balance and choices. The Fuel Up to Play 60 program aims to teach children just that, how to balance their nutrient-rich foods and active play to develop a healthy lifestyle that will carry them into adulthood.  We can all raise a glass of chocolate milk to that!

For more information on Fuel Up to Play 60 visit Read more on chocolate milk at Dr. Sue Hubbard’s blog and podcasts are found at Lastly, read more about dairy or ask our dietitian at


  1. Frary CD, Johnson RK, Wang MQ. Children and adolescents’ choices of foods and beverages high in added sugars are associated with intakes of key nutrients and food groups. J Adolesc Health 2004; 34(1):56-63.
  2. Johnson RK, Frary C, Wang MQ. The nutritional consequences of flavored milk consumption by school-aged children and adolescents in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002; 102(6):853-856.
  3. Patterson J, Saidel M. The Removal of Flavored Milk in Schools Results in a Reduction in Total Milk Purchases in All Grades, K-12. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109,(9): A97.
  4. Murphy MM, Douglas JS, Johnson RK, Spence LA. Drinking flavored or plain milk is positively associated with nutrient intake and is not associated with adverse effects on weight status in U.S. children and adolescents. J Am Diet Asoc 2008; 108:631-639.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005.  6th Edition, Washington, DC:  U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005.