Flavored Milk: Point, Counterpoint, and Me

Recently Jamie Oliver and the new LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy met and the new superintendent said he would ask the board to ban flavored milk sometime before July. Before I had time to blog an opinion, my fellow school food bloggers had already published two conflicting perspectives.

Point: Big Dairy Puts Big Scare Into Parents to Push Chocolate Milk–But for How Long? by Ed Bruske from Better DC School Food
Counterpoint: My Problem With Jamie Oliver’s War on Flavored Milk by Bettina Elias Siegel from The Lunch Tray

Here are some facts: Seventy-five to 85 percent of all milk sold in public cafeterias in this country is flavored milk mostly strawberry or chocolate milk. One 8 oz carton of flavored milk has 28 grams of sugar, that’s more per ounce than a soda.

Here’s what I think: Get rid of the chocolate milk. Not one of my students needs to drink the extra sugar. It’s may not be easy, but it’s worth it. We don’t really have a choice — I believe it’s a moral imperative.

I drank chocolate milk as a kid, but I remember it as a special treat my dad would make for my sister and me. My dad was an insomniac and in the night his clumsy movements around the kitchen or the sound of CNN from the living room would occasionally wake me up. I remember eating cereal with him in the middle of the night and thinking that was the best. Sometimes he would make chocolate and even “strawberry” milk for me in the middle of the night. I treasure those moments so much, having my dad to myself.

Confession: right now in my fridge there is a carton of chocolate almond milk. My husband bought it at the store last weekend. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I couldn’t resist and so I poured myself a little and it is amazing. Will that be a household staple now? No. Did my son get to drink some? Yes. He’s crazy about it. Does he desperately need calories? No. Has he stopped drinking his regular goat milk? No. He loves the white stuff and drinks it at mealtime. It’s almost like my son intuits that the chocolate milk is a treat – he doesn’t ask for it at mealtime. That’s the way I want to keep things.

As a parent I’d be upset if my child was drinking chocolate milk every day. Maybe some of you are shrugging off the chocolate milk thing (like Bettina who wondered if there are other things we need to tackle first on the lunch tray), but it’s a biggie. Many of my students are overweight and the ones who aren’t don’t need the extra sugar either. It’s not an “obesity” issue and, frankly, I resent the scapegoating of obesity all the time. Skinny kids need nutrition too — in the form of whole foods without added sugar.

Milk doesn’t have to all tarted up so that kids will drink it. It just has to be quality milk. And while we’re thinking about beverages at school, what about serving water? lactose-free milk? soy or rice milk?

I remember what the pints of milk I got with my school lunches tasted like. The milks I drank early last year (before I realized my lactose-intolerance was severe enough to stop me from drinking milk with my lunch) tasted stale and papery. Nothing like what I had at home. And I was getting cartons basically straight from the cafeteria’s cooler. Sometimes I got the chocolate milk and you know what? It did mask the staleness.

So if participation drops when chocolate milk is pulled, it may be that the kids can taste more than just white milk in their cartons. Maybe they don’t even care if it’s chocolate milk, but they would prefer not to drink papery weirdness. But if kids like chocolate milk, they can make their own at home like my dad did. Or buy it at the store like my husband did.

Schools should get out of the chocolate milk business and start thinking outside of the carton.

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70 thoughts on “Flavored Milk: Point, Counterpoint, and Me”

  1. But wait… how can they buy it at home if the whole point is that many kids don't get meals at home? What if they stop drinking the regular milk because it tastes stale plain, but that was the only milk they got a chance to drink?

  2. I have to say, the taste of the regular milk is weird, even the stuff on the grocery shelf. When I changed to organic milk last year, it tasted soooo yummy. My kids and I began to drink twice as much milk as before, and for the first time my kids began to REQUEST milk. I wonder what they are doing to regular milk that it tastes so poor?

  3. I was one of the kids who only drank chocolate milk at school. We rarely (if ever) had chocolate milk at home, and I was practically addicted to milk as a child (think one very large glass at least once a day – voluntarily!).

