I have always been a huge advocate of children drinking milk. From the time “my” babies go from breast or formula to milk at the age of one year, I discuss the need for dairy products to ensure adequate calcium and Vitamin D in a child’s diet.
It is easy to have children drink milk when they are toddlers, but as children get older and decide that they “prefer” water or even juices or soft drinks it may be harder to get them to choose milk. Unfortunately, once a child enters the “real” world with school and sports, they realize that there are other beverages offered besides milk.
So, what to do? Well, I think it is preferable to have children and adolescents continue to drink milk, even if it means having chocolate or strawberry milk. There have actually been studies in the pediatric literature that have shown it is preferable to have a few extra calories from the sweetener in flavored milks, than to forgo drinking milk. Like many things, it is a trade off.
It is difficult to provide a child’s daily calcium and vitamin requirements without having several glasses of milk a day as well as other dairy products. When looking at the calorie content for low fat chocolate milk compared to low fat milk we are only talking about 30 – 50 calorie difference per cup of milk (it seems to depend on the brand). I know that the calories may be cumulative, but if you take away a sugary cereal in the morning, or that after school fast food, the calorie difference would never be noticed. One could also argue that if we our children spent more time playing outside rather than on their play stations or computers, the extra calories from chocolate milk would never be noticed. Bottom line, it’s all about choices.
Over the years I have also found that many children want to drink chocolate milk for the short-term and then will come back to regular white milk. If they continue to drink milk throughout their childhood they are also more likely to drink milk as young adults, which is still an important time for “banking calcium”. Bone health and many of the exciting new studies regarding vitamin D continue to outweigh the debate about calories. I really don’t think that my overweight patients are getting their extra calories from milk, but rather cookies, fast foods, and soft drinks. I wish milk was the culprit.
Lastly, I did have chocolate milk in our house, but if you are really worried about the calories, I have been known to “dilute” chocolate milk with white milk and it is still chocolate. There are lots of little things like that we can do as parents and it seems to work well for everyone. I will have other Mommy secrets later; remind me about trying that with cereals.
That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.