Is chocolate milk fattening?

Should Chocolate Milk Be Served In Schools?

By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

As you probably know by now, I’m a mom to two wonderful boys and while I enjoy implementing healthy eating at home, it’s also important to me that they have healthy options at school too. And they agree. Just before the holidays (a time where sweets are a plenty), an important sugar-related topic was discussed at one of our local elementary schools where 5th graders held an informative debate.

Should chocolate milk be served in schools? This seemingly simple question has sparked a lot of controversy in recent years. A few school districts across the US have voted to ban chocolate milk, however in most schools it remains a staple where 70% of milk consumed in schools is flavored and low-fat chocolate is the favorite choice. The chocolate milk brands served in schools vary, but federal criteria dictate it must be low fat. Recently, the state of Connecticut almost outlawed chocolate milk from all schools and would have become the first to pass this state-wide. While the CT House & Senate voted to ban chocolate milk, the Governor and self-proclaimed chocolate milk lover, vetoed the bill.

Students Speak Out

My son Cooper, a non-milk drinking vegetarian 5th grader, and I were honored to be invited to sit on the panel for the debate. Fifth Grade students chose to be on the “For chocolate milk” or “Against chocolate milk” side of the argument. The goal of the debate was really to learn about the process of debating, but the students clearly embraced the topic of chocolate milk. Their research was excellent and both sides cited studies. However, the side in favor of chocolate milk’s data came from what I would consider biased sources, like the Dairy industry and local Dairy Council.

Students on the favorable side also noted that professional athletes drink chocolate milk and promote it. In discussion, it was clear that they were unaware of the potential financial gain associated with endorsements. Learning about the non-nutrition aspects that play into what’s offered in schools was eye opening for all participants.

Both sides were opposed to the inclusion of carrageenan in chocolate milk. The “against” side went as far as to make a video showing the student’s disgust drinking the red-seaweed based additive. The “for” side did identify different chocolate milk brand options that are organic and don’t include carrageenan, but noted they’re far lower in protein.

What’s Wrong with Chocolate Milk?

The biggest issue that both sides (and I ) agreed with, is added sugar. This is indeed no laughing matter. Let’s break down the math to reveal just why, in my opinion, chocolate milk has too much added sugars to be considered a healthy choice for kids at school. Especially since research shows that Fruits + Veggies – Sugary Processed Foods = Better Grades, Better Behavior for school children.

Nutrition Facts per 8 oz of Low-Fat Chocolate Milk

  • 24 grams total sugar
  • Half is added sugars = 12 grams
  • The other half is natural sugar from lactose found in milk

Here are foods that also contain 12 grams of added sugars that would clearly not be seen as healthy for school kids:

  • 1 serving/oz of M&Ms
  • 4 oz of Coca-Cola
  • 1 serving/oz of Gummy Bears
  • 5 Hershey Kisses

The “Against Chocolate Milk” team demonstrated the absurd amount of added sugars a student could consume from choosing this type of milk just three days a week for a school year, with a big jar of Jolly Ranchers. Cooper’s argument was, “If we are allowed to have this sugar at school I’d pick the candy over chocolate milk any day!”

  • 1 serving of vanilla cake with frosting has the same sugar as 8 oz of chocolate milk. We are not allowed to celebrate birthdays in schools with cake anymore because it’s “unhealthy” and food allergies, why can we serve the same amount of sugar to them every day in beverage form?

What are the Caloric Ramifications of Choosing Extra Sugar from Chocolate vs. Unflavored Milk?

  • 190 calories in Chocolate Milk vs. 122 in 2% plain milk = 68 calories More
  • 5 days per week = 340 calories * 36 weeks in school year = 12,240 Extra Calories from Added SUGAR each year!
  • That’s 3 ½ pounds of potential weight gain each year
  • For their entire elementary school K – 5 career this could mean an extra 21 pounds of body fat per child!!!

Seriousness of Childhood Obesity

  • One out of every five pre-school children is overweight or obese 20%
  • More than one out of every three children and teens in the US is overweight or obese
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in teens over the past 30 years
  • Children born after 2000 are expected to have a shorter life span than their parents
  • Diabetes, heart disease and cancer are among the disease risks of early life obesity. Burden of disease means more suffering and illness day to day

Why Not Water?

  • Proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel would require listing added sugars, according to the FDA.
  • 100% juice offered at schools, ALSO can have half of its sugar from added sugars
    • 1 cup grape juice 100% = 40 gm sugar
    • 1 cup grapes = 23 grams sugar
  • Harvard School of Public Health, CDC and other experts state water is best choice.
    • At least half of fluids consumed should be water
    • Limit milk (of any kind) to no more than 2 glasses per day for students
    • Excessive milk consumption linked to certain cancers in adults
    • The World Health Organization and decades of science show that the recommended 3 cups milk per day is NOT evidence-based
    • Countries with highest milk and calcium consumption have the highest rates of bone fracture!

We don’t need flavored milk for vital nutrients!

