Get chocolate, sugar out of school milk


Thirty years ago, kids drank twice as much milk as they did soda. That ratio has reversed.

To keep the udders flowing, the milk industrial complex is fighting sugar with sugar.

It is turning milk into a soft drink, commonly known as "flavored milk.''

There is chocolate milk, strawberry milk, vanilla milk and even root beer milk. I'm sure there that one day there will be Mountain Dew milk.

Seventy percent of milk served in school cafeterias is flavored milk.

Four teaspoons of sugar helps the calcium go down.

We have come a long way from the rare treat of two heaping teaspoons of Nestle's Quik in a glass of milk.

And so the Food Nazis have assembled. After booting Big Soda from most school cafeterias, they are taking on Big Dairy. And they have gained support from some members of the state Board of Education.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for December. If they ban flavored milk in Florida, we would join school officials in Washington D.C., and Boulder, Colo.

The dairy industry wants to nip this revolt in the bud given that flavored milk has become a big cash cow. It began advertising campaign called "Raise your hand for chocolate milk.''

Many school officials and some parents are doing just that. They are tired of wrangling with kids about what they will and will not eat, and sugar has become an acceptable bribe.

Is this a bad thing?

A carton of flavored milk contributes about 70 empty, teeth-rotting calories to a meal. If a kid eats breakfast and lunch at school, that is 136 calories.

The tradeoff is calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D and so on. The dairy lobby says milk consumption drops about 35 percent in schools where flavored milk is removed.

And for many kids, particularly the ones from poor households, school is where they get most of their dairy foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that 70 percent of kids don't get their recommended calcium.

The argument against flavored milk goes like this: Where does this end? Do we add caffeine and carbonation next?

We have turned yogurt into Go-Gurt and shredded wheat into sugar-frosted shredded wheat. We call a breakfast cereal in which three of the first four ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and honey part of a "nutrient-dense'' balanced diet. And we do it because it's less hassle than trying to get kids to eat right. We are lazy, parental bums.

Try this experiment. Measure out three-quarters cup of sugar. Pour it into a bowl, put a spoon in it, give it to your kid and say, "Eat up."

That is the average amount of sugar consumed by the average teenager, says the American Heart Association.

It's just spread out in everything they eat all day long, hiding the sheer volume. The amount of sugar kids eat adds up to more than a pound in additional calories a week.

One in three kids now is considered overweight and almost 20 percent are outright obese. As fat as adults are now, the next generation is going to look like the spaceship passengers in Pixar's "WALL-E."

Can you imagine the percent of the gross domestic product that will be devoted to health care?

Flavored milk brings the insanity full circle. We have to give these sugar junkies even more sugar for their own good. We have so thoroughly distorted and destroyed their sense of taste that we fear they will refuse to drink something as naturally delicious as a cold glass of milk unless we turn it into liquid ice cream.

I think this is propaganda by an industry competing for market share, and school officials wanting to keep the cafeteria food line moving as effortlessly as possible.

Flavored milk is not a solution. It is surrender.

Over time, the kids will adapt to a little less sugar in their lives, and maybe that will spread. I certainly don't recall anyone refusing to drink their milk when I went to school.

Mike Thomas can be reached at 407-420-5525 or

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