Flavored Milk As Problematic As Sodas, Energy Drinks

As a child, you couldn't leave the table without finishing your glass of milk. But, according to a Today Health report, a Harvard pediatrician's study shows that sprucing up the plain ol' milk with additives like chocolate or strawberry flavorings may be doing more harm than good.

David Ludwig, M.D., director of the New Balance Foudnation Obesity Prevention Center, and Walter C. Willett, M.D., director of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote an editorial published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. "Americans are consuming billions of gallons of milk a year," writes Willett, "presumably under the assumption that their bones would crumble without them." Drinking reduced fat milk is a great way for Americans, especially children, to meet dairy intake guidelines and avoid saturated fat (linked to weight gain and heart disease). Children have higher recommended intake levels of calcium, which created a market of fat-reduced dairy products like milk and yogurt that often have added sweeteners, adding up to more sugar and calories in their diets.

The study says parents are allowing their kids to get their daily intake of dairy through products like reduced-fat chocolate milk; the problem is that these products often have added sugar to improve the taste that is removed with the fat. One cup of the drink has 158 calories, with 68 calories from solid fats and added sugars. One cup of plain 2-percent milk has 122 calories, with 37 calories from solid fats and added sugars.

"The point is," say the experts, "we can get plenty of calcium from a whole range of foods." Willett suggests cooked kale, sardines, and green leafy vegetables as excellent alternatives to try out with kids. Since it's not likely kids will start requesting kale for dinner, be wary of flavored milk drinks, and try to introduce new sources of calcium into their diets.