    The reason I drank chocolate milk every day? The regular milk tasted wrong. It smelled like it had chemicals of some kind in it, and tasted off to me. Not spoiled, just like they added stuff to it. Like Mrs. Q said, the chocolate milk masked that taste.

    So even though I loved white milk, I couldn't get the school milk down.

  4. You know as the parent of a 15 year old and a 6 year old I am starting to get really sick of someone telling me what my kids can and can not have. I am the parent I should be the one who decides that not big brother. My sons school got rid off all regular pop a few years ago, everything they offer is diet now. My son is a 5'8" 89lb kid who is (usually) very active running cross country, 5Ks, participating in Judo. If he wants to have a soda at school I would very much rather he have a leaded variety that a non-leaded one. The extra chemicals in the non-leaded variety are not things I particularly want coursing through his body. A 12 – 20oz bottle of pop with lunch is perfectly acceptable for him- he needs the calories. But because the school says no, now who really knows better? So we get around it by packing a lunch for him every day, which does include a can of pop.

    There needs to be more emphasis on teaching and encouraging the kids to make good choices, to get them more active. But don't penalize the ones who can have that bad choice. In so many ways I do see it as discrimination against my kids who should have the right to have that pop, candy bar sugary bad for you treat if they want it. They eat healthy 95% regularly get exercise and don't need to be policed- in some ways denying them now when they can east the bad things might be setting them up for downfalls later on when they should avoid them.

    Everything can be good in moderation, let not forget that. Don't punish everyone because a few shouldn't have something.

  5. No child regardless of weight needs the 12 teaspoons of sugar in a 12 ounce soda. It's not a nutrient, it's poisonous. Science is learning more and more how bad added sugars are for ALL of us – feeding cancer is the newest breakthrough. You want your child to drink that stuff, send it from home, but I don't want my tax dollars subsidizing Pepsico and CocaCola in the schools.

  6. What happened to water? If the discussion is calories versus calcium, serve the kids water to drink and give them some broccoli, Kale, or spinach on their lunch trays. A cup of spinach has more calcium than a cup of milk and hardly any calories. This debate only exists because the dairy industry doesn't want to lose their exclusive rights to make millions off of school kids.

    I also think those paper cartons are gross. It's a shame they can't have the milk in jugs with real cups, or even (bpa free) recyclable plastic individual serve containers.

    If parents want their kids to have choices, maybe schools could offer a choice of (all plain) cow's milk, almond milk, soy milk, and water. Then the kids can still have some different flavor options without added sugar.

  7. I'm not sure any kid is going to fall to pieces if they don't get a half-pint of milk at lunch, whether it's loaded with sugar or not. Interesting point, Mrs. Q., that they white milk tastes gross. I'm surprised, but not at the same time.

    Milk is indeed one of the foods absolutely provided for via programs like WIC or "Food Stamps-type" programs, so needy children likely do get it at home.

  8. it's been said above, but it's true – some kids only get milk at school. milk is hella expensive – if the parents can't afford to buy good non-hormone added milk at home, who are you/me/we to judge?
    My children drink chocolate milk at school and chocolate soy milk at home. They won't drink unflavored stuff and neither will I – it tastes nasty. Particularly if you buy non-whole varieties.
    Even with the added flavor and sugar it still has the vitamins and calcium needed for their bodies.
    I'd rather them drink chocolate milk than no milk at all. And I feed them healthy meals – some parents don't have that luxury/ability. Milk is sometimes the healthiest thing their kids get.

  9. Truly, the milk my child gets with his lunch is so small I could care less. I just wish they'd put a glass of water out as an option. He's a water drinker. He'll have a humongous glass of milk with breakfast and before bed. The rest of the day he'd rather have water. They only get to hit the fountain like 2x/day. Its not enough water for my kid and he can't have a water bottle in class. He'd love a tall cold glass of water at lunch. Its not even an option.

    Talking about "other kids" – out of 120 or so in my son's school I bet there are maybe 5 overweight and NO obese children. I don't think a bit of sugar is hurting any of them.

