Chocolate Milk and Kids
Parents need to know that when their kids drink chocolate milk, they are getting the same 16 nutrients as they get from white milk, including all the calcium and vitamin D. This makes it an excellent complement to white milk in a healthy diet.
Chocolate milk’s delicious taste helps children and teens meet Canada’s Food Guide recommendations for Milk Products and Alternatives and get essential bone building nutrients they may otherwise miss out on.
According to the latest national government survey, 37% of children aged 4 to 9 are not meeting the minimum recommended number of servings of milk products per day. And as children get older their consumption of milk products decreases further to the point where 61% of boys and 83% of girls, aged 10 to 16 years, are not meeting the minimum recommended number of servings of milk products per day.1
Research shows that children and teens who include chocolate and other flavoured milks in their diet tend to consume more milk than those who drink only white milk or no milk at all. They also tend to have a better overall diet quality than those who don’t drink chocolate milk.2-5
Chocolate milk provides the same 16 essential nutrients as white milk, many of which are essential for children’s and teen’s growing bones and teeth. And what kids don’t get during their crucial years of rapid growth can’t be made up for in later life.
A large proportion of children and adolescents are not meeting the recommendations for milk products.1 Including chocolate milk and other flavoured milk in their diet, as a complement to white milk, can help picky eaters get the servings of Milk and Alternatives that Canada’s Food Guide tells us they need for optimal growth and bone health.
Research has shown that children who drink chocolate or other flavoured milks drink more milk in total and consume fewer soft drinks and fruit drinks.2 As a result, they get more calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D - three key nutrients for bone health - than those who drink no chocolate milk.
Chocolate milk generally contains no more sugar than unsweetened apple juice, and a good portion of that is the naturally occurring sugar, lactose, which is also found in white milk.
Studies show that the diets of children who drink chocolate or other flavoured milks contain no more added sugar than those who consume no chocolate milk. It seems that children and teens don’t consume chocolate milk instead of white milk but rather, when given the choice, they choose chocolate milk instead of reaching for less nutritious sweet drinks like soft drinks and fruit drinks.2-5
According to the American Heart Association:
"In fact, when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods, such as sugar-sweetened dairy products like flavored milk and yogurt and sugar-sweetened cereals, the quality of children’s and adolescents’ diets improves, and in the case of flavored milks, no adverse effects on weight status were found."2
In Canada, chocolate milk contributes less than 1% to Canada’s total added-sugar intake.6 In the US, the American Heart Association suggests that the foods mainly responsible for the increased energy intake from sugars/added sugars in the US diet are soft drinks, fruit drinks, desserts, sugars and jellies, candy, and ready-to-eat cereals.2
For those who are concerned about their child’s weight, the American Heart Association notes that flavoured milk consumption causes no adverse effect on weight status2.
Studies have shown that children who drink chocolate or other flavoured milks consume more milk in total. Overall, they also drink fewer of the less nutritious sweetened beverages we know they should limit, such as soft drinks and fruit punches.2-5
Because it contains some sugar and caffeine, many people mistakenly believe that chocolate milk causes hyperactivity in children. However, according to Dietitians of Canada, research has not shown a link between sugar and hyperactivity in children.7
Researchers believe that the increased activity observed when children are eating sweets is likely related to the excitement of the occasion, e.g. a birthday party. Since children are often restricted from having sweets, just being allowed to have them at all is often enough to generate a level of excitement.
Some wonder whether hyperactivity could be caused by the caffeine found naturally in chocolate milk. The answer to that is no. There is too little caffeine in chocolate milk8 for it to have an effect on a child’s behavior.
Caffeine Content of Some Beverages9
|Coffee (250 mL)||80 to 110 mg|
|Energy Drink (1 can/variable size)||46 to 375 mg|
|Tea (250 mL)||35 to 50 mg|
|Cola (250 mL)||25 to 35 mg|
|Chocolate Milk (250 mL)||5 mg|
Maximum daily recommended caffeine intakes for children aged 12 years or less as established by Health Canada is 2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight. As an example, a child weighing 30 kg (66 pounds) could consume up to 75 mg of caffeine per day, which is a lot more than the amount of caffeine in a glass of chocolate milk.
Just like white milk, chocolate milk is good for the health of your teeth. Because it’s a liquid, the sugar it contains does not stay in the mouth long and does not stick to teeth. Plus, cocoa and many of the nutrients found in milk help prevent cavities, thereby countering the effect of the sugar in chocolate milk.
Research has shown that children who drink chocolate or other flavoured milks not only consume more milk in total, they also drink fewer sweetened beverages that can cause tooth-decay, such as soft drinks and fruit drinks .2
1. Garriguet D. Nutrition: Findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Overview of Canadians’ Eating Habits. Statistics Canada 2006; Catalogue no. 82-620-MIE-No.2.
2. Johnson RK et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health. A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2009; 120:1011-1020.
3. Murphy MM et al. Drinking flavored or plain is positively associated with nutrient intake and is not associated with adverse effects on weight status in US children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc 2008; 108:631-639.
4. Frary CD et al. Children and adolescents’ choices of foods and beverages high in added sugars are associated with intakes of key nutrients and food groups. J Adolesc Health 2004;34(1): 56-63.
5. Johnson RK et al. The nutritional consequences of flavored-milk consumption by school-aged children and adolescents in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc 2002; 102(6):853-856.
6. Statistics Canada. Food Statistics 2008.
7. Dietitians of Canada. Do specific foods cause hyperactivity in children? Accessed on 2009 Feb. 4th.
8. Frary CD et al. Food sources and intakes of caffeine in the diets of persons in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc 2005; 105:110-3.
9. Lacombe N, ed. Du plein air, j'en mange. Québec: Géo Plein Air, 2009.