Jamie Oliver, chef and host of ABC’s “Food Revolution,” hits LA this season. The chef filled an entire school bus with sugar to demonstrate how much sugar the L.A. Unified School District added to their flavored milk in a week. The “sugar” (actually white sand for demonstration purposes) was overflowing as it filled the bus. It was a controversial start to the reality tv show’s second season launch. The inspiring reality tv show documents the chef as he “sets out to tackle the problems of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in the US – where the first generation of children are not expected to live as long as their parents – and invites viewers to take a stand and change the way Americans eat at home, in schools and on Main Street.”
There’s no doubt that milk is good for growing bodies, even chocolate milk has its benefits, and some studies even suggest that children who drink flavored milk have higher calcium intake and do not have significantly higher BMIs than children who do not drink flavored milk. Yet how much is too much when it comes to the sugar added to milk? On average, 70 percent of milk sold in school cafeterias has added sugars and fats for flavoring purposes. In fact, the average chocolate milk container served at schools has 26 grams of sugar. For comparison’s sake Coke Classic has 27 grams of sugar per serving and Mountain Dew has 31 grams. Some schools have tried healthier alternatives in an effort to curb childhood obesity and wean youngsters off sweetened milk, making chocolate milk with sucrose made from beets and sugar cane.
The healthiest option for kids would be to not drink flavored milk and instead go with the low-fat or skim option. However another possibility is to be extra vigilant about identifying and reducing other sources of hidden sugar in the child’s diet to help offset the added sugar coming from the chocolate milk.