Open thread: Beverages at school

What kids drink at school is just about as important as what they eat.

1) Milk – I don’t drink milk anymore myself. But I support milk for kids when it’s hormone-free (which I don’t think it is in my district). Among the readers there seems to be a bunch of folks who prefer full-fat and those that don’t. Personally I support full fat. The reason is that it appears that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Additionally, it’s a good source of fat (better than trans fat) and there doesn’t seem to be enough good fat in the school lunches I eat. See my previous post on milk for ingredients.

2) Water – Regular fountain access (water of dubious quality) and bottles sent from home (or bought in high school). I will post about school water next week.

3) Juice – Offered as the “fruit” in many of the lunches I ate. Additionally juice boxes are a popular home lunch box item. I’m planning a post on juice boxes too….

4) Sports drinks – Not available in elementary school, but are prevalent among student-athletes.

5) Soda? (pop?) – Banned in the majority of elementary schools and some high schools. Is it still offered in a lot of high schools?

Am I missing any? Please discuss drinks at school…

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62 thoughts on “Open thread: Beverages at school

  1. My school has milk, but they also have fruit juice, iced tea (in a carton with LOTS of sugar), and Gatorade, as well as some juices that aren't REALLY fruit juices, more like liquid sugar. There is also a school store open in the mornings where you can buy soda and Gatorade and lemonade, and also a soda vending machine as well as a flavored water vending machine.

  2. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I'm doing with my DD for drinks at lunch next school year.

    Preschool required I send in juice boxes for both my kids for both lunch AND snack, daily (barf). I got her a metal water bottle, I think I'll be sending water next year.

    We do not drink any juice at home unless it's a big treat, and then we stick to orange juice or vegetable juice that is made with recognizable ingredients and no sugar only.

    We can't do dairy products, and I only let the kids have about 4-6oz. of soymilk (plain, unfloavored) daily. The rest is just water.

    I know in the elementary school they offer "juice drink", whole milk (flavored and non), and I'm not sure what else exactly.

    I never understood the push to consume one's daily calories through liquids. I think it's unhealthy. Getting your nutrients through the food you eat instead of what you drink makes you feel more full, and (if you eat healthy to start with) is a much better choice overall!

    They need to push water (and milk if they MUST) and leave everything else out of it.

  3. I never drank water growing up — only now, in her 50s, is my mother drinking water, so although it was an option at home, I never took it. I was allowed 2% milk, both plain and of the chocolate/strawberry varieties and … I turned out okay. I don't think it would be something I would give my (future) children though. Curious how things change from generation to generation.

    When at my grandmother's house I drank POWDERED milk. You want to talk about an unnatural freak of nature science experiment? Warm, powdered milk. Ick.

    At my parochial K-8th school we were offered milk only — chocolate, 2% and skim. I switched to skim sometime around 4th grade because the other girls were doing that (early dieting? No clue, but even today I only drink skim). We were not offered water and I do recal that our water fountains had a metallic taste to them. When I hit high school it was the same options for lunch drinks, but i mostly brought my own lunch. We did have vending machines but they were turned off during the day. When 2:45 rolled around they were on and we were all soda (pop) crazy.

    Today I struggle with my weight and have dental problems — I wonder how much is related to diet and how much is genetics (my mother is also mildly overweight as I am and has had bad teeth her whole life).

  4. HI!
    You are amazing, and I love that you're doing this.
    For me, my kiddos (6 and 9) drink water and milk, sometimes flavored water, and OJ for Sunday breakfast. They like to take an occasional hit off my caffeine free diet pepsi (that's my one big vice), but I don't let them have caffeine, artificial colors, or "juice drinks" ever, if I can help it.

    Would you consider writing for our little blog?

  5. This is a great topic! I love your blog, and wish I was able to comment more, but, alas, I can't from work (even on my lunch break :-)).

    I spent a number of years overhauling my family's diet, and school lunch remains a major point of contention between me, my husband, and my daughter. But, for the most part, we eat a very healthy diet, and send healthy lunches, but I've been thinking about drinks a lot lately.

    My one guilty drink habit was always diet pop, but now that I'm pregnant I've given it up (90% . . .). I keep it to work, and keep it out of the house. I've been trying to cut juice down or out at home (another point of contention). So I've been on a hunt for healthy drinks.

    We've largely switched to seltzer, which I now love as an alternative. We do drink a whole lot of skim milk at home. Our daughter takes milk to school half the time and juice the other half (watered down juice when I get my hands on it) . . .

  6. My daughters' high school had candy and soda pop vending machines, much to the dismay of many of the parents who had raised their children to make healthy food choices. The last thing we parents needed (my children are grown now) was having the schools retrain our children to prefer sugary foods and beverages.

    Their excuse was that the kids would drive elsewhere for lunch and buy that crud, so the school might as well be making the profits.

    If the United States were not experiencing numbers–in epidemic proportions–of obese children with Type II diabetes (a disease never heard of in children fifty years ago), I might think differently, but under these conditions it is essential that our schools partner with educated parents trying to raise healthy children. It has become a matter of life and death.

    As a forceful, mind-shaping institution in the community, a school has a responsibility to set an example for nutritious, balanced, healthy meals. At the very least, that responsibility includes minimizing high-sugar, high-fructose corn syrup choices. The more organic, the better.

    Bottom line: No soft drinks, encourage kids to carry their own refillable water bottles, assure the school drinking water is frequently tested and remains safe, and offer both whole and skinny milk options, preferably organic and never sweetened or colored.

