Certain celebrities and public health advocates have linked flavored milk with soda in terms of added sugar content. However, with milk's irreplaceable package of nutrients, there really is no comparison.
Chocolate milk contains about two teaspoons of added sugar, or about 60 more calories than unflavored milk. However, chocolate milk also contains all the same nutrients inherent in milk important for bone health, including calcium, protein, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B12, A and K.
Chocolate and other flavored milks are well-accepted by children and help them achieve the three servings of milk and milk products recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,1 with relatively few added calories. A recent study found that children who drink milk—either flavored or plain—consume more nutrients and have a lower or comparable body mass index (BMI) than children who don’t drink milk—a testament to the importance of milk in the diets of children.2
About 71 percent of all milk served in schools is flavored, representing a large proportion of children and adolescents’ nutrient intakes. In a few school districts, removing flavored milk from school meals has become a strategy to help curb childhood obesity. However, a recent study found that eliminating chocolate milk resulted in total milk consumption dropping an average of 35 percent, because fewer students were selecting milk and more was thrown away.3
Many dairy manufacturers are working hard to reformulate flavored milk to lower-fat and lower-sugar versions. This solution should maintain taste appeal to children and meet the needs of public health advocates concerned about obesity. The best long-term approach is a balanced one in which flavored milk is offered as one of many varieties of milk available to the consumer.