Chocolate Milk, Orange Juice and the Sugar Debate

The Los Angeles Unified School District recently became the largest district in the country to ban chocolate milk. The obvious goal: To reduce the amount of sugar in kids’ diets. But what about orange juice, asks a Los Angeles Times editorial. A staple on the district’s breakfast menu, orange juice has nearly the same amount of sugar, and one-fourth the protein.

Here’s the thing. Chocolate milk and orange juice both existed before the obesity epidemic.  Neither is evil. One cup of chocolate milk has nearly 30% of our daily need for calcium, much needed vitamin D and numerous other vitamins and minerals.  Orange juice is a superstar for vitamin C and packs other nutrients as well. The need to reduce sugar in kids’ diets is very real, but is banning chocolate milk the way to do it?

Dairy lobbyists, not surprisingly, argue that without flavored milks, many kids wouldn’t drink milk at all. Nutritionist Marion Nestle has said milk “is not an essential nutrient. Chocolate or strawberry milk is a dessert.”

Where to begin when cutting sugar out of your kid’s diet? If your child drinks orange juice, a juice box and a carton of chocolate milk in a day, he or she is already taking in way too much sugar. Keep the sweetened drinks to a minimum and water down all juice servings. Avoid canned fruit doused with extra sugar and read the sugar content on all packaged foods. For more ideas, check out this list of 12 dos and don’ts to help your kid develop healthy eating habits.


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