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Chocolate in the schools

Kevin Yarr

by Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca

A surprising controversy erupted last week when it was suggested that Prince Edward Island should subsidize the price of chocolate milk in its schools.

Long condemned as a candy bar in a carton, chocolate milk is now more commonly viewed by nutritionists as almost as good as unflavoured milk, containing all the same nutrients but with a little bit of sugar added.

And so came the suggestion for a subsidy, in a bid to prompt more children to drink more milk. The government has subsidized white milk through the P.E.I. School Milk Foundation since the 1980s.

Several schools and the Health Eating Alliance are in favour of the change, but the School Milk Foundation says it hasn't got the money.

Then people started to comment on CBC's web story, and it was not favourable. Comments abounded from the sugar-is-poison camp, and there was a significant contingent from the soy milk brigade as well.

"Milk is for baby cows, not kids!" wrote someone with the nickname of girsharmony.

"Eat properly and you have no need for milk! That stuff is full of nasty hormones and chemicals anyway, I'd rather give a kid pop."

It's always difficult to judge what people are really thinking about a story. It's easy to be fooled when dozens post negative comments, forgetting that thousands of people read it without commenting. A voluntary poll is hardly more scientific, but a reader poll is currently running with close to 80 per cent agreeing it's a good idea to subsidize chocolate milk.

But the debate did get me thinking: just how much sugar is in chocolate milk? Some commenters were even comparing it to an Oh Henry bar. Is that fair?

Well, it depends. Sugar in chocolate milk varies by manufacturer. One website I looked at listed almost 20 grams of added sugar in chocolate milk, close to five teaspoons. That's not far off from an Oh Henry bar, which was listed with 26.3 grams of sugar.

Mind you, that was in a 57-gram bar. When I went across the street, the Oh Henry bar I found on the shelf was 85 grams. Then again, listings for chocolate milk were for 250-millilitre servings, and the chocolate milk in the fridge was in 250-millilitre bottles.

Once again, grotesque serving sizes come into play here.

After the controversy hit the web page, CBC P.E.I.'s radio morning show brought in nutritionist Jennifer Taylor to comment.

"If you look at the big picture of how children eat, I don't think it's chocolate milk we should be getting all whipped up about," said Taylor.

Taylor said there is clear evidence that only about half of children on P.E.I. are getting enough calcium and vitamin D in their diets. Milk, she said, is the easiest way to supplement that. And if it's chocolate, that little bit of sugar is a small price to pay.

It doesn't hurt that the local dairy has relatively low sugar content in its milk, only about three teaspoons added per cup.

Should children be encouraged to drink chocolate milk?

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Comments

Phillip

Toronto

White milk would obviously be the best but if a child refuses to drink white milk, then chocolate milk may not be such a bad idea either. Wouldn't it be much better than drinking soda pop anyway? I can't believe people think soda pop is better than chocolate milk. Chocolate milk has calcium and vitamins. Pop has sugar and...nothing.

So there it is...chocolate milk should be encouraged only if a child refuses to drink white milk.

Posted November 11, 2009 08:13 AM

Halszka

Toronto

When I prepare chocolate milk at home I use only one spoon of sugar. And it is sweet enough. Than why producers uses 3 or 5 spoons.
The unswer is simple. They do not use good quality cocoa stuff. They also add arey of other artifical ingrediances. Therefore I would not subsidise it at all. As a matter of fact I would not sell it at all unless they contain only natural ingrediance.

Posted November 13, 2009 10:11 AM

lili

timmins

chocolate milk...bah, how controversial a topic!!! In my opinion, it's far better than a can of diet soda. We often give children muffins and granola bars as a nutritional snack in school, and low fat/sugar free yogurt!! (all subsidized by health organisation in our school....)Most of us know that store bought muffins are glorified CAKES, granala bars are carb and sugar fixes...and fat/sugar free yogurt...totally not recommended for growing children....

Posted November 13, 2009 10:40 AM

Mike

Ottawa

Did anyone bother asking the children what they think? No, of course not, let's just tell kids what to do because they always listen.

It's been a while since I was in elementary school where our milk service offered a choice between plain and chocolate. Out of our class of 25 or so, I think there were maybe 8 of us who bought milk, 7 of which were chocolate. If there had not been a chocolate option I'm sure that there would have been no more than 3 people getting milk at all. I never got into the habbit of drinking plain milk with my meals. I rarely drink milk with lunch now but do any of you?

I knew chocolate milk was a treat and I mostly drank it after my sandwich, because ham and chocolate sandwiches really don't taste that good.

Oh, and I've got news for all you parents who send your kids healthy food and snacks. If they don't also taste good, kids'll trade it for some sugar any chance they get. Often, they'll just not eat an apple unless they're really hungry. Check the garbage bins after lunch sometime.

Posted November 14, 2009 01:23 PM

Ryan

n/a

in response to anyone who believes that not using high quality ingredients in a product should exclude it from government subsidy, are you actually serious? sure feeding our children nothing but wholesome, organic, hippie goods is much better for them, i doubt you will find much resistance there, but lets be realistic. To base your existence on such products is (among other things) expensive and out of the reach of many families who dont have a lot of extra cash. its these families toward which these subsidies are aimed at, not the family who brings in $150k + per year. since there are a lot of kids who dont like to drink milk and its up to them to spend their milk money on milk when they are having their lunch, you nay-sayers would rather have that child not spend the money (or save it to purchase something else delicious which is undoubtedly full of poor quality ingredients and sugar) than to have them spend it on CHOCOLATE milk which is not as good as white milk due to a bit of sugar and some SPECULATED low quality ingredients but has all sorts of good things that many kids dont get enough of (calcium and vit d to name a couple). as well, if you start to analyze what you eat, you will be hard pressed to design a diet that is free of low quality ingredients somewhere unless you make everything from scratch.

A bit of compromise can go a long way

Posted November 29, 2009 04:41 PM

Ryan

n/a

after thought,
if money is an issue. Beverage companies pay schools to put their vending machines in the lunchrooms etc. why not require them to subsidize the milk program and require them to allow subsidized milk products account for a particular percentage of their machine space.

Posted November 29, 2009 04:51 PM

Skidon

Ottawa

Chocolate milk is very close in general nutritional benefit to a good quality liquid meal replacement, which in turn is almost identical to the diet shakes provided by hospital diets for weight loss.
In sport nutrition the liquid meal replacement is the fastest boost to regeneration post exericise and chocolate milk a close second.
Chocolate milk in the schools will be just fine.

Posted December 6, 2009 03:38 PM

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

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Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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