Is Chocolate Milk Good for Kids?

Is chocolate milk good? Learn the pros and cons, as I see it, and how I manage chocolate milk in my own family.

Is Chocolate Milk Good?

A Note from Jill: This is an updated post from 2010. I thought it was time to freshen it up!

No doubt, chocolate milk can confuse parents. It’s one of the most FAQ (frequently asked questions) I get: Is chocolate milk good for my child?

Given all the publicity around sugar-laden drinks, high fructose corn syrup and obesity, offering chocolate milk to your child can be a confusing prospect.  I will attempt to weigh the pros and cons of chocolate milk in your child’s diet.

In the end, I hope you will have enough information to feel good about your stance, whatever it may be.

Chocolate milk is considered a flavored milk and the addition of chocolate adds sugar, calories, and a boost of sweet flavor.  Many children enjoy chocolate milk at lunch, but the school lunch program has been scrutinized for making this beverage part of the daily fare for children.

Whether it has a good influence on your child’s diet or not really boils down to how often, and how much your child is drinking.

In my house, I regularly stock chocolate milk. That’s because I have a few athletes and they use it routinely after they practice or compete.

Occasionally, my kids will use it outside of sports practice, but that isn’t the norm.

What Is Good about Chocolate Milk

The Nutrient Composition 

Chocolate milk has an abundance of necessary nutrients that children need for healthy growth and development, including protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Unfortunately, many parents are blinded by sugar!  

You may hear “chocolate” and think sugar.

Where people get confused is they think that the carb content in chocolate milk is entirely from sucrose, or table sugar. But, it’s not.

I tried to clarify that point in this article.

Chocolate milk also contains the naturally-occurring sugar called lactose. Put sucrose from chocolate and lactose from milk together and it can certainly look like a hefty dose of sugar!

But that number represents the combination of both.

Don’t forget the 9 important nutrients present in chocolate milk. There are good nutrients to be had, especially calcium and vitamin D, which are not always easy for kids to consume when they skip out on milk.

In fact, calcium and vitamin D are consumed inadequately across all age groups (except children under age 2) and all demographics.

calcium foods

My book, The Calcium Handbook: Over 100 Ways to Grow Healthy Bones for Your Child, can help further your understanding and also give you lots of calcium-containing food options to include for your child.

The Flavor, or Taste, of Chocolate Milk

Is chocolate milk good on the taste buds? Many children think so. Children like to eat food that tastes good, and that holds true in the case of drinking milk.  

Many studies have shown that milk consumption is higher in schools when flavored milk is offered.

It’s Useful as a Recovery Drink after Sports

Chocolate milk has been studied as a post-exercise recovery drink, and from all indicators, it has a positive impact on muscle recovery, and replenishment of glycogen stores in muscle tissue.  

From soccer players to cyclists, it appears that, when consumed after prolonged exercise, chocolate milk is good and has positive effects on the body’s ability to recover and rebuild.

Parents of athletes take note:  8-10 oz appears to do the trick.

That’s why I stock it in my home routinely.

Eat Like a Champion - Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete

If you’ve got an athlete, you might be interested in my sports nutrition book for young athletes, called, Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete, where I cover the research and role of chocolate milk.

What May be Bad about Chocolate Milk

Overconsumption

It is true with anything we eat–too much is too much, and this goes for flavored milk, also.  

Yes, too much of a good thing can be bad for your child. Think about too much fruit and the resulting trips to the bathroom! (I’ve experienced this first hand with my kids!)

Chocolate milk can be part of a healthy and satisfying diet for your child as long as you keep the quantities consumed in check. Aim for three servings of dairy per day, on average, and be mindful of the portion size and frequency of offering it.

Last, be conscious of the recommendations for sugar (less than 10% of total caloric intake).

What is for You To Decide

Schools and Chocolate Milk

Many schools have eliminated chocolate milk.  Is this the right thing to do?  I am not sure.

I am a moderate, so I can see limiting the number of days it is served, and assuring that the type is a low fat version… but a complete ban?  

When chocolate milk is pulled out of schools, overall milk consumption drops by an average of 35%. Studies suggest that this occurs because fewer students choose milk (clearly their preference was chocolate or flavored milk over white milk), and more milk was wasted.

Unfortunately over time, a new and improved acceptance of white milk simply did not occur, making overall consumption of milk decrease.

Shortfall Nutrients 

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that calcium and vitamin D continue to be shortfall nutrients (nutrients with inadequate intake) for children.  A review of calcium intake and status in children indicate that up to 50% of children as young as 2 years are not getting enough calcium.  

While the optimist (and dietitian) in me knows that children can get calcium from other sources, the realist in me says, “Children don’t choose those foods, many parents don’t serve them, so they may not be getting enough.”