Protein, phosphorus, calcium…many foods already available in schools offer the same important nutrients that supporters state we need chocolate milk in order to get them into our kids. I came prepared to the debate with the school’s menu printed out so the students could identify foods, other than chocolate milk, that could provide these essential nutrients. Interestingly, all the students on the panel noted they do not buy lunch from the cafeteria, instead bringing lunch from home, just like my kids. Reasons included that it, “tastes terrible,” and “isn’t real food.” In fact, none of the children on this panel drink the chocolate milk they were supporting!

Examples of foods on the school menu that provide essential nutrients for kids:

  • Protein – very prevalent like meat, chicken, cheese, milk, beans. Cooper notes that “very few vegetarian protein rich meals are offered.”
  • Potassium – colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamin D – mushrooms, salmon (neither are on school menu but could be brought from home.) Vitamin D from food won’t adequately address deficiency risk we have living in New England – most kids will need supplements regardless of milk consumption for this vitamin, check with your pediatrician.
  • Calcium – green vegetables, soy foods, beans, fish
  • Phosphorus – meat, whole grain breads and cereals

Targeting Kids

  • 80% of flavored milk in the US is sold to schools
  • Sugar will always be a preferred energy source for humans, it’s not about kids being able to make different choices
  • All beverages offered to elementary school children should be mindful of sugar content. We can help kids make healthy choices by setting up sugar boundaries
  • Sugar sweetened beverages are a key culprit in childhood (and adult) obesity and related health risks
  • Sugar and cravings – set up reward-based motivation that is difficult to overcome
  • Serving excess sweets can set kids up for desiring sugar sweetened beverages and struggling over their lifetime
  • It’s a missed opportunity for wellness by not serving water

Kids Say It Best

Here are a few quotes from some of Cooper’s classmates!

“I was on the ‘no’ side because I don’t think chocolate milk is healthy. It has too much sugar and sugar isn’t healthy. We just want to be healthy.” – Isabella

“I think the problem with the sugar in chocolate milk is that drinking it or eating a lot of sugar can make you form bad habits.” – John

Make sure you catch Joe Cross’ latest film, “The Kids Menu.” In this inspiring and hopeful documentary, we see amazing programs in action, inspiring individuals paving the way for change, but most of all — Kids, taking the lead in getting healthier options on their own menu. Pre-order it today and watch it on February 12.

Schools shouldn’t serve chocolate milk


Had you ever thought about what is in the chocolate milk you are holding in your hands?

You should really pay attention to what you need to stay healthy. There is a 7-9 percent chance that you will pick chocolate milk; there is a 3-1 percent chance that you will pick plain milk.

One reason to stay healthy is that it’s got a sugar overload in store. the next avalanche on the snowy mountains is the unnecessary ingredients that you don’t need. And finally, the show-downer, chocolate milk can give major or minor stomach problems.

had you ever thought about what is in the chocolate milk you are holding in your hands? You should really pay attention to what you need to stay healthy, instead of the unhealthy choice. Up there I said that chocolate milk was the unhealthy choice, it’s true. For example, chocolate milk’s added sugar and calories can cause overweight and obesity. Way too much chocolate milk can lead to heart disease and/or cancer. Kids drink chocolate milk because it’s flavored chocolate, and because it’s got the chocolaty flavor. As I wrote this, it was like I was learning and this paper was the teacher.

Chocolate milk has gone downhill in Los Angeles when Jamie Oliver’s convinced the parent that chocolate milk is giving their kids a sugar overload. HGe’s managed to convince all the schools in Los Angeles to ban chocolate milk next year. Jamie is a famous chef and serves school lunch for kids. In addition, Danelle Martin, school cafeteria monitor, says “It’s as simple as that kids should be drinking plain milk and that’s what they should be serving in schools.”

I say that one thing chocolate milk should not have is unnecessary ingredients. An example is that chocolate milk contains caffeine, saturated fat and sugar, plus a few unneeded calories; chocolate milk can be very dangerous because of those. Plain milk has double the vitamins, calcium and protein and less calories that chocolate milk. Finally chocolate milk can give sugar rush and hyperactivity.

One of the worst things that chocolate milk can do to you is major stomach problems. Drinking chocolate milk is the start, then chocolate milk adds stomach acid and too much can lead to a big problem, and too much can make your future unpredictable. Plain milk doesn’t do damage to something you use every day. This proves that chocolate milk can harm, not help. Like they say, one small thing can make a big difference.

Finally, they should not serve chocolate milk at school because it is dangerous. It is dangerous because it can trigger a sugar overload; it can also contain unwanted ingredients and finally, it can give you major stomach problems.These are important because chocolate milk can affect children’s future and their health. Some schools are OK with chocolate milk because they think that it gives nutrients.

Why Schools Should Keep Chocolate Milk

There are 3 reasons why I think schools should keep chocolate milk. 1. They get all the same nutrients they get in white milk. 2. They also have tons of different options to choose from. Lastly, they get all the daily serving they will need. That is why I think chocolate milk should stay/be in schools.

First off, they get all the same nutrients they will get in white milk. Chocolate milk contains all the same great nutrient-rich package as white milk. Also, you may not believe it now but chocolate milk can help with diseases! Lastly, chocolate milk has little sugar so it doesn’t matter what type you choose. I wanted to share that because you may think chocolate milk has a lot of sugar because of the chocolate but, it really doesn’t. That is one reason why I think chocolate milk should be/stay in school.