  10. I bought the school lunch a lot while I was a student, and to this day I remember how weird the non-chocolate milk tasted…even though according to the carton it was nowhere near being expired. I'd always grab the chocolate milk if I could, because it simply tasted better. The times when I was near the end of the line and all the chocolates were gone, I'd take a regular milk because they expected me to take it, but I'd usually end up tossing it after one sip.
    So I definitely agree that if schools want to remove flavored milk, they need to make the regular milk taste more palatable…not by adding more sugar to it, but by making sure it's of better quality and comes in better packaging.

  11. another thing, or prediction?

    how long until the dairy people find a way to make some milk-like drink that has very little sugar and instead sweetened with some type of artificial sweetener?

    That would scare me even more

  12. My sister and I were just talking the other day about drinking chocolate milk in school because of how 'papery' the white milk tasted. It tasted horrible to us so we drank the chocolate milk. At home though we loved white milk and would drink it with dinner. We would have chosen white milk at school if there would have been a more tasty option. I love that you mentioned it, and it is definitely something that needs to be fixed.

  13. Plain and flavored low-fat or fat-free milk helps students get their recommended daily allowance of nutrients critical for strong bones and healthy diets.

    Leading health and nutrition organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, the National Medical Association, and School Nutrition Association, have all expressed their support for low-fat and fat-free milk in schools, including flavored milk. (See link below) The groups cited studies demonstrating that children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs; do not consume more added sugar, fat or calories; and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers.

    The Institute of Medicine, in their recommended nutrition standards for school meals (“School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children”), also supported keeping fat-free flavored milk in schools because of the nutrients that flavored milk provides.

    School Nutrition Association President Nancy Rice, M.Ed., RD, LD, SNS

    http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=11001&terms=flavored+milk

  14. 1st Anonymous, nobody is telling you that YOU cannot send YOUR child to school with a little carton of chocolate milk with an ice pack.

    However, it is reasonable and acceptable to ask the schools to only offer, yes, healthy foods for lunch. Let them pack in their own junk if they want soda so much.

    This way those of us who don't want our kids drinking that sort of thing don't have to wonder if they're doing it where we can't stop them.

    I mean, if the school doesn't teach rap in music history, does that mean it's criticizing what you listen to at home? Don't be absurd!

  15. Critics on the ban of flavored milk may argue that will affect milk consumption altogether but I disagree. Even if it initially does go down I'm sure it will rebound. In my house we had a particular type of orange juice which I loved (I know how fruits are better for you than juice but it was the 80s! It was anarchy back then.) Anyhow the brand started offering a sugar free version so my dad switched. Honestly, I hated it at first. It was bland and even bitter for my taste but I slowly adapted. I'm repulsed whenever I have a glass of the sugary kind because I'm not accustomed to it. Schools would be smart to prepare for the change by offering blind taste tests so students can choose which unflavored milk they want in their schools. Kids can and will adapt but we need to set an example.
    http://www.dialdoctors.com

  16. How about offering flavored milk once a week as a treat? I have eaten breakfast and lunch with my granddaughter 5 times this year. I did not see one child take white milk. Occasional flavored milk would be a compromise, and send the message that it is okay to have treats once in awhile.

  17. I never liked chocolate milk (which is a bit odd, considering what a chocoholic I am – it just never tasted right to me), but I loved regular milk as a kid. I didn't always finish my milk at school, though, because school milk was often gross. It was never cold enough, it tasted like paper, and when you got near the end of the carton you'd start getting paper shreds in your mouth if you weren't careful. Most of the time I'd open the other end of the carton half-way through and drink from that side so the drinking spout wouldn't get too soggy and gross. Once I got to middle school (and the almighty Snapple was available) I was probably one of half a dozen kids still drinking the white milk. I started bringing milk from home in a rubbermaid drink box because the milk at the school was so bad: they kept it in the case with the ice cream, so it was usually half-frozen, and so few kids drank it that some days every single white milk carton in the case would be expired. Even the ones that weren't expired would sometimes be rancid. So I echo what many others have said – if we want kids to drink more white milk, we need to offer higher-quality product.