  7. Powdered milk is not a freaky science project. It's just the same old milk you drink from a carton but it's had the water removed from it in order to preserve it, not unlike drying fruit or dehydrating vegetables to preserve them. Actually, dried fruit often has chemical preservatives added to prevent molding, which is not the case for dried milk. The method by which milk is dried varies but heat and freezing are two commonly used techniques. If you read the ingredients, there is usually nothing in powdered milk but nonfat milk and maybe vitamin A & D (which is also added to cartons of nonfat milk). The drying process makes it impossible for bacteria to grow in the milk, thus preventing spoilage.

    Powdered milk can be a godsend to people who do not have the ability to refrigerate and consume larger quantities of fresh milk before it goes bad. I like to have powdered buttermilk on hand for baking because I never need a whole carton for recipes but no one in my family drinks buttermilk so there is less waste with powdered.

    Drinking warm milk of any kind sounds unpleasant to me, and of course you run the risk of not getting the proportions right with powdered milk (i.e. people might give kids 1/2 strength milk to save money or might accidentally under-measure the milk powder by accident) but there is nothing inherently frightening about powdered vs fresh milk. Or rather, I guess if you object to fresh milk it would make sense that you'd also object to powdered as they are essentially the same food from the same cows.

    Just felt like I had to set the record straight as the comments section on this blog seem to be getting ever more strident but based more on personal opinion than nutritional or scientific data currently available to us.

  8. I think that if you're going to mention "energy drinks" or "sports drinks," you should be careful to delineate between those that provide electrolytes and sugar/carbs (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) and those that provide caffeine or other stimulants. They're two different classes of beverages and any arguments for or against them should be addressed separately.

    Granted, they all have a base of tons of sugar, some citric acid and flavorings for taste, and water. However, active athletes need added sugar/carbs to burn as energy and any health professional will tell you that if you're dehydrated, drinking water will do you no good. You need to replace the electrolytes (salts) in your body that were lost in order to be able to absorb and use the water you're taking in.

    That's not to say I think Gatorade and Powerade should get a free pass. There's a lot of crap in them and they shouldn't be used as an everyday beverage. As someone who only drinks them when I'm dehydrated (and even those of us who don't do sports can get dehydrated just being outside and doing yard work in the sun), I'd love to see a more natural source of electrolytes that doesn't come with so much added sugar offered to teens who do sports.

    Come to think of it, I probably should seek-out such a source for myself. 🙂

    Caffeine-laden drinks, on the other hand, have no place in schools, IMHO. If kids/teens need a stimulant to keep going all day, they're either not getting the sleep they need or they're being pushed too hard. If they choose to be addicted to caffeine as an adult, that's a choice, but we shouldn't be actively offering it to them in high school. In my opinion, the practice is akin to slapping a cigarette or beer machine right in the foyer of the gym.

  9. Incidentally, kudos to the commenter who mentioned Kool-Aid.

    At 30-something years old, I still drink a lot of Kool-Aid and people always gasp at me and give me the hairy eyeball. There are a few good reasons I drink it:

    1) I like flavor in my drink. Plain water just doesn't satisfy my thirst most of the time. May people feel the same way.

    2) If you buy the unsweetened packets and prepare it to package directions, it STILL has at least 30% less sugar than soda and no caramel color (like in dark sodas) to stain your teeth. I can usually reduce the sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 and it still tastes perfectly fine.

    3) Kool-aid is fundamentally no different than the so-called "flavored waters" on the market. Just compare the labels. The flavored water is made with sugar substitute (usually Splenda/Sucralose) instead of sugar and you can do that with Kool-Aid if you like. The other difference is food coloring–and if the Kool-Aid folks are listening, I'd love to see a colorless offering.

    4) It's cheaper than cheap. Flavored water goes for over a dollar a bottle. I can make a gallon of Kool-Aid for pennies on the dollar–even if I were to use Splenda.

    Imagine how easy it'd be to make a vending machine that would mix a portion of Kool-Aid on-the-fly with your choice of flavor and sweetener. It could even add electrolytes. Maybe I should patent that. 🙂

  10. I'm sorry but, personally I think you all need to take a step back and be realistic. Do you honestly think if the schools changed and always went the healthy route that kids would still bother with WANTING to get lunch at school?

    Mrs.Q has even said herself that when she asks kids what they ate for lunch, they often say they threw the fruit or veggie parts away and only ate the parts they liked (such as pizza, chips, icee, or nuggets etc).

    Most of you are saying you want school lunch to change and be so 'healthy' but the reality is that if that happened most kids would either pass it up and not eat or just bring a pb&j or whatever random foods their parents pack from home… which they will then pick through, eat what they like, and toss the rest (or trade it off as some do).When it comes to food at school, kids are going to be kids no matter what you do.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

  11. Justin, google "labor-ade" or "homemade gatorade". It's basically sweetened water with salts added. The "gatorade" recipes have potassium instead of magnesium but eating a banana would also replenish potassium reserves.

    I am cautious about giving kids electrolyte replacement drinks. Mine play a lot of sports and I see little kids chugging huge bottles of the stuff yet it's unclear to me that the amount of salts needed for an elite NCAA D-I athlete (for whom Gatorade was designed) is equivalent for, say, a 9yr old soccer player. I often wonder what effect sports drinks will have on young kidneys over the long term. I don't get the parents who give their kids bottles of gatorade in lunchboxes…if they aren't losing salts through physical activity, why are they being pumped full of the stuff?

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