Flavored Milk: Good or Bad?

by Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

As a mom and registered dietitian, I knew that the lunchtime beverage for my kids would be milk. For growing bodies and bones, you just can’t beat the nutrient package that milk provides. As I watched my kids grow up, it was  interesting to see the approach each of my three kids took in choosing the kind of milk they would drink at school.

The oldest one preferred only white milk – an easy choice each day. The next one was my “princess” and loved the color pink, so strawberry milk was her pick for about the first 2-3 weeks of school, and then she went back to white milk, as that is what we drank at home. The third one, my son, has been a chocolate milk drinker from first grade through high school. The bottom line for me as a mom was about choice and knowing that regardless of the flavor of milk they chose, all milk would provide the great same nutrient package.

Chocolate milk has been an unnecessary focus of attention over the years.

Unfortunately, chocolate milk has been an unnecessary focus of attention over the years. In the 80s, it was thought to cause hyperactivity in school-age kids but science proved this theory wrong. More recently the focus of chocolate milk has been around child hood obesity and added sugars. Through innovation and reformulation, added sugars in flavored milk offered in schools has been reduced by about 38%. (2011-12 Projected School Milk Project Profile. Funded by the Milk Processors Education Program (MilkPEP) and conducted by Prime Consulting Group)

Flavored milk contributes just 4% of added sugars to kid’s diets vs soda and fruit drinks which account for close to half of the added sugars in the diet.(Dairy Research Institute, NHANES (2003-2006). Ages 2-18. Data Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hyattsville, MD: US Dept Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention) And, as of the 2012-13 school year, any flavored milk served in school must be fat free.

As a child, milk, juice and water were the staple beverages served in my home but with the variety of beverage choices today, milk sales as a beverage are at their lowest in almost 30 years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beverage milk sales in 2011 are less than half of what they were in the early 1980s.

Milk, including flavored milk, is the number one food source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of children 2-18 years old – including three of the four nutrients the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans found many children and adults don’t get enough of — calcium, vitamin D and potassium. (Keast DR, Fulgoni III VL, Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE. Food sources of energy and nutrients among children in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006. Nutrients. 2013;5(1):283-301)

The lunchtime beverage at school becomes even more important. So is flavored milk good or bad? It’s all about choice because either way you are getting the same nine essential nutrients found in milk. So my answer is: GOOD!

Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

Karen is a registered dietitian and is the Nutrition Affairs Director for the American Dairy Association Mideast. A scientist at heart, she seeks out quality nutrition research to share with others in a profession she is passionate about. Karen is a mother of three and enjoys cooking, gardening, running and traveling.


  1. Avery Smith | | Reply

    Awesome blog! I now have a different view on flavored milk and I like the facts

  2. Amol Godkhe | | Reply

    Amazing post, Drinking flavored milk has a lot of benefits as it is rich in calcuim and other milk like nutrients.

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