Secondly, they have a lot of different options Schools must provide low-fat or fat-free white or flavored milk to children. This means, they already have 2 options at school to choose from. Different research shows that any type of chocolate milk is the most popular. This proves that kids like to have chocolate milk in schools to drink. Lastly, Kids think white milk and flavored milk tastes good to drink states that because kids like to drink milk and maybe the schools will see how much kids like to drink milk. I mean milk is really good and I love. But yet again that’s my opinion. That is another reason why I think chocolate milk should be in schools.

Lastly, kids can get daily servings. Drinking any kind of milk can get kids up to their 3 daily servings. Now that i got that out of the way, kids may choose chocolate milk for their daily servings. The guide lines even says, Kids 9 and up should drink 3 servings of any type of milk. We should just listen to the guidelines because they are a lifesaver! Am I right? Or am I right? Finally, Children who consume flavored milk, are more likely to reach their daily recommended servings. This means, kids are better off drinking flavored milk like chocolate milk or other type of flavored milk. These are only some reasons why kids can get their 3 daily servings from flavored milk.

Critics may say, Chocolate milk has a lot of sugar because of the chocolate in it. Well actually, chocolate milk is just as healthy as white milk. They might also say, I don’t think chocolate milk should be in schools. That’s your opinion. We all have different opinions. I think they should because, kids love it. That is only some of the things critics may say. Now that you learned all about chocolate milk, you may consider keeping it in schools. My 3 reasons were, 1. They get the same nutrients. 2. They have different options. And 3. Kids can get all their daily servings. That is why I said chocolate milk should be in schools.

Calcium Calculator Online Health Tool.

“Home.” Western Dairy Association,

Is Chocolate Milk Healthy for Kids?

Chocolate milk: To drink or not to drink? That’s the hot-button issue on the minds of school officials, parents, and nutrition experts across the country.

The debate over whether chocolate milk should be served in school cafeterias — and whether it’s healthy — reared its head again when the Los Angeles Unified School District announced it would ban chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk from its schools starting this summer. Superintendent John Deasy pushed for the ban with influence from celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver, who has said that flavored milk has as much sugar as a candy bar.

In April, The Washington Post reported that Fairfax County, Va., schools would reintroduce chocolate milk after they banned it (along with D.C. schools) last year. The new, reformulated chocolate milk is low-fat and contains less sugar than previous versions (and the sugar is from sugar cane or beets instead of the more processed high-fructose corn syrup).

But the chocolate milk controversy is bigger than just school policy. Chocolate milk is higher in sugar and calories than non-flavored milk, but some kids simply refuse to drink plain milk. (According to dairy industry data, milk consumption in 58 schools dropped by an average of 35 percent when flavored milk was removed or limited.)

So are kids better off consuming the extra sugar and calories in chocolate milk than not consuming any milk — a vital source of calcium, vitamin D, and other vital nutrients — at all?

Chocolate Milk vs. Regular Milk

All milk — flavored or not — is packed with nutrients. One cup of fortified low-fat milk contains around 100 calories and 13 grams of sugar (in the form of lactose, a sugar found naturally in milk) and about 300 milligrams of calcium (about 25 percent of kids’ daily need) as well as vitamin D, vitamin A, B vitamins, and minerals like potassium and phosphorus. The same size serving of typical low-fat chocolate milk contains about 160 calories and 25 grams of sugar (the increased amount comes from added sugar), with comparable levels of vitamins and minerals.

It may not seem like a huge difference, but over time that extra sugar and calories add up, especially when they’re consumed daily at school and as part of an already too-sugary diet, explains Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for the Today show and Everyday Health. A recent Emory University study found that added sugar accounts for 20 percent of teens’ daily calories; those with the highest sugar intake had lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and higher levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes later in life. Much of the teens’ sugar intake came from sweetened beverages, the study authors said.

Should Kids Drink Chocolate Milk at All?

“I don’t recommend that kids drink chocolate milk in schools,” says Bauer, because the added sugar provides unnecessary extra calories when so many kids are already struggling with their weight and unhealthy eating.

Instead, Bauer says it’s definitely best to encourage your kids to drink plain 1 percent or fat-free milk with their lunch at school. (Kids shouldn’t drink whole milk after age 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.) If your child will only drink flavored milk, Bauer says it’s better to have them drink water with their school lunch and serve them chocolate milk with breakfast, a snack, or dinner at home (stick with one serving a day for flavored milk), where you can make your own healthier version.

“At home parents can control the kind of milk poured and the amount of chocolate syrup or sweetened cocoa stirred in,” she says. Just mix two teaspoons of chocolate syrup or sweetened cocoa powder into fat-free milk, which only adds around 7 extra grams of sugar and 35 calories.

One thing most experts can agree on: Kids need to get enough calcium (800 milligrams a day for ages 4 to 8; 1,300 milligrams a day for ages 9 to 18; 800) and milk is often an important calcium contributor in most kids’ diets. To reach those amounts, children need multiple servings of calcium-rich foods a day, including milk as well as low-fat yogurt, cheese, and leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli. If you’re concerned about your child’s calcium intake, ask your pediatrician about taking supplements.

