You Are What You Drink!Posted on 11/12/2010
g”>Many schools are giving their vending machines and snack bars a healthy makeover by replacing sodas and sugary sports drinks with better choices, like lowfat or fat free milk, water and 100% juice. However, a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that too many students still have easy access to high-calorie, nutrient-void drinks at school.
The National School Lunch Program prohibits the sale of soda as part of school meals, but federal nutrition standards do not apply to beverages sold outside of these meals. That’s why school nutrition professionals and many parents are calling on Congress to quickly pass child nutrition reauthorization legislation (S 3307, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act). This legislation would establish nutrition standards