  18. I loved white milk as a kid, at home I would choose it over chocolate milk. When I was at school it always tasted so terrible that I couldn't stand it. I would have loved to have a big glass of water but it was never an option. Also I always hated that when I got school lunch you could only get juice OR a piece of fruit not both. So even though I wanted an pear or an orange I always took juice because even with milk and juice I never felt like I had enough to drink.

  19. When I was in school we had regular milk every day, but on Friday's chocolate milk was also offered if you wanted to take it. It made it a special treat and kids weren't drinking it every day.

  20. Mrs Q: I really appreciate your sharing my post on The Lunch Tray, "My Problem With Jamie Oliver's War on Flavored Milk" with your readers and hearing your views on the subject.

    The overarching point of my piece was that, while I, too, worry about the sugar content in flavored milk in this age of childhood obesity ,there is such disagreement about this issue (as reflected well in the comments left here on your blog ) that I wish Jamie Oliver had focused his– and the nation's — attention on an issue everyone can get behind. (More school food funding, perhaps, or maybe outlawing that pink slime he showed us in Episode One.)

    And I also ask why we don't first follow the example of other districts and first consider lowering the sugar content of the milk (some have even gotten rid of HFSC and artificial flavors and colors)?

    At any rate, though, I'm so glad that we are all talking about this issue. Interested readers may want to check out the many thoughtful comments left on my post as well.

    Bettina at The Lunch Tray
    http://www.thelunchtray.com

  21. Our 2 oldest daughters are opposites. We drink Fat Free milk at home and our oldest LOVES it! She hates the milk at our school 2% and she tells us it tastes like feet lol.
    Our 2nd daughter was lactose intolerant as an infant and toddler and did not like Rice, Soy, or Goats milk. She no longer has the intolerance and at dinner she has to take a "taste" and every night she gags and almost tosses her cookies at the texture and flavor, but if offered milk with a scoop of powder chocolate or strawberry she will down it first! We recently were introduced to Vanilla Almond Milk and she loves it! We are weighing the sugar and other contents but according to both cartons the Almond milk has 2t less sugar than regular milk…
    Our kids will take cold lunch due to a severe peanut allergy and our school is not nut free so they will drink what we pack and it's usually water.

  22. Dairy processors are pushing schools to offer milk in plastic resealable containers rather than paper. This packaging is in place in some schools, but most school systems do not use this packaging citing higher expenses. Processor groups are working to increase the use of plastic packaging since it has been shown that consumption increases with the plastic, and that's consumption of plain and flavored milks. Processor groups also have programs that focus on proper milk storage at schools. Often the milk coolers are not set at the correct temperature which in addition to paper cartons, can lead to off flavors. Furthermore, processor groups are working on lowering the sugar content of flavored milks, but please keep in mind that even plain milk contains natural sugars.

    Check out this link for more information http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/sfs/schoolmilk_details.asp

  23. "Leading health and nutrition organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, the National Medical Association, and School Nutrition Association, have all expressed their support for low-fat and fat-free milk in schools, including flavored milk."

    When most people are consuming too much sugar at every meal, clearly one portion of chocolate milk isn't going to be a big percentage of the daily intake. But that doesn't make it right.

    What about a compromise position that supports a gradual reduction of the amount of sugar in flavoured milk? It doesn't have to be artificially sweetened – significantly less sugar works too.

    I can't help thinking that the organizations who are supposed to be looking out for our health aren't helping the public at all to make good choices that reduce (or eliminate) the consumption of sugar. Why do these institutions almost always take a defensive position?

    I love all the debate that this issue is generating – and clearly both sides have valid points. Unfortunately, I don't see enough leadership coming from organizations that should know better about the dangers of sugar, especially now that we know some 1/3 of our children will grow up to develop diabetes.

  24. I completely forgot about how weird milk tasted in school. It's true! That was a good twenty years ago that I was drinking school milk, and yes! The chocolate milk wasn't so much a guilty pleasure as it didn't taste like crap. I had no quarrels drinking regular milk at home as a kid.