Bottom line: Pre-mixed chocolate milk contains added sugar and calories that kids don’t need, and it shouldn’t be served in schools, says Bauer. If your child will only drink chocolate moo juice, serve it occasionally at home where you can whip up your own healthier version.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Kids’ Health Center.

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The push for chocolate milk as a workout recovery drink for adults appears to have been triggered by efforts of schools throughout the U.S. to remove chocolate and other flavored milks from kids’ cafeteria choices. This has hurt dairy industry revenues; flavored-milk sales reportedly dropped in four of the past five years but still amount to about $2.5 billion annually.

The case against chocolate milk for kids is that it contains too much sugar and too many calories. The other side of that argument is that kids won’t drink unflavored milk and thus will lose out on the nutrients milk provides. I think they can, and should, get those nutrients elsewhere. The notion that we need milk throughout life has been fostered by the dairy industry. Except for people of northern European origin, most adults worldwide can’t digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. This is because as we mature, our bodies stop making the enzyme that breaks it down. As a result, many may develop gas, cramps and/or diarrhea whenever milk is consumed.

But lactose intolerance isn’t the only problem with milk and milk products. The milk protein, casein, can irritate the immune system and stimulate mucus production, worsening allergy symptoms. This is why milk consumption is associated with recurrent childhood ear infections, eczema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and sinus conditions. Even those who are not allergic to milk and are spared digestive problems may find that symptoms related to these conditions improve when they eliminate milk and milk products. You can learn about healthy milk substitutes here.

In addition, you should know that milk does not necessarily build strong bones. Studies from the Harvard School of Public Health show that populations with the highest dairy intake have the highest rates of hip fractures.

The idea that adults should drink chocolate milk after a strenuous workout appears to stem from a single, small study published in the February 2006 issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. The study, which was partially funded by the dairy industry, included only nine participants, male cyclists who rode their bikes until their muscles were exhausted and then drank either low-fat chocolate milk, Gatorade or a sports drink that provides protein plus more carbohydrates than these beverages typically contain. The cyclists rested for four hours after their drinks and then rode again. The study found that those who drank the chocolate milk were able to ride about 50 percent longer than those who drank the sports drink and about as long as those who drank Gatorade.

I haven’t seen any evidence suggesting that adults who work out regularly but who aren’t endurance athletes would be better off drinking chocolate milk after exercise. If you did, you might end up taking in as many calories as you just burned. Instead, I recommend drinking more water than you think you need after exercising. Studies have shown that recreational runners tend to drink less than they need — before, during and after exercise. If you’ve lost a lot of salt or potassium from exercise, you can replace them by eating some fruits or vegetables.

As for chocolate – it has a place in a healthy diet as a treat, not as a milk flavoring. I enjoy high-quality dark chocolate from France, Belgium, Italy, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Limit yourself to an ounce several times a week. If you can’t find good, imported chocolate, look for a domestic brand that contains at least 70 percent cocoa.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

You walk into the store to grab some milk, do you go for the chocolate or white? Most people believe that chocolate milk is more unhealthy than white milk, but is that true? Many kids turn to sugary drinks like, juices, soda, or energy drinks anyway. But, when deciding what type of milk to drink, which should we choose?

There are many benefits to consuming milk. It is good for your teeth, bones, muscles, and overall health. Milk is really a staple in a balanced diet. Children and teens ages 9-18 should consume 3 servings of milk a day. But, since most kids aren’t a fan of non flavored milk, is it better to give them chocolate milk? Although it has more calories, chocolate milk has the same 16 nutrients as white milk, so essentially, it is just as healthy for you as non flavored milk. Although it has more sugar, studies shows that children who drink chocolate milk are less likely to drink unhealthy drinks such as, soda, and other drinks higher in sugar, and they are consuming more nutrients in the long run. By drinking more milk, even though it is chocolate milk, kids are still consuming more calcium and vitamins than kids who do not drink milk at all. Since it contains cocoa, many people believe that chocolate milk causes hyperactivity in children, but in a study done by the Dietitians of Canada, there is no direct link between the sugar from cocoa and hyperactivity.

Chocolate milk has also been found to be a good workout recovery drink. After working out, some people turn to post-workout drinks, or sports recovery drinks, which are high in sugar. After working out, drinking chocolate milk provides your body with double the carbohydrates and proteins which will help replenish your muscles better than any other drink.

Courtesy of Shamrock Farms

According to, only one in ten school-age girls and four in ten boys meet their calcium requirements. So, drinking chocolate milk, is generally better than drinking no milk at all. If you’re a picky eater and do not like unflavored milk, chocolate milk will still give you the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Grab a glass, and perhaps a straw, too – Sunday, September 27 is National Chocolate Milk Day!

To celebrate this time-honored favorite drink, we’re taking a look at some fun facts about chocolate milk.

