Flavored Milk in School
Flavored milk provides more nutrition and less sugar than juices and sports drinks
Less than 20 percent of students in the U.S. eat the recommended daily servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and only 30 percent consume three servings of dairy each day. Research shows, however, that when flavored milk is on the menu, students:
- Consume more milk, which provides nine essential vitamins and minerals their diets may be lacking
- Drink fewer sodas and soft drinks
- Meet their calcium needs without consuming more total fat and calories
- Have a body mass index (BMI) lower than or comparable to the BMIs of non-milk drinkers
It’s important to remember nine out of 10 girls and seven out of 10 boys aren’t getting the calcium they need for strong bones and healthy bodies. Limiting access to flavored milk may further reduce students’ intake of calcium and other essential nutrients.
Information for Health Professionals
According to recent studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics, insufficient vitamin D intake among children and adolescents is associated with cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar and metabolic syndrome. Studies show vitamin D-fortified milk—plain or flavored—can help bridge the gap.
Information for Parents
With childhood obesity rates on the rise, parents often pursue school or district-wide bans on certain snacks and flavored milk to eliminate extra calories. According to pediatricians, however, the goal should be to plan—not ban.
Snacking between meals is the source of nearly 25 percent of children’s daily energy—crucial to helping them stay on track in the classroom or on the field. Flavored milk is a smart snack, containing the same essential vitamins and minerals as plain milk. This is great news, since most boys and girls are not getting enough calcium in their diets.
Health Benefits of Flavored Milk
A healthy alternative to soft drinks and fruit juice, milk is also a nutritional powerhouse, packing nine essential vitamins and minerals into one serving:
- Has more muscle-building protein than juices and sodas
- The vitamins and minerals help build and repair muscle, making it a great post-exercise beverage and a healthy alternative to sports drinks
The Role of Flavored Milk in Child Nutrition Programs
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, numerous health organizations and the latest science support the continued role of flavored milk as a core component of child nutrition programs. Milk is a nutrient-rich beverage that’s good for kids, supported by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
Offering low-fat or fat-free choices is an excellent way to increase milk consumption among children and make their diets more nutritious.
Flavored milk can help increase milk consumption and boost overall participation in school meal programs. Concerns about calories, fat and sugar as components of individual foods rather than the overall diet have put nutrient-rich milk at risk of not being offered to children. Limiting access to flavored milk, because of its added sugar, may have the undesirable effect of further reducing intakes of essential nutrients provided by milk.
Flavored and unflavored milk provides the same nine essential nutrients (calcium, potassium, phosphorous, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin) and can help kids meet their calcium requirements. Kids who consume milk meet their calcium requirements without consuming significantly more added sugar compared to those who do not consume milk.
Children who drink milk fare better on a variety of nutritional fronts:
- Lower intakes of soft drinks compared to those who do not drink flavored or unflavored milk
- Consume more milk than exclusively unflavored milk drinkers
- Milk drinkers, in general, consume more calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and vitamin A than non-milk drinkers
- Does not have higher total fat or calorie intakes than unflavored milk on average
- Children who drink milk don’t have higher body mass index (BMI) than those who do not
- Kids love the taste
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, 66 percent of the milk chosen by children in schools is flavored; most of which is low-fat (1%) or fat-free. Studies have revealed kids’ clear nutritious beverage of choice: low-fat flavored milk, whether or not it’s lactose-free.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adding a small amount of sugar to nutrient-rich foods such as reduced-fat milk products helps enhance their palatability and improves nutrient intake without adding excessive calories. Health and nutrition experts recommend regular milk consumption.
The Institute of Medicine also recognizes the nutritional value of flavored milk with modest amounts of sugar for school children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages the consumption of low-fat milk, water, real fruit or vegetable juice as healthful alternatives to soft drinks.