    Here's my question:

    Does it have to be a black or white issue? Instead of doing away with a flavored milk entirely, can't we just cut out a significant amount of sugar? Using straight up dark chocolate would give milk such a rich, chocolatey flavor, and it doesn't need sugar to taste good (same with vanilla. A hint of vanilla might do wonders without requiring added sugar). Strawberry still probably has to go because I can't imagine for one second that they're putting REAL strawberries in the milk, but seriously. If the concerns are

    A) Flavored milk has too much sugar
    B) Kids might not drink it if it's not flavored.

    Um… Is this rocket science? Isn't the most obvious answer to flavor the milk but ditch the sugar?

  25. My mom is a middle school teacher and their cafeteria voluntarily cut out flavored/sweetened milks completely after the head cook watched Jamie Oliver's show last year. They make less money on milk now but they did it anyway because it was the right thing to do. They also stopped serving pre-made chicken nuggets, something that had been an almost-daily staple food. They just stopped. I think that was extremely brave!

  26. Personally, let the tax payers without children decide. Why? We're the most heavily taxed group and if this country is going to be run by a bunch of whole foods shopping whiny soccer moms on my tax dollars, I'd rather have a say.

    I personally am tired of this being an issue, specifically when I pay way more in taxes than the majority of your readers AND Mrs. Q's salary.

    Or if you hens with nothing better to do want better lunches, pay up. Or stop having children. Either one is fine with me but stop acting like you're paying for this because me, with the 70k per year plus bonus job, brand new house and car are paying for this while you morons with crotch fruit think it's a-ok to have free reign of my money.

  27. I came here to leave a comment and see the last anon said almost exactly what I wanted to say. I don't understand why we need to drop chocolate milk because it has too much sugar instead of just reformulating it to have less sugar.

    When all those "Now with less sugar" products came out, I was really excited. Flavored oatmeal was way too sweet and I just wanted them to tone it down a little. But then I read the packaging and saw that they had replaced some of the sugar with artificial sweetener. Why can't they just make things with less sugar or less salt? Call it "lightly sweetened." It shouldn't have to be all or nothing.

  28. I was a child in the late 80's early 90's and my parents thought I should have milk at every meal. My mom was a nurse, and didn't allow me to eat the school lunch (we were at a low income school, and I can't even describe the quality of the food. It makes the junk posted here look fancy!) so my mom packed my lunch, but always sent a quarter so I could buy a carton of milk. It was understood that I was NOT allowed to buy chocolate milk, as that was a treat, something that my mom made for me at home very rarely.

    Thinking I was being "sneaky" I once bought a carton of the chocolate milk. I literally had to spit it out, it was so insanely sugary. Like 10x more sweet than anything I got at home. I remember it was Viva brand milk, and to this day I can taste how thick and cloyingly sweet it was in my mouth. Yuck. (It should be noted that the plain milk didn't taste great either, as others have noted.)
    My elementary school didn't offer strawberry milk, just plain 2%, plain skim (which I bought because it was what we drank at home) and 2% chocolate. More than 75% of the students were on the free breakfast program, and the only thing the school offered for breakfast was cold cereal, usually a brand like plain Crispex and then two or three super sugary kinds, Lucky Charms and Fruity Pebbles. I can't tell you how many times I got dropped off early to see tables of kids eating bowls of Fruity Pebbles with chocolate milk.
    Nobody needs that much sugar to start the day.

  29. At my school, the milk must have been improperly stored because it was always frozen, or half frozen. The melting did something to it, separating the milk fat or something, because it was always almost clear with little cold white chunks floating in it.
    Absolutely disgusting.

  30. @Connecticut: You know, you aren't the only person on the planet to pay taxes. Sounds like you have a pretty nice life there, with your new house and your new car. Count your blessings, because you could end up in the shoes of one of those "irresponsible" people you're cursing.

    Anyway…

    When I was a kid I actually hated the chocolate milk. It was too sugary. But on the flip side, I could taste chemicals and something "off" about the whole milk. It tasted like it had spoiled slightly.

    I stuck to the low fat, 2% milk they offered from Kindergarten through High School. It didn't seem to have the same bizarre taste as the whole milk, and wasn't the sugary nastiness of the chocolate milk (I can't drink prepackaged chocolate milk even today–I can taste something wrong about it.).