  1. The USDA reports that low-fat chocolate milk has 191 calories, 4.8 grams of total fat, and 7 grams of protein. Regular full-fat milk has 209 calories per cup, as well as 8 grams of total fat, and 8 grams of protein.
  2. There are 140 calories in a cup of TruMoo’s lowfat chocolate milk, 2.5 grams of total fat, and 8 grams of protein. Fairlife makes a 2% lowfat chocolate milk that has 140 calories in a cup as well, along with 4.5 grams of total fat, and 13 grams of protein.
  3. Doctor and collector Sir Hans Sloane created the concoction all the way back in 1687. Other reports say that Jamaicans were brewing “a hot beverage brewed from shavings of freshly harvested cacao, boiled with milk and cinnamon” dating back to 1494.
  4. Chocolate milk can be made by stirring chocolate syrup into plain milk, or by adding cocoa and sugar to milk.
  5. It’s not highly caffeinated. The amount of caffeine in chocolate milk is similar to the amount in decaffeinated drinks. In fact, an 8-ounce serving has between 2 mg and 7 mg of caffeine.
  6. Many studies have praised chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink.

Kristen Fischer is a copywriter, journalist and author living at the Jersey Shore. Connect with her on Twitter.

Drinking Chocolate Milk After A Workout Offers Advantages For Post-Exercise Performance And Muscle Repair

One of the best post-exercise recovery drinks could already be in your refrigerator, according to new research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference this week. In a series of four studies, researchers found that chocolate milk offered a recovery advantage to help repair and rebuild muscles, compared to specially designed carbohydrate sports drinks.
Experts agree that the two-hour window after exercise is an important, yet often neglected, part of a fitness routine. After strenuous exercise, this post-workout recovery period is critical for active people at all fitness levels – to help make the most of a workout and stay in top shape for the next workout.
The new research suggests that drinking fat free chocolate milk after exercise can help the body retain, replenish and rebuild muscle to help your body recover. Drinking lowfat chocolate milk after a strenuous workout could even help prep muscles to perform better in a subsequent bout of exercise. Specifically, the researchers found a chocolate milk advantage for:

  • Building Muscle – Post-exercise muscle biopsies in eight moderately trained male runners showed that after drinking 16 ounces of fat free chocolate milk, the runners had enhanced skeletal muscle protein synthesis – a sign that muscles were better able to repair and rebuild – compared to when they drank a carbohydrate only sports beverage with the same amount of calories. The researchers suggest that “athletes can consider fat-free chocolate milk as an economic nutritional alternative to other sports nutrition beverages to support post-endurance exercise skeletal muscle repair.”1
  • Replenishing Muscle “Fuel” – Replacing muscle fuel (glycogen) after exercise is essential to an athlete’s future performance and muscle recovery. Researchers found that drinking 16 ounces of fat free chocolate milk with its mix of carbohydrates and protein (compared to a carbohydrate-only sports drink with the same amount of calories) led to greater concentration of glycogen in muscles at 30 and 60 minutes post exercise.2
  • Maintaining Lean Muscle – Athletes risk muscle breakdown following exercise when the body’s demands are at their peak. Researchers found that drinking fat free chocolate milk after exercise helped decrease markers of muscle breakdown compared to drinking a carbohydrate sports drink.3
  • Subsequent Exercise Performance – Ten trained men and women cyclists rode for an hour and a half, followed by 10 minutes of intervals. They rested for four hours and were provided with one of three drinks immediately and two hours into recovery: lowfat chocolate milk, a carbohydrate drink with the same amount of calories or a control drink. When the cyclists then performed a subsequent 40 kilometer ride, their trial time was significantly shorter after drinking the chocolate milk compared to the carbohydrate drink and the control drink.4

Why Chocolate Milk?
Chocolate milk’s combination of carbohydrates and high-quality protein first made researchers take notice of a potential exercise benefit. The combination of carbs and protein already in chocolate milk matched the ratio found to be most beneficial for recovery. In fact, studies suggest that chocolate milk has the right mix of carbs and protein to help refuel exhausted muscles, and the protein in milk helps build lean muscle. This new research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting milk can be just as effective as some commercial sports drinks in helping athletes refuel and recover.
Milk also provides fluids for rehydration and electrolytes, including potassium, calcium and magnesium lost in sweat, that both recreational exercisers and elite athletes need to replace after strenuous activity. Plus, chocolate milk is naturally nutrient-rich with the advantage of additional nutrients not found in most traditional sports drinks. Penny-for-penny, no other post-exercise drink contains the full range of vitamins and minerals found in chocolate milk.

  1. Lunn WR, Colletto MR, Karfonta KE, Anderson JM, Pasiakos SM, Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk consumption following endurance exercise affects skeletal muscle protein fractional synthetic rate and intracellular signaling. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S48.
  2. Karfonta KE, Lunn WR, Colletto MR, Anderson JM, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk enhances glycogen replenishment after endurance exercise in moderately trained males. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S64.
  3. Colletto MR, Lunn W, Karfonta K, Anderson J, Rogriguez N. Effects of chocolate milk consumption on leucine kinetics during recovery from endurance exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S126.
  4. Ferguson-Stegall L, McCleave E, Doerner PG, Ding Z, Dessard B, Kammer L, Wang B, Liu Y, Ivy J. Effects of chocolate milk supplementation on recovery from cycling exercise and subsequent time trial performance. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S536.

