Flavored Milk

boy reading while eating banana and chocolate milk

A healthy alternative to soft drinks and fruit juice, flavored milk is a nutritional powerhouse. It packs thirteen essential vitamins and minerals into one serving. The facts are in: flavored milk provides more nutrition and less sugar than juices and sports drinks. You wouldn’t believe the assortment of recipes and fun ideas you can have with flavored milk.

Let’s explore the health benefits of flavored milk and why it’s a great alternative to soda, juice, sports drinks, and more.

Information for Health Professionals and Parents

  • A 2017 CDC study found only 7.1% of U.S adolescents met fruit intake recommendations and only 2% met vegetable intake recommendations.
  • Similarly, a separate study found only about 25% of U.S. adolescents get the recommended amount of 2.5-3 daily servings of dairy.
  • Recent studies have been conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) regarding insufficient vitamin D intake among children and adolescents. Results found high cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar, hypertension, hyperglycemia, and metabolic syndrome.
  • Studies show low-fat and whole vitamin D-fortified milk (plain or flavored) can help bridge the gap.

flavored milk in milk bottles with striped straws

With childhood obesity rates on the rise, parents often pursue school or district-wide bans on certain snacks and flavored milk to eliminate extra calories. According to pediatricians, however, the goal should be to plan, not ban.

Snacking between meals is the source of nearly 25% of children’s daily energy, crucial to helping them stay on track in the classroom or on the field. Flavored milk is a smart snack, containing the same essential vitamins and minerals as plain milk. This is great news since most boys and girls are not getting enough calcium in their diets.

Health Benefits of Flavored Milk

Research shows that when flavored milk is on the menu, students:

  • Consume more milk which has more muscle-building protein than juices and sodas
  • Drink fewer sodas and soft drinks compared to those who do not drink flavored or unflavored milk
  • Meet their calcium needs without consuming more total fat and calories
  • Do not have higher total fat or calorie intakes than unflavored milk on average
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) lower than or comparable to the BMIs of non-milk drinkers
  • Consume more milk than exclusively unflavored milk drinkers
  • In general, consume more calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A than non-milk drinkers

It’s important to remember that 9 out of 10 girls and 7 out of 10 boys aren’t getting the calcium they need for strong bones and healthy bodies. Limiting access to flavored milk may further reduce students’ intake of calcium and other essential nutrients.

The vitamins and minerals in milk help build and repair muscle, making it a great post-exercise beverage and a healthy alternative to sports drinks

The Role of Flavored Milk in Child Nutrition Programs

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, numerous health organizations, and the latest science support the continued role of flavored milk as a core component of child nutrition programs. Milk is a nutrient-rich beverage that’s good for kids, supported by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Offering low-fat or fat-free choices of flavored milk is an excellent way to increase milk consumption among children and make their diets more nutritious. It can also boost overall participation in school meal programs.

Concerns about calories, fat, and sugar as components of individual foods rather than the overall diet have put nutrient-rich milk at risk of not being offered to children. Limiting access to flavored milk, because of its added sugar, may have the undesirable effect of further reducing intakes of essential nutrients provided by milk.

Whether flavored or unflavored, milk provides the same thirteen essential nutrients (calcium, potassium, phosphorous, protein, vitamins A, D, and B12, riboflavin, niacin, iodine, potassium, selenium, and zinc) and can help kids meet their calcium requirements. Kids who consume milk meet their calcium requirements without consuming significantly more added sugar compared to those who do not consume milk.

Southeast Dairy Association - Student drinking flavored milk

Health Benefits of Flavored Milk

Chocolate milk, strawberry milk, vanilla or banana milk, oh my! According to USDA data, 66% of the milk chosen by children in schools is flavored, most of which is low-fat (1%) or fat-free. Studies have revealed kids’ clear nutritious beverage of choice: low-fat flavored milk, whether or not it’s lactose-free.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adding a small amount of sugar to nutrient-rich foods such as reduced-fat milk products helps enhance their palatability and improves nutrient intake without adding excessive calories. Health and nutrition experts recommend regular milk consumption.

The Institute of Medicine also recognizes the nutritional value of flavored milk with modest amounts of sugar for school children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages the consumption of low-fat milk, water, real fruit, or vegetable juice as healthful alternatives to soft drinks.

Additional Resources on Flavored Milk from the Dairy Alliance

Without a doubt, kids (and adults) love the taste of flavored milk. Here at the Dairy Alliance, we are strong milk advocates because of its delicious creamy taste and all of the wonderful things it can do for our health. Look below for more resources on flavored milk. It’s time to step your milk game up a notch. Flavored milk is where the fun and flavor are at. Cheers to that.

Flavored Milk Brochure
Five Reasons to Raise Your Hand for Flavored Milk