    I think as long as you offer kids water along with the milk, they'll probably go for one or the other. Small juices are nice too, as long as they're 100% without any extra sugar.

  31. I manage a food service program at a school. We have to start offering water to students free of charge. That is a good thing if you ask me. Far too many kids need to consume more water.

    As for flavored milk, we were fortunate to have a company reduce the amount of sugar content in our flavored milks and no High Fructose Corn Syrup. In the end it is 22 grams of sugar. But something I find extremely interesting in this debate about the flavored milk is that I see very little to no mention of the fact that the lactose in milk contains sugars. 12 grams is in our plain milk. So with the milk we are serving, more than half the grams of sugar come from the plain milk. One must consider that milk contains calcium whereas soda is empty sugary calories. I would much rather see a student consume flavored milk than soda.

    We never serve flavored milk for breakfast, and we give students a choice of what to eat…reduced sugar cereal(kix, cheerios, etc), bagel, yogurt, fruit, and one hot entree each day (rotated menu)…french toast, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, pancakes, quiches, scrambled eggs & biscuit, breakfast pizza with lowfat cheese. Once in a blue moon we treat the kids to fresh baked cinnamon rolls but mostly on those super rainy or snowy mornings to boost moral and appeal to the comfort foods which sets the tone to keep students, parents and staff happy.

    We buy a lot of local produce, have much donated, and we cook primarily from scratch. We have a strong farm to school effort in our school, and we have also been participating in the Fresh Fruits and Veggies grant which provides free healthy fruit and veggie snacks to all students Grades K-8 every day. It is rare these days for a K-12 school to be in existence, and my school is one of those few. It is unfortunate that this grant does not include 9-12 grade students. However, when they hear about what the younger students had for snack, they know we've purchased extras for the cafeteria and they will find this treat on the salad bar (which comes with every meal we serve).

    We've moved away from "chicken lips" aka chicken nuggets and now serve chicken strips which are real pieces of meat. Chicken patties are the next to go. We've been introducing grilled chicken to the students in the hopes that we can finally be rid of those horrible patties. We finally got rid of the last of those nasty government beef burgers, and I refuse to accept them any more. We procured the purchase of some grass fed beef with the financial assistance of a local grassroots group. Our students definitely noticed the difference when we ran out of the good beef & had to go back to using the government (not quite sure what it is) beef.

  32. @ SpottedCow: I am aware of the 12g of sugar in regular milk, but the way I see it, this has little to do with the *additional* 14g that we get in *our* chocolate milk.

    If anything, the fact that regular milk is already fairly sugar-rich is reason enough not to add even more sugar to it.

    I also think the improvements made to the food offered in your school show just how important this nutritional dialogue is. These changes don't occur without parents, educators and food experts speaking up strongly on behalf of the children.

  33. Our deal is, my son can have the chocolate milk at school, but then I don't make it at home. I'm thrilled because it ended a battle–my son likes milk, a lot, but he LOVES chocolate milk. And for me to not have him begging for chocolate syrup every grocery trip, and sneaking to the fridge to make his own chocolate milk every time, is totally worth it to me, especially if the school milk tastes gross. (I don't think so; around here they use a pretty popular, somewhat local brand, but I haven't tasted it in a long time either.) And I'm so sad to hear of a district that banned regular but not diet sodas. Ours banned them all, and only sells juice and milk at lunchtime and eliminated all other drink machines, pointing out the large number of water fountains and nifty refillable water bottles most kids have already. (I also like that kids can bring soda–it isn't banned from school property–but most don't bother.)

  34. The primary school at which I teach has a healthy (but optional) lunch program. Milk is available three times a day, in addition: morning snack, lunchtime, afternoon snack. Most participants get one milk a day (lunch or a snack) and some get two (lunch AND a snack). We have one family who subscribes to all three options and their children drink three chocolate milks a day. Meanwhile, their kitchen is being renovated so they have been sending McDonalds happy meals every day for the kids lunches. All the teachers are appalled. Do they really not know better? THREE chocolate milks a day???