Source: Weber Shandwick Worldwide

June 4, 2010 — Fat-free chocolate milk beat out carbohydrate sports drinks at helping to rebuild and refuel muscles after exercise, researchers report.

The combination of carbohydrates and protein in low-fat chocolate milk appears to be “just right” for refueling weary muscles, says William Lunn, PhD, an exercise scientist at the University of Connecticut.

“It’s not just a dessert item, but it’s very healthy, especially for endurance athletes,” Lunn tells WebMD.

The research involved eight male runners in good physical shape who ate a balanced diet for two weeks. At the end of each week, they took a fast paced, 45-minute run.

Following each run, the men drank either 16 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk or 16 ounces of a carbohydrate-only sports beverage with the same number of calories.

Post-exercise muscle biopsies showed increased skeletal muscle protein synthesis — a sign that muscles were better able to rebuild — after the milk drink, compared with the carb-only beverage.

Additionally, drinking fat-free chocolate milk led to a higher concentration of glycogen, or muscle fuel, in muscles 30 and 60 minutes after exercise, compared with the sports drink. Replenishing glycogen after exercise helps future performance, Lunn says.

The findings were presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Baltimore this week.

While only men were studied, one would expect women to gain the same post-workout benefits from chocolate milk, he says.

While the studies were small, there’s no reason not to reach for fat-free chocolate milk after your next workout, says sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, of Healthworks Fitness Center in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

“Athletes can consider it an inexpensive nutritional alternative to engineered sports beverages for help with post-workout recovery,” she tells WebMD.

The studies were supported by a grant from the National Dairy Council and National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

The nutrition winds seem to be blowing against chocolate milk these days.

Targeted by public health experts, celebrity chefs and fitness professionals alike for its calorie and sugar content, chocolate milk has become the latest target in the crusade to save our children. Add to that the never-ending controversy about milk in general (people regularly pronounce that “humans are the only creatures to consume milk after weaning” as if that were new information), and there appears to be plenty of reason to pile on the anti-chocolate milk bandwagon.

But is there more to the story of this beverage? What does the research actually say about its benefits and drawbacks? Let’s take a closer look.


When you compare equal serving sizes, commercially prepared chocolate milk is, indeed, higher in calories than pop. One cup of chocolate milk provides about 160 to 170 calories of energy, while the same serving of most fruit juices, and even pop, runs about 120 to 150 calories. A cup of plain milk, by comparison, checks in at 90, 110 or 130 calories for skim, 1% or 2%, respectively. Strike one against the brown stuff.

The situation is similar for sugar content: Chocolate milk contains about 25 grams of sugar per cup, of which roughly 12 grams comes from the naturally occurring lactose sugar present in milk. The other 13 grams, or just more than three teaspoons, is added sugar. To compare, a cup of juice checks in at about 22 to 25 grams of sugar (all naturally-occurring if we’re talking about 100% fruit juice), which is about the same as a cup of pop. In other words, while chocolate milk is the highest in total sugar, it contains far less added sugar than pop.


On the other hand, unlike fruit juice or pop, chocolate milk provides seven to eight grams of high-quality protein per serving, and it is for that reason that it has been touted as a possible aid to muscle recovery after intense workouts. There is ample evidence that whey and casein, two of the proteins in milk, are invaluable to muscle-building, and when compared with soy protein, milk protein comes out on top in recovery. As for the chocolate part, the extra calories from carbohydrates (the two types of sugar) are well-documented to help restore muscle glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrate that provides us with quick-burning fuel during higher intensity activities, such as running, cycling or soccer. As it turns out, the quantity of sugar (about 50 grams for a two-cup/500 mL serving) is directly in line with what research says is the optimal amount of carbohydrate needed in the early phase of muscle recovery. So yes, while those chocolate milk commercials might seem suspicious, there is good reason for an athlete to use chocolate milk in recovery, provided they are working out long enough and hard enough.

But what of non-athletes? Is there a role for chocolate milk in the diets of kids who don’t have a lot more going on than gym class? While data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has revealed that American teens consume about 28 teaspoons, or the equivalent of 475 calories, from added sugar each day — far too much by anyone’s standards — and a 2010 study in Public Health Nutrition estimated that sugar-sweetened beverages have contributed to about one-fifth of the weight gain in the U.S. population since 1977, studies of school-aged kids in the U.S. have demonstrated that children who are offered flavoured milk at lunch drink less pop and fruit drinks, and are less likely to fall short in their intake of key nutrients including protein, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin A. Moreover, the American Heart Association, which in 2009 published the most stringent sugar guidelines by any public health organization to date, even stated that “when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods … such as flavoured milk, the quality of children’s and adolescents’ diet improves … and in the case of flavoured milk, no adverse effects on weight status were found.”


These days, some foods are branded “good,” while others are “bad,” or even “poison,” but chocolate milk seems to be one of those foods that falls in between. For some, like athletes or kids with low quality diets or limited access to healthful foods, chocolate milk can be a help; for others, plain milk or water remains the better option. Or, you can do what I do with my three-year-old: Buy the sweetened stuff, but cut it with plain milk to reach a compromise we can both agree on.

