Flavored Milk: An Important Nutrient-Rich Choice

Flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients as white milk, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium – nutrients of concern of which many kids fail to get enough. On average, by the time they are 4 years old, children fall below the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended dairy intake.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, meeting dairy recommendations can have lifelong health benefits, such as improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents. Current evidence shows intake of milk products, like milk, cheese and yogurt, is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and with lower blood pressure in adults. Flavored milk is a delicious way to help people of all ages consume essential vitamins and nutrients important for health.

While there are some added sugars, flavored milk drinkers don’t have higher intakes of added sugars or total fats than children who do not consume flavored milk. And, they have higher intakes of calcium. Furthermore, the DGA recognize that small amounts of sugar added to nutrient-dense foods, such as reduced-fat milk products, may increase a person’s intake of such foods by enhancing palatability of these products, thus improving nutrient intake without contributing excessive calories.

Flavored Milk Informational Materials:

Pediatricians Talk About Flavored Milk

Why Are Schools Serving Flavored Milk? – Download this Information Sheet (PDF)

Flavored Milk The Facts Infographic 2011 – Download this Information Sheet (PDF)

Flavored Milk Advertorial – Download this Information Sheet (PDF)

Chocolate Milk Tasty Nutrition Customizable Ad – Download this Information Sheet (PDF)

The Impact on Student Milk Consumption and Nutrient Intakes From Eliminating Flavored Milk in Schools – Download this Information Sheet (PDF)


Flavored Milk: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is flavored milk? 

Flavored milk is cow’s milk with added flavoring and sweetener. It provides the same 9 essential nutrients – calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents) – found in white milk. It’s available in flavors such as chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors in low-fat and fat-free varieties. Does the added sugar in flavored milk detract from its nutritional benefits? The opposite is true. Adding some sugar may help improve the appeal of nutritious foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recognizes that a small amount of added sugars can be used to increase the palatability of nutrient-dense foods, such as fat-free chocolate milk.

According to the American Heart Association, “when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods, such as sugar-sweetened dairy products like flavored milk and yogurt and sugar-sweetened cereals, the quality of children’s and adolescents’ diets improves, and in the case of flavored milks, no adverse effects on weight status were found.” The American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other groups agree that flavored milk is a positive trade-off for soft drinks, which are the primary source of added sugars in children’s diets.

What is the dairy industry doing to reduce sugars in flavored milk?

Although flavored milk contributes only 3 percent of the added sugars in children’s diets on average and provides the same nine essential nutrients as white milk, the dairy industry has been proactively working to improve flavored milk. Since 2006, the U.S. dairy industry has reduced added sugars by about 38 percent in the flavored milk offered in schools.
Today, the majority of milk in schools is low-fat or fat-free, and the majority of flavored milk is at or below 150 calories, with an average of 134 – just 31 more calories than white milk. And, because choice is so important, there are versions of flavored milk in the marketplace with no added sugars.

How does flavored milk fit into the school nutrition programs?

Flavored milk enables schools to address the nutrient, taste and health needs of the students they serve. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans specifically recommend encouraging milk consumption by children, and science supports the value of flavored milk in children’s diets. In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture’s newly updated Nutritional Standards for School Meals helps ensure the nation’s schoolchildren meet federal recommendations for dairy consumption by requiring that either fat-free flavored milk or low-fat or fat-free white milk be offered with each school meal. Offering both white and flavored milk is an excellent way to increase milk consumption among children and help make their diets more nutritious.

Some schools have taken flavored milk off of their menus. What is the impact of removing flavored milk from schools?
Flavored milk can help children meet their nutrient needs, and can help children consume the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended daily servings of dairy. Even though bans on flavored milk have been well intentioned, they may have done more nutritional harm than good. Low-fat chocolate milk is the most popular milk choice in schools and a study showed kids drink less milk at school if it’s taken away. Here are some considerations regarding the removal of flavored milk from schools:

• Flavored milk makes a minimal contribution to added sugar intakes of children, and removing flavored milk from the diet would hardly affect the average intake of added sugars.

• A study showed that when flavored milk, such as chocolate milk, was not offered on certain or all days of the week there was a dramatic drop in milk consumption – about 35 percent. It can be difficult and expensive to replace the nutrients lost from decreased milk intake in school meals.

• Children who drink flavored milk have higher total milk intakes compared to those who exclusively drink white milk, and milk drinkers (both white and flavored) do not have higher BMIs compared to milk non-drinkers.

• Since 1992 – when 72 percent of student milk consumers in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) chose whole or 2 percent milk – student milk consumption has shifted to mainly low-fat and fat-free options. In 2005, nearly 80 percent of students in the NSLP chose low-fat or fat-free milk.12

For more information on flavored milk, dairy’s nutrient package and health benefits, visit www.nationaldairycouncil.org or
©2012 National Dairy Council