Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What To Drink Part 4: The Flavored Milk Fiasco

Credit to:

So back to What To Drink.  We started with juice:
What's Wrong With Juice?

Then, we covered milk, the good:
What's Right With Milk?  Part A
What's Right With Milk?  Part B

and the bad:
What's Wrong With Milk?  Part A
What's Wrong With Milk?  Part B

Today, let's take another look at milk as it relates to kids and schools.  

School Milk

Unfortunately, schools aren't likely to adopt raw milk in the near future.  There is just too much hype and fear about it.  Okay, that is a battle for another day, but what about the milk that is offered and is promoted.  What can we do about it?  

For one, we can make it organic and try to find the best sources for it as possible, i.e. healthy cows fed grass.  On Eat Wild there is a list of 100-Percent Grass-fed Dairies by state.  It would also do a world of good to support these smaller dairies and local sources!

Second, perhaps we can get the stuffing out of our government and policy maker's ears about fat.  Guess what?  Low-fat milk isn't saving kids from obesity.  In fact, the added sugar is making the problem worse.  Kids need fat and saturated fat is healthy.  Scared of increasing triglycerides that correlate with heart disease?  Stop eating all that carbohydrate because that's what's contributing to high triglycerides, NOT the saturated fat.  Not convinced?  Read the whole story at Mark's Daily Apple's Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat.  So let the kids drink WHOLE MILK.  

Third, we can offer kids real, unprocessed vegetables as part of their school meals so that kids will actually get the calcium, vitamins, and other minerals they need from their food.  Ideally, we can also downgrade their intake of grains so that they can actually absorb these vitamins and minerals from their food.  Kids can start to value real, whole foods instead of thinking food just comes from a package, carton, or can.  Here is a disturbing clip from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on how little kids know about vegetables.  Watch and cringe:

Fourth, we can fight the flavored milk campaigners who think that kids won't drink milk unless it is "flavored," otherwise known as "sugared." Yes, believe it or not, there is a campaign to keep chocolate milk in school.  This dairy industry-funded campaign, Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk, includes advertisements, petitions, and activism to raise public support.  The campaign could cost them between $500,000 to $1 million, according to their marketing group.  Unfortunately, the funds they are using come from commodity producers through a USDA-administered program.  

Will kids still drink milk if it's plain?  Yes!  Despite the doomsday studies sponsored by the dairy industry, kids will still drink milk.  It will take them some time to adjust, and sales will drop, but perhaps that is a good thing.  Kids might actually start drinking more water and have more appetite for healthy meals if we supplied them in schools.  Imagine that!  

The Flavor of Milk

Why are they pushing so hard for flavored milk?  If they were trying to get kids healthier, wouldn't they try to promote the unflavored milk?  

Here is where Big Corn comes in with the money, power, and surplus.  Guess what sweetener is most common in chocolate milk?  High fructose corn syrup?  Bingo!  Unless you live in a cave, you've probably heard how HFCS is looking worse and worse, held responsible for metabolic syndrome nasties like increasing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, to just name a few. 

Did you know that flavored milk has the same sugar as a soda?  Read this post from Consume This First and another from Chef Ann, the Renegade Lunch Lady, who is making strides revolutionizing school lunches (see more below).  Doesn't it seem a little contradictory to decry soda, when flavored milk and juice both have the same amount (if not more) of sugar?  Do they really think the vitamins and minerals can overbalance the destruction (and addiction) caused by the sugar?  The funny thing is that you can get your vitamins and minerals from real food without the sugar.  And real food trumps that which is engineered and processed any day.  

Still think the sugar isn't a big deal?  According to USDA guidelines (which are horrendous, but standards nonetheless),  only 10% or less of total calories should come from added sugars.  Just taking the added 4 teaspoons of sugar in one 8oz container of flavored milk, that's nearly half the sugar allowed in a day for children up to 9 years old.  Just think of all the other sources of added sugar in a child's day: cereal, snacks, other flavored drinks, juice, processed foods, etc.  Even on a supposedly junk food- and soda-free diet, most kids are getting WAY too much sugar!  It is no wonder that on average we are consuming twice our allotment of sugar a day!  

Think I am crazy?  Try taking an inventory of sugar in a child's foods for one day.  If you aren't reading labels, you should be!    

Who Is Making A Difference?

Jamie Oliver's revolutionary TED speech

Chef, author, and nutritional advocate Jamie Oliver is attacking the flavored milk in our schools with his campaign for school lunch reform.  His passion and astounding presentation will make you emotional.  Seriously.  

There is another TED speaker: Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper.  

Chef Ann has been a vocal proponent for school lunch reform, including the removal of flavored milk from her school districts.  She has dubbed flavored milk "soda in drag."  Her TED speech sounds remarkably similar to Jamie Oliver's.  Really makes you disgusted with school lunches and ready to take action, doesn't it?  

The Good News

With the help of prominent supporters like Oliver and Cooper pushing school lunch reform, some schools are saying enough is enough.  Think kids won't drink milk unless it is flavored?  Think again.  
  • Berkley, California, and Boulder, Colorado, took flavored milk off the menu in their school districts under the leadership of Chef Ann Cooper.  
  • Washington DC has banned the sale of flavored milk in their public schools and others may soon follow.  
  • The Florida School Board is contemplating the change too.  
  • Others school districts like those in Connecticut have put restrictions on the amount of sugar allowed in flavored milk.  While this is a step in the right direction, the allowed sugar is still too high.  From that link, just look at TruMoo 1% chocolate milk from Garelick Farms, which has 31g of sugar in 8oz of milk.  That's the same as Rockstar Energy Drink or Mountain Dew!  
  • Other school districts like those of Barrington, Illinois restrict the days flavored milk can be served by having "Flavored milk Fridays."  

For another summary on the recent debate, check out this recent (Sept. 2010) New York Times article: A School Fight Over Chocolate Milk.

Bottom line: If you are going to let kids drink milk, go full-fat, organic, grass-fed, and raw if at all possible.  Sugar does NOT need to be added to everything a child eats and drinks!  

Keep reading for more debunking of other popular drinks!  Next time let's talk chocolate milk and sports recovery.  

Next segment: What To Drink Part 5: Chocolate Milk for Recovery?


  1. Great info. I work in a school. I am avid Crossfitter, and I just went Paleo a month ago. This is such an uphill battle, but I am going to refer to your info. when working with my fellow administrators to make this better in my school system. Thank you!

  2. Good luck taking this to the schools! I am interested in your journey. Keep me posted!

  3. If saturated fat is good for you, how do you explain this?


    I know conventional "wisdom" on nutrition is massively flawed but this guy didn't get that way by drinking HFCS in the UK. Can you explain it?

  4. Thanks for he engGing question! However, I don't see any cause and effect evidence that saturated fat is responsible for that man's condition. Without more detail about his diet, my gut response would be to say he has been eating excess carbohydrate and a diet that's too acidic, likely from grains.

    Read Robb Wolf's Paleo Solution for a more detailed description of what happens to the body on a typical grain-based diet. Dr. Cordain also has an excellent piece on the acid-base balance on his website. Finally, read up on the cholesterol myth for why it's not fat that make us fat, or our heart for that matter.

    Hope my answer helps!

    Best wishes,

  5. I meant "engaging." Argh for screen typing on the iPad :)