  35. Whats also sad is that I have a student this year who absolutely pitches a fit if there is no more chocolate milk at lunch. She "claims" that all she drinks at home is chocolate milk too because she doesn't like white milk. I've asked her about the taste and she's told me that she just wants the chocolate. This girl doesn't need the extra sugar either….

  36. I am absolutely behind Bettina's comment –

    If there's so much criticism about it, perhaps a compromise could be reached. Lowering the sugar content, even just by half, could be a huge step in the right direction. Personally, when I have children I'm hoping to expose them to as much healthy food as possible, and restrict the amount of unhealthy food (such as sugary drinks) that they're exposed to.

    As a child raised during the 80's, I was exposed to a lot of this kind of junk, both at home and at school. My mother was a prime example of the kinds of parent these initiatives are aimed at – she worked hard (80 hours a week for much of my schooling, and a hard-labor factory job my entire childhood). It wasn't that she didn't mean well, but she didn't have a lot of time to cook (she was a single parent), and quite honestly she wasn't very educated about it herself. I mostly ate lunches she sent with me, because she knew I didn't like much of the school lunches. As a child she was poor, and when they grew up her mother had a garden. They ate a lot of what poor people ate at the time, which was things they could grow at home. The steep increase of processed foods means that now poor people eat mostly things high in fat and sugar content, because it's cheap and easily accessible. I sometimes resent the fact that parents who don't know or understand what's in their kids food don't care about their kids. My mother loved me deeply (still does), and is now a bit horrified at knowing what is in these kids' lunches (which she is only really becoming aware of now, because of me and Jamie Oliver).

    As a result of the type of food I ate as a child, I have struggled with obesity from an early age. And yes, I'm an adult now, and I know better. But I also have a lifetime of bad food habits (and in some cases even addictions) to overcome, a natural disposition towards a larger body (most of my father's family are big people, either in a healthy or non-healthy way.. football players, construction workers, wrestlers.. and diabetics), as well as a lot of weight working against me (I put on the majority of my weight before I ever hit voting age – I remember being 17 and having a Navy recruitment officer trying to sign me up for the military, until I finally told him I weighted 280 lbs, did he still want to enlist me? I've been educating myself on healthy eating and struggling with trying to overcome the bad habits that I developed during my formative years ever since (I turn 30 next month).

    My point is, if your child is blessed with an excellent metabolism and good nutritional education that you've been able to impart upon them, that's wonderful. I'm so happy for them – truly. And yes, I think you should feel free to splurge and let your children indulge when you think it's appropriate. If you want to buy them some soda at home, or send them with a can at their school lunches because you think it's okay, then great. That's fine. But I would prefer that the default lunches be healthy- including reducing the amount of sugar these kids are consuming. Only in the last fifty or so years have children been exposed to this constant and ample supply of sugar in their daily diets – most of it from non-fruit sources. Having grown up in an urban area like Mrs. Q's kids, I can tell you that the majority of parents either don't have the time or the education to understand that what they're feeding their kids is bad. But if we teach it to the kids in school, and provide a healthier example, we'd all be a little better off. And no one's telling you what your kids "can't have".. we're just requesting that they not be fed it on our taxpayer's dime.

  37. Edit to the above comment: I sometimes resent the IMPLICATION that parents who don't know or understand what's in their kids food don't care about their kids.

  38. I also forgot to mention that the primary reason I haven't had children yet is because I've spent years struggling to become healthy and lose weight. I don't want to be trying to change a lifetime of bad eating habits while also struggling with the challenges of new parenthood. I also experience a lot of difficulty finding dating partners because of my weight. (I have a good personality and high self-confidence), and consider myself fairly attractive despite my weight, but let's face it – if a guy has a choice between an attractive thin woman and an attractive overweight woman, who are most of them going to pick?) And I'm afraid that by the time I DO, it's going to be too late for me to even HAVE kids (though I'll attempt to adopt at that point, and may anyway for at least one child, because I love adoption). I really to be a parent.. but I'm concerned that because of my weight the opportunity is passing me by.

