Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wake Up Iowa (The Case Against Sugary Milk)

Bear with me for a minute, it's time for a 'soapbox' rant:
A recent poll on KCCI (The Des Moines' metro CBS station) spoke about the banning of flavored milk from Los Angeles schools, and asked readers if they would be in favor of a ban of chocolate milk in Iowa schools. The results? Well, they're disappointing.

104 people (so far) have voted yes - ban chocolate milk
450 people (so far) have voted no - keep the milk

I'm sure the 450 people are of perfectly sound mind on normal days, but in this poll they were clearly nuts or ill informed. Now, I think I know the response these people gave (in their minds) - it was likely something to the tune of:

"Don't be ridiculous, they're taking away chocolate milk from children now!?"
"I had chocolate milk growing up and I was just fine!"
"Government run amok!"

Too an extent, these points are correct. In moderation, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little chocolate milk now and again. It works as a nice treat. Children should be able to have sweet or sugary things every now and again, it's a right of childhood. Ice cream isn't evil, chocolate milk isn't the villain - they're treats. So long as they're kept that way, I'm perfectly fine with kids enjoy chocolate milk every now and again.

There, however, lies the problem. Now and again. In a perfect world, we could manage this and make certain that children were not filling up on chocolate milk everyday.

That's not the case in our schools. Chocolate milk is a menu option everyday of the week in most schools (Thanks to great lobbying by the dairy producers and the mandated menus from Federal funding - but that's another soapbox debate). There it sits next to regular 2%, skim and sometimes strawberry (which is just as bad). Now, I don't care how much of a 'responsible adult' you think your 8 year old is - 99.9% of children, when left to choose their own menu options will opt for the sugary, sweet or not-so-great for them options.

I know - stop the presses right?

So, what's the issue with kids drinking sugary milk everyday? Let's look at the breakdown.

  • The national dairy council says that an 8 ounce carton of chocolate milk contains about 4 teaspoons (64 calories) of added sugar per serving. Add that with the 12 grams of natural sugar that are already found in milk and you're looking at 28 grams of sugar per serving.
  • If you drink this milk twice a day, you're getting 8 teaspoons of sugar (128 calories) everyday. This is more than an 8 ounce can of Coca-Cola.
  • If this practice continues over the school year (8-16 ounces of chocolate milk a day) that adds up to 2 gallons of pure sugar and 23,000+ calories.
Counter Argument: "I'd rather have children drink chocolate milk than no milk at all. It's still milk, so it's still good for them"

Not so fast. According to Doctor Marlene Schwartz of Yale University:

"Flavored milk is not the nutritional equivalent of unflavored milk. It is significantly higher in calories, sugar and sodium, and usually contains artificial colors or flavors."
Counter Argument: "How much chocolate milk are kids consuming in schools? Aren't we blowing up over a select few?"

  • About 70% of the milk consumed in schools is chocolate milk.
Counter Argument: "Our school budget doesn't have room to make these radical changes"

  • In general, flavored milk costs MORE than white milk. So schools could make the switch without increasing their costs - in fact they could SAVE money.

Now, I'll agree that banning 100% isn't always the answer. As I've said, moderation is okay. I remember growing up that chocolate milk was a once a week privilege within the elementary school. Every Friday was chocolate milk day. School districts could easily reduce the sugary milks down to a once a week 'treat' (as they should be) without banning them completely. This makes the healthier plain milk available 4/5 of the week and the parents can put down their pitchforks over banning the sugary milks. Diets improve, schools save money and the kids keep their treat. Sounds like a reasonable solution right?

Let's face it America, obesity is a HUGE problem in this country. Our health care system is overwhelmed with disease and disorders that are brought on simply by this country's inability to make smarter decisions when it comes to their diets. Childhood obesity is also becoming a fast problem in this country. As parents and members of the community, it's our job to make sure that our children are growing up healthier and are taught to make smarter decisions.

These changes come one step at a time. We can start be reducing the impact of sugary milk in Iowa's schools. The huge disparity in the KCCI poll shows that we have a long way to go in educating people about the changes that need to be made.

All I'm asking for is parents and community members to stop and read about the issue. Think about the bigger picture and become informed. You may still end up disagreeing with me - that's fine. But at least evaluate what is becoming a big problem within our great country.

Information about sugary milk was found at:

Check out to find a Food Revolution campaign near you or to sign a petition against sugar laced milk in our schools.

Thank you for letting me rant on my soap box for a little while. Enjoy your weekend!



  1. Well, we could go back to PARENTS feeding their own children. I know... crazy talk, right?

  2. Could you respond with the link to KCCI's poll results? I cannot find it on their website, and I would like to read more about it. Thank you.

  3. They changed the poll after about 4 days. I don't know where they archive the old results (if they do at all). It looks like once it came down, it was 'lost' to the archives of the internet.