Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Milk or Chocolate Milk?

A month or two ago, Econolad almost stopped drinking white milk altogether in his love of black milk, aka chocolate milk. While it's not my first choice, I get precious few of my first choices when it comes to Econolad's food preferences. Third and fourth-best is my life and there is no end in sight.

Then I read about the debates about whether schools should serve chocolate milk at all in school cafeterias:
Chocolate milk certainly does come packed with sweetness. The stuff contains more than twice the amount of sugar of regular milk (which is naturally sweet from lactose). In some cases, one little carton of chocolate milk holds more than five teaspoons of sugar.
But milk — regardless of whether it's sweetened or not — also comes loaded with important nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamin D. According to the NYT, studies indicate that about 75 percent of teenagers and adults suffer from a lack of vitamin D. And sure, folks can get vitamin D, calcium, and protein from other foods, but giving kids a carton of milk is an easy way to pump them full of three beneficial nutrients.
And that's where something like a chocolate milk ban could be detrimental to kids' health.
The point is: it depends on the kids; it depends on parental values. If you're going to make only one decisions for all families, you are going to make the wrong choice for at least some of them. Among the pertinent variables: do you want the same regulation for primary school children as for high schoolers? How are parental preferences being integrated? What are the real costs (and to whom) for the obesity and the lack of nutrients? If you ban chocolate milk, what other things will they drink (not what will be offered, but what will they choose)? If they switch to more sugared sodas, it's a nutrition loss.

Meanwhile, Econolad discovered a new drink, "juice milk." He asked me for chocolate milk the other day and I obligingly started pouring milk into his cup. Little did I realize he already had diluted apple juice in it. He lapped it up happily without the chocolate syrup, though, and has been asking for "juice milk" nightly since. It was only after several nights of this that I recalled a certain undergraduate studying economics who enjoyed mixing a little orange juice into his milk on occasion..... I haven't done that in a long time. If you get the percentages right, it's really not that bad.

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