    I sometimes wonder if people who are not overweight fail to realize how difficult allowing their children to become overweight is going to make their lives – even for things like that, like finding a partner to spend their life with. It doesn't happen overnight, and many don't think about it until they realize "Hey, we have a problem here, my kid is starting to get pretty big.") That's becoming a more common phenomenon. And then even if they spend much of their later years trying to their kids help (cause that's a great time to try to help your kid lose weight.. during their already confusing, conflict-oriented teen years, right?), it often isn't enough time. And now your kid gets to deal with it as an adult.. they already have this enormous obstacle to overcome.

    …heh. I guess I had a lot to say here.. perhaps I should have asked Mrs. Q to let me post as a guest blogger instead. "The Adult Life of an Obese Kid".

  39. Edit to the above post (Last one!): "I really WANT to be a parent.. but I'm concerned…"

  40. Is this a strange question: Why can't they sweeten the milk with artificial sweeteners?

  41. Wow.. I had a really long post, but for some reason it cut it off. Ah well, ignore any post from me.. perhaps I'll ask Mrs. Q if I can be a guest blogger for a day if I have that much to say.

  42. Mrs. Q-we love our chocolate almond milk over here 🙂 I do dilute it with unsweetened almond milk though (this one has no sugar in it).

  43. This is a fantastic discussion. But I think we forget that the main goal of school is to educate children. Kids who are fed processed foods can't think as well. And kids who are fed sugary foods think that the school endorses those foods – which means they are more likely to want them at home. We have to think of the message we are sending to kids at mealtime and what they are learning from that.

    So many food service providers (like the ones above!) are doing such a great job at bringing balanced meals into the schools and using fresh produce. I wish we could focus our attention on supporting schools to find more affordable "real" ingredients, so that we can be proud of the educational message we send home with our kids.

  44. @Connecticut, I couldn't agree with you more. I am a mom of two boys. I pay through the nose to put them in private school, PLUS I pay a ton in income tax, property tax, etc. Why? Because our public schools are a dismal failure.

    Meanwhile, all the whiny mommies want super-expensive lunches for their kids, subsidized or free. Um, excuse me? You want your kid to have white milk? Or chocolate milk? Send it to school with them!!

    We shouldn't spend our precious tax dollars on school lunches. We should spend them on instruction and expect parents – that's right, actual parents – to feed their very own children.

    Meanwhile, at my house, my super-active and appropriately weighted children will continue to have chocolate milk for treats, Sprite (horrors!) on the weekend, and even some super-evil ice cream on hot nights.

  45. Chocolate milk is a big treat in our house and one that acts like a cookie, piece of cake or piece of candy. It's a big deal to a two-year-old and one that I am glad she appreciates! Our favorite place for chocolate milk is local dairy that makes it the right way – good, high quality chocolate, real sugar and hormone & antibiotic-free/free-range cow milk. It's divine!
    http://sacredbee.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/twin-brook-creamery/

  46. I'm staggered by what I think I've understood from reading these comments – do schools really not offer water free at lunch and breaks? If that's the case, that's appalling. And even white milk has added sugar? Why?! Schools should be teaching children good nutrition habits, not giving into pressure from the dairy companies. And what about the many, many people who are sensitive, intolerant or allergic to dairy? Do those kids just not drink anything?

    I think schools ought to feed their students, and if those students are from a low-income family they shouldn't be disadvantaged by being unable to afford lunch. But everyone is being disadvantaged if schools are putting profit before health.

  47. I think seeing your year of school lunches, that there are bigger fish to fry. I personally would rather have my kids drinking chocolate milk rather than other drinks that have absolutely no nutritional value. I do think there should be pressure on the makers of the milk to reduce the sugar content (without artificial sweeteners)

  48. @ May: White milk doesn't have added sugar. Lactose is the natural sugar in milk, and it's about 12g per 1 cup serving.

  49. That is a great question, May, and I second it. When schools ONLY offer milk as a beverage, what do lactose intolerant children drink? If there's no water as an easily accessible option, does that mean kids who can't drink milk but have to eat the school lunch just go without a drink?

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