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Chocolate Milk's School Lunch Makeover

school lunch, chocolate milk

Milk processors cut back on sugar. Will the win approval from schools that banned flavored milks?

Call it a coincidence, but just months after the nation’s second largest school district banned flavored milks from its school lunch offerings, milk producers are now offering chocolate milk that contains just a bit more sugar and calories than the plain variety.

In June, the Los Angeles Unified School District school board voted 5-2 on a milk contract that excluded chocolate and strawberry milk. This week, the Milk Processor Education Program, announced chocolate milk served in schools around the country will have 38 percent less added sugar and only 31 more calories than regular (read: whole) white milk.

Is that still too much?

LAUSD, along with other schools who have banned flavored milk in the past few years, was criticized for removing from lunchrooms one way to entice kids into drinking milk. Studies show that milk consumption at schools drops considerably when only plain varieties are available.

But will this small school lunch makeover be enough of a sugar reduction to get schools to reverse their ban?

MPeP says on average, each 8-oz. carton of the new chocolate milk — which will come in fat-free and low-fat varieties — will be less than 150 calories and contain 22 grams of total sugar.

In its press materials, MPeP is comparing the new chocolate milk to plain whole (what they’re calling “regular”) milk, which contains around 14 grams of sugar per 8 ounces and about 146 calories.

A glass of plain skim or 2% milk have 86 and 120 calories respectively.

I’m all for getting rid of sodas, sport drinks and flavored waters in schools. I’d also like to see them drop juice from school breakfast menus. I also like the idea of getting rid of the flavored milks — even these madeover ones have considerable added sugar and are likely still too sweet for my taste.

But I also understand that milk is an easy delivery device of essential nutrients. Not the only delivery device! Just a good, all-in-one. And studies have shown that when only plain milk is available, kids just pass on milk altogether. Still, the food idealist in me likes the idea of changing palates to not depend so much on added flavorings to make foods edible.

More than 90 percent of U.S. school districts offer chocolate and sometimes strawberry milk, but only 2 percent made available fat-free options. So I suppose cutting back on any amount of sugar is progress.

Will it be enough to change the minds of school boards who have banned flavored milk? We’ll have to see.

What do you think? Progress or PR?

Photo: 630WMAL via flickr

Learn more about what is in your child’s school lunch

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