The school district saw a 9 percent increase in nutrient intake among students.

Executive Director Dani Sheffield (center) poses with Child Nutrition Services staff members.

Milk has been an integral part of school meals since their beginning. Lowfat flavored milk helps students make a nutritious beverage choice. Data show that students choose flavored milk 70 percent of the time. One recent USDA study showed that when schools removed or limited flavored milk options, milk consumption dropped a dramatic 35 percent, on average.

According to Dani Sheffield, executive director of child nutrition services, Aldine ISD decided to remove fat-free chocolate milk and replace it with 1 percent chocolate milk. The success of the change got the attention of the Dairy Max to chose Aldine ISD for a video feature.

“Our decision was student-focused,” Sheffield said. “We looked to provide students with the nutrients they need through an option they enjoy. The new selection began in the 2018-19 school year. We saw a 9 percent increase in the purchase of 1 percent chocolate milk over fat-free chocolate milk in comparison to the 2017-18 school year.”

A student is happy about his chocolate milk preference.

The Importance of Milk

The findings suggest that the resulting drop in milk consumption equates to a substantial loss in nutrients that can’t be replaced by another beverage. It requires three to four food items to match milk’s nutrient contribution and adds back more calories and fat than were being reduced.

Milk is a nutrient powerhouse delivering nine essential nutrients, including some that are lacking in children’s diets today. Lowfat milk is an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and phosphorus, and a good source of protein, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, and niacin. With flavored milk, you get all that nutrition plus the taste-appeal kids love.

The Experts’ Opinion

The nation’s leading health and nutrition organizations, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recognize the valuable role that milk, including flavored milk, can play in meeting daily nutrient needs. They also recognize the small amount of added sugars in flavored milk is an acceptable trade-off for the nutrients provided.

Flavored milk contributes just 3 percent of added sugars to kids’ diets. Sodas and fruit drinks, on the other hand, account for close to half of the added sugar, delivering much less, if any, nutrition in the process. Studies also show that children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs. They also do not consume more added sugars or fat than non-milk drinkers.

Surprisingly, if kids skip a serving of milk at school, they’re not likely to replace it at home. A recent survey conducted among 1,505 moms of kids between the ages of 1–18 found that only 29 percent reported serving milk to their children at dinner.

Skim Milk is Tops for Hydration Too

A study from Scotland’s St. Andrews University compared the hydration responses of several different drinks. The researchers found that while water — both still and sparkling — does a pretty good job of quickly hydrating the body, beverages with a little bit of sugar, fat or protein do an even better job of keeping us hydrated for longer. Skim milk came out on top of most hydrating beverages. It was followed by oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte or Liquid I.V.) and full-fat milk. Chocolate milk also outperforms sports drinks in strength tests with teen athletes.

Plant-based Options

For people who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy products, switching to alternatives can help avoid symptoms and keep their digestive system healthy. Some people are allergic to cow’s milk and can have a potentially dangerous allergic reaction to it. Anyone allergic to milk should avoid dairy products altogether.

Sheffield stated that if a student has a doctor’s note regarding an allergy or intolerance to milk, child nutrition staff do offer an alternate beverage such as soy, rice, etc. These plant-based beverages contain many additives compared to the three ingredients in milk. Dairy alternatives may have added ingredients such as added sugars, added starch, thickeners such as carrageenan, added flavoring, preservatives, lack of nutrients and minerals, and lack of protein.