I believe that these shortfall nutrients may create some real health problems for children as they age, particularly in their bone health. Tune in for the opinion of Dr. Taylor Wallace on this issue, and an update on the role of calcium from food in children’s health.

How I Approach Chocolate Milk with My Children

I lead with nutrients in mind and seek out the foods that will fulfill my kids’ nutritional requirements. I know that without milk and dairy products, my kiddos are unlikely to get what they need, especially for calcium and vitamin D.

I aim for 3 servings of milk/dairy per day.  I used to not purchase chocolate milk for my home when my children were younger.

Then, if they chose it at school, that was fine with me, as that was be the only place they were getting it (and our school served low-fat chocolate milk).  

Now, as I mentioned, I routinely buy chocolate milk for my young athletes.

I am careful not to vilify or eliminate flavored milk, but rather find ways we can work it in reasonably. I treat chocolate milk just as I would the birthday cakes that I serve, the Thanksgiving pie in which I indulge, and the “fun food” (high fat, high sugar treats and junky food) my children eat.  

As I see it, making flavored milk the bad guy gets us stuck in the muck, and it becomes difficult to classify and navigate the other foods in our less than perfect diets.

But of course, I like nearly all foods, and want my kids to be open-minded and like them also.

To me, it’s less about chocolate milk, and more about the balance, variety, and amounts of all the foods we serve our children.  Let us be better at teaching our children about choice, variety, balance, and amounts, rather than spending time and energy instilling fear and confusion about chocolate milk.  

Time well spent, in my humble, dietitian’s opinion.

What’s your stance on chocolate milk? Do you think chocolate milk is good for your child or not?

Sound off in the comment section below!

Does your child have trouble with dairy? You might want to review my Milk Comparison Guide, which will help you choose the best alternative milk source for your child. Click on the box below to get it!

Grab the Milk Comparison Guide Now!
 

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  1. I love chocolate milk and I’m doing something for writers workshop and I try to tell other kids that chocolate milk is a good thing but they don’t agree.

      1. In my school we are writing an essay on why chocolate milke shouldn’t be served in schools can you locate me to one of your good articles

          1. I did not get much good information about it because it is not much about non-milk drinkers are not heavier than chocolate milk drinkers

      1. It depends on the type: whole milk chocolate milk, vs. low fat chocolate milk. Whole chocolate milk is about 200 calories, and low fat chocolate milk is about 150 calories for 1 cup.

  2. My class did a study and there is no added fat in chocolate milk. Also if we get rid of chocolate milk, kids will most likely throw away white milk.

    #savethemilk

    1. Ethan,
      The fat in chocolate milk is the fat that is naturally in the milk itself–fat is not added. In other words, if you have whole milk chocolate milk, the fat will be the same amount as regular white milk. The same is true for low fat chocolate milk–it contains the same fat as low fat white milk. I agree with you, if you get rid of chocolate milk, studies show that white milk consumption does not go up.

  3. kids can get really sick if they drink chocolate milk it has 25 percent more sugar then soda you think you want to let your kids drink chocolate milk!

    1. Hi Emma, The difference between chocolate milk and soda is not only in the amount of sugar, but also in the nutrients. Chocolate milk has more nutrients, many of which kids need and are unfortunately falling behind on.

  4. I think chocolate milk is bad because so chocolate milk can lead to diabetes.Also chocolate milk is very bad for your health if you want no teeth when you get older then you drink chocolate milk all you want.I say this because chocolate rottens your teeth and in chocolate milk there is chocolate

  5. I think chocolate milk has to much sugar and can cause severe health issues, therefor it should not be allowed in schools.

  6. People who don’t drink chocolate milk, ask your self why don’t u like it? I know because it has to much sugar, but who cares it has the same nutrients that regluar milk has such as calcium and protein, vitamin A, D, B12 and chocolate milk also help help children meet their daliy requirement.

  7. Jill, I just came back from a high school presentation and heard about students who regularly skip breakfast and lunch and after school when they are famished they head out for fast food. You said it well here it is about moderation.

  8. This is a great post Jill! I love how you promote nutritious living to your children. I hope others find your take on chocolate milk as encouraging as I did.

    1. Thanks Kati! It’s a balancing act, just like everything with kids! Hopefully, this post will give others some points to think about as they navigate all the “fun foods”.

  9. We are big fans of chocolate milk. It’s a “fun” food that my oldest son feels is a “treat”, but I know is chock full of nutrition. I do chose to make my own, using a popular national brand powder… and very truthfully, make it quite “weak.” But it’s the perception & the little bit of added flavor that makes it such a special drink for my 4 year old. Thanks for such a balanced piece with such good perspective!

    1. You’re welcome! To vary on the topic a little, I often warm the chocolate milk so that it is a “hot chocolate”–in my opinion, more nutritious than the water-based hot chocolates.