—Jennifer Sygo is a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Canada, which offers executive physicals, sports medicine and prevention and wellness counselling in Toronto.

It’s time for a truce in the chocolate milk wars. A conflict over whether schools should offer flavored milk has been raging for years, pitting advocates for better school food against each other. While chocolate milk’s supporters insist the health benefits of milk outweigh any possible harm from extra sugar, its foes allege that chocolate milk is just like soda or candy. Meanwhile, as school funding shrinks, and costs for food, fuel and labor continue to rise, the chocolate milk battle divides advocates, just when it is most important that they join forces and work together.

To recap the battle thus far: flavored milk accounts for about 70% of the milk served in US schools. Some schools offer it for both breakfast and lunch, others only at lunch. Some schools have banned flavored milk altogether, but studies sponsored by the dairy industry show that when this happens, milk consumption overall drops about 37%.

Flavored milk’s foes say that such studies are biased. If only plain milk is offered, they say, children will happily drink it; thus far there have been no studies produced to back up that claim. Foes of sweetened milk also link its consumption with increased obesity, but again there have been no studies done to provide support for that view. Studies of the role “sweetened beverages” play in obesity have focused on soda, sweetened teas, juice drinks, and sports drinks, not flavored milk.

Many parents, including many well informed parents who are not in the pay of the dairy industry, feel that their kids will only drink milk if the taste is masked by something sweet. They would rather their children get the nutritional benefits of milk, even if it means they also get some sugar. School food directors worry that with flavored milk off the menu, fewer students will eat school meals. The fixed expenses of labor and overhead eat up more than half of a school’s nutrition budget, so any drop in the revenue from meals served can result in cuts to the quality of the food for those who continue to eat school meals, typically the poorest students.

Opponents say that sweetened milk has no place in our schools, and that offering it just teaches kids to want sugary beverages. Parents whose children drink plain milk at home, say they don’t want their kids tempted by flavored milk at school. Other opponents include those who support the view that sugar is toxic, and some high profile school food reformers like Ann Cooper, who calls chocolate milk “soda in drag” – and Jamie Oliver, who says it is just like candy.

Both sides are right – and both are wrong.

The anti chocolate milk forces are wrong to lead the public to believe that chocolate milk is identical to soda or candy. They base this claim on the grams of sugar found in each, without explaining that up to two thirds of the sugar in flavored milk is put there by nature, not by the Evil Dairy Industry.

Plain white milk contains lactose, a form of sugar which occurs naturally in milk. An 8 oz. carton of plain skim milk has about 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar, while a chocolate milk carton can have as much as 28g sugar (14g naturally occurring, another 14g “added”), or as little as 20-22g (14 naturally occurring, 6-8g “added”), depending on how much sugar the dairy feels customers want. By contrast, all 26g sugar in 8 oz. of Coke is “added” sugar, as are all 24g sugar in a chocolate bar.

Soda contains no nutrients apart from its calories, whereas milk contains large amounts of protein and calcium, as well as Vitamins A, B2, B3, B12, D, phosphorous and potassium. Can you name a single candy bar packing that much nutrition? Any product with that many nutrients would be marketed as a “nutrition bar,” not candy.

However, flavored milk’s opponents are right to object to the amount of added sugar in current formulations of the product. Is it really necessary for a beverage which already enters the world with 14g sugar in 8 oz., to be tarted up with another 14g sugar just to get a kid to drink it? A recent press release from the International Dairy Foods Association boasts “the average calorie level of flavored milk sold during the 2009-2010 school year was reduced nearly eight percent compared to the 2006-2007 school year.” Eight percent? Over three years? Are you kidding me? News flash, Dairy Industry – it’s not enough!

Meanwhile, the supporters of chocolate milk are right to fear that its removal may lead many children to skip milk at school altogether, because that is what the available evidence has shown to be true. Foes may claim that kids happily drink white milk if that is all that is available, but where are the studies to support that belief?

However, chocolate milk’s fans are wrong to minimize the sugar issue. While added sugar is not the sole cause of obesity, the American diet contains far too much added sugar, and even parents who allow chocolate milk say they wish it were not so sweet.

The one thing that everyone agrees on is that there is no agreement. Each side trots out their own medical professionals, dietitians or fervent parent supporters to explain why their view is the only rational one. Tempers flare, sound bites replace facts, and everyone digs in, determined not to yield an inch.

When school food reformers play fast and loose with the facts, it tarnishes the credibility of everyone working towards better school food. There is a legitimate case to be made for reducing the added sugar in school milk without having to resort to misrepresentation. When advocates who share a common interest in fighting child obesity are at each other’s throats over whether chocolate milk is a tasty way for kids to get important nutrition, or the Drink of Satan, the whole school food reform movement suffers, and that hurts kids.

But there is a middle ground.

First Lady Michelle Obama has focused mostly on getting kids to exercise more (Let’s Move), but she also told USA Today that consumers need to apply pressure on food producers. “Our job is to change demand,” she said. “Companies make what we buy.”

