The Great Chocolate Milk Debate

by Brooke on September 21, 2010

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Should chocolate milk be allowed in schools?  Should you give your children chocolate milk? 

These are two questions I have been asked about a lot lately!  I believe this topic is not so brown and white!   There are many sides to this decision and we can review them now. 

Let’s begin with the original…white milk.

1)      White milk has nine essential nutrients including: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D, and B12, riboflavin and niacin.  Milk provides three of the five “nutrients of concern” mentioned by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are calcium, potassium and magnesium. 

2)      It is important that children be taught at home that drinks don’t need to be sweet to taste good.  Just look at water…it is the most important beverage out there and has no taste to it! 

3)      Real milk is white. 

4)      Even if schools get rid of chocolate milk, serving kids chocolate milk at home will send  a mixed message.

Should chocolate and other flavored milks mooooove over?

1)      Chocolate milk still has the same nine essential nutrients as white milk.

2)      It has been said that if chocolate milk is removed from schools children will start to drink white milk.  However, current research has not proven otherwise.  Research by Seidel M Patterson , showed that milk consumption actually decreased when flavored milk was removed from seven school districts.  The results showed 62-63% reduction in milk consumption by kids in kindergarten-5th grade, a 50% reduction by adolescents in 6th-8th grade, and a 37% by adolescents in 9th-12th grade. In fact, another study conducted by Frary et. al. showed that the consumption of sweetened dairy products was positively associated with calcium intakes for children and adolescents.

3)      I saw a post a while back, by Dina R. Rose, whom has a PhD in sociology, titled The (Chocolate) Milk Mistake.  Her point of view is that we should base our decision on behavior and not nutrition, but I believe healthy eating is a combination of both aspects .  On her post she stated that, “If you give your kids chocolate milk to get them to drink milk you would be better off giving them a glass of plain milk and a Dunkin’ Donuts Chocolate Frosted Donut.”   It does make sense, to differentiate between treats and healthy foods that should be consumed daily.  However, chocolate milk doesn’t have to be as sugar-filled as a donut.  You could easily make a lower-calorie and lower-sugar chocolate milk using low-fat or fat-free milk and combining it with a teaspoon each of sugar and cocoa powder, light chocolate syrup, or sugar-free chocolate syrup.

4)      Why are we picking on chocolate milk?  I think it would be more beneficial to remove the ala-carte line from schools, get rid of vending machine junk food and pop, or promote more vegetables at lunch! 

So what is the take home message? 

If you don’t offer your child chocolate milk at home and teach them to enjoy white milk, they may choose white milk at school based on their experiences.  Setting a good example at home, is going to help instill positive behaviors in your child and help them learn how to eat/drink healthy.  You can complain about chocolate milk in schools until the cows come home (pun intended), but children learn most of their healthy behaviors at home, not in school. Chocolate milk like everything else can be healthy in moderation!

Please post your thoughts on this debate! 


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.

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.

United States Dept. of Health and Human Services. United States Dept. of Agriculture and United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (6th ed. HHS publications, 2005, Washington D.C.)

Photo courtesy of Papercake Makes.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Whitney September 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm

I think the statement about chocolate milk being equal to a glass of white milk and a doughnut is ridiculous (I am sure you do too). However, I aggree that it doesn’t have to be loaded down with sugar. White milk is clearly the nutritional winner due to having less calories and sugar. However, if some children drink chocolate milk that wouldn’t otherwise touch a glass of the white stuff, isn’t that a win? And couldn’t you serve chocolate milk at home as a treat, in moderation, just like everything else? And while I am talking about this, the added sugar in chocolate milk is not going to be a quickly available to the body as the sugar in, say, a soda, due to the protein and fat that are in milk. It is truly silly, in my opinion, for people to focus on chocolate milk, when there are schools out there (my old high school included) that are selling baskets of fries as a lunch option. Let’s focus on the big things first.


Brooke September 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

Thanks for your input Whitney! You brought up another good point about the added sugar not being as available for the body to use compared to many of the high sugar beverages on the market today.


Fatima September 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I have to say that I agree with Whitney. There is a bigger issue with school lunch that is getting side-tracked by people’s focus on chocolate milk. Of course we all hope that kids chose to drink plain milk as opposed to chocolate milk but like Brooke said, parents educating their kids to make that choice would solve that problem. We could then tackle the bigger problems of school lunches such as them not having great healthy food options and putting more emphasize on soda, chips, fried foods, etc being offered. I think that maybe they are not seeing the forest from the trees.

P.S.-I also liked the idea of having chocolate milk as a treat! :)


Brooke September 22, 2010 at 12:21 am

Hi Fatima! It really does come down to parent education. If parents don’t set good examples at home, their children will not learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices.


Melissa Joy Dobbins October 15, 2010 at 2:40 am

Great post Brooke! As a mom and a registered dietitian (for the dairy council) I couldn’t agree more that focusing on chocolate milk in schools is misguided. The big “aha” moment for me was realizing that many proponents of taking chocolate milk out of schools are operating on the false assumption that kids will just drink white milk instead and you have shown the data that show that is not the case. Regarding the comparison of chocolate milk to white milk and a donut – it is actually closer to white milk plus ONE oreo cookie. Or, as my colleague so eloquently put it – chocolate milk is similar to putting a little salad dressing on a green salad or a little brown sugar on your oatmeal – you are still getting all the nutrients but it is a little more fun!


Brooke October 17, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Hi Melissa, I love those examples! What an interesting new way of thinking about chocolate milk with the salad an oatmeal comparisons.


Teri June 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm

This is a great article! Being a teacher in a low-income school, I see this all the time. Most days white milk is the only milk offered and so few children drink it. However, on chocolate milk day, look out! They’ll drink it then. I have always heard that chocolate milk was sooo bad but seeing your comment about then both having the same nutrients, makes me think that chocolate milk is better than no milk at all?! I agree 100% however…parent ed in the home at an early age is KEY!!! Some of my students prefer white milk….imagine!


Brooke June 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Hi Teri, I am glad you liked it!


nicole October 27, 2011 at 11:03 pm

What about chocolate soy milk? The one I drink (for a treat) is 70cal with 1 gram of sugar.


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