Should Children Drink Chocolate Milk?
Are you wondering if it’s okay for your child to drink chocolate milk? If your child enjoys drinking chocolate milk, rest easy. Drinking real dairy milk, including chocolate milk, provides many health benefits to kids and can be a part of a healthy diet for them. In fact, taking away the option of flavored milk can actually do more harm than good if it means they stop drinking milk altogether.
Keep reading for answers to your questions about chocolate and other flavored milk, including the scoop on sugar.
Does chocolate milk have the same nutrients as white milk?
Flavored milk can help meet children’s nutrient needs. It has the same nine essential nutrients found in white milk that are needed for good health. These nutrients include calcium and vitamin D, which contribute to good bone health.
Since childhood and adolescence are a key time for bone growth, it’s especially important that kids get enough calcium and vitamin D during this time. However, research shows that kids older than two years fall short of these nutrients.
While they can get calcium and vitamin D from other foods, milk and dairy products are the most commonly eaten food sources of these nutrients.
Will chocolate milk help my children drink more milk?
For children who do not like white milk, flavored milk offers a tasty option to help them get the two to three servings of dairy they need each day.
When offered both types of milk at school, children drink more chocolate milk than white milk and consume more milk overall, with less milk waste. This is important considering children’s average intake of dairy is less than what it should be. Even skipping just one serving of milk a day can put kids at a nutritional disadvantage since many of the essential nutrients milk provides are difficult to replace.
What about the sugar content of chocolate milk?
The first thing to know is that all milk naturally contains a type of sugar called lactose. Flavored milk also contains added sugar in the form of sucrose. So the amount of total sugar you see on the Nutrition Facts Panel of chocolate milk reflects both the naturally occurring and added sugar content.
Flavored milk contributes only a minor amount of added sugar to children’s diets. Soft drinks and non-carbonated sweetened beverages contribute more than 40% of the added sugars to the diets of children ages two to 18. Flavored milk contributes only about 4% of added sugars.
Since 2007, the added sugar content of chocolate or other flavored milk served in schools nationwide has decreased by about 55%.
While health professionals recommend reducing intake of added sugars, they also say that there is room in the diet to include limited amounts of added sugars to improve the taste of some highly nutritious foods, such as chocolate milk.
Will chocolate milk make my child overweight?
Research doesn’t show a link between drinking flavored milk and children becoming overweight. Like any food or beverage, moderation is key. Encourage children to enjoy other dairy foods, too, such as yogurt, cheese and white milk.
What about cavities?
The majority of studies have not found a link between drinking flavored milk and tooth decay.
To enjoy flavored milk while still maintaining healthy teeth, follow these simple tips:
- Drink flavored milk with meals rather than between meals.
- Drink, rather than sip, flavored milk and other sweetened beverages to decrease the time teeth are exposed to sugar.
Drinking flavored milk, like chocolate milk, can help children improve their diet quality and meet recommended daily servings of dairy – 3 cups per day of fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products for those age nine years and older and 2 1/2 cups per day for children four to eight years.