Dairies don’t need to add as much sugar as they do to flavored milk. School districts are big customers, and they can use their buying power to force the dairies they do business with to dial back the sugar. That’s just what happened in Fairfax (Va.) County Public Schools, the 11th largest district in the country. The district stopped offering flavored milk in June 2010, and by April 2011, it was reported that a new lower sugar version of chocolate milk would be reintroduced to the schools. The reformulated milk has 22g total sugar per 8oz serving, a reduction of over 20%. San Francisco public schools have also demanded, and gotten, a chocolate milk formulation with less sugar.

In addition to demanding a much less sweet version of chocolate milk, schools can take other steps to radically reduce the amount of added sugar kids consume in their milk. For example, they could drop strawberry milk altogether, since it usually has even more added sugar than chocolate, plus artificial coloring. They could limit the serving of chocolate milk to one meal a day, not two. They could position the chocolate milk at the very end of the line, after the plain milk, as recommended by Brian Wansink, of the Center for Behavioral Economics and Childhood Nutrition at Cornell University, whose research has shown that this simple, no cost move increases the amount of plain milk kids choose. More nutrition education can help students learn to make their own responsible food choices, not just at school, but out in the world, where a school wide ban on flavored milk will not protect them.

As we move closer to the 2012-13 school year implementation of the new Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act school meal requirements, which the USDA estimates will cost 64 cents per student per day to implement, but for which the government is providing only 6 cents, it is more important than ever that advocates for better school food be able to come together behind needed reforms. Taking an inflexible hard line on chocolate milk – pro or con – only serves to divide advocates who need to support each other. It is magical thinking to believe that Americans, who typically consume 156 pounds of added sugar per year, will simply stop, cold turkey. More reasonable is a plan to wean us off sugar by continually reducing the amount added to our food. Why not start by demanding that dairies reduce the added sugar in flavored milk to 4 grams per 8 oz (that’s 1 teaspoon, or the same amount of sugar many adults add to their morning coffee or tea), and nothing artificial, please.

Much has been written about how too much sugar has crept into every aspect of the American diet, from soup to nuts. Let’s start using our power as consumers to dial it back – waaay back – not just in our schools, but in our entire food supply.

Dana Woldow has been a school food reformer since 2002. She shares what she has learned about advocacy at

Filed under: Soda Tax/Food Politics

Is Low-Fat Chocolate Milk or 100% Fruit Juice a Healthier Drink?

Watch: Chocolate Milk vs. Fruit Juice

Picking healthy foods at the grocery store, especially for kids, can feel pretty confusing. There are thousands of foods to choose from. But how do you know if the ones that seem wholesome and nutritious actually are?

We put two popular drinks head to head to find out which is healthier: this or that? When it comes to picking a refreshing and fun beverage, which is a healthier choice-low-fat chocolate milk or 100% fruit juice?

You want something that packs in nutrients and keeps you feeling full if you’re out for a hike or on the go all day. We put two snack foods head to head to find out which is healthier: this or that? Granola bars or trail mix?

The Winner: Chocolate milk is the better pick, as Joyce Hendley originally reported for EatingWell. Here’s why:

The Sugar Story: On the surface, chocolate milk seems an unlikely choice. As critics often point out, it contains nearly as much sugar as soda: 1 cup of low-fat chocolate milk has 25 grams of sugar, whereas the same amount of Coca-Cola has 26 grams. But, for chocolate milk, only about half of those sugars are added sugars, the ones people generally need to be concerned about.

Natural Sugars: More than half of that overall sugar contained in the chocolate milk, or about 13 grams in a cup, is naturally occurring sugar, or lactose, in the milk itself.

In 100% fruit juice, all the sugars are naturally occurring-with some 21 grams in a cup of 100% orange juice. But sugar isn’t the whole story for these two beverages.

Nutritional Value: In citrus juices there’s plenty of vitamin C (84 mg in that glass of OJ-more than 100 percent of the daily value).

But that’s about all you get-sugar and a vitamin few of us lack. More important, you don’t have the benefit of the filling, healthy fiber that the original fruit in its entirety provides.

Consider this: A medium orange has 3 grams fiber, but 1 cup of OJ has less than 1 gram… and nearly twice the amount of sugar.

Milk is a nutritional powerhouse, in contrast, whether it’s flavored with chocolate or not. Milk is one of the best sources of bone-building calcium: 1 cup provides a third of an adult’s daily needs. It’s important for kids to get enough of this mineral so their bodies can build strong bones. Plus there’s plenty of riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus and protein in milk. Fluid milk is fortified with vitamin D, a nutrient that’s hard to come by in foods and helps the body absorb calcium and may improve immunity, reduce risks for some cancers, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and promote better blood pressure.

100% of What? One more reason to opt against juice: healthy-sounding “100% juice” blends may not have that much of the headline juice (say, pomegranate or berry) inside, anyway. That bottle might be mostly filled with (cheaper) apple or white grape juice, which the Center for Science in the Public Interest has likened to “white sugar,” since its nutrient content is fairly low.

Conclusion: Water is still our favorite drink to hydrate with. But for a special sweet treat, chocolate milk is the better bet. Be sure to eat plenty of fruit, too, just eat it whole to get all the nutritious benefits.

Learn More: Why Too Much Added Sugar Is Bad for You

Related: Watch More Grocery Store Face-Offs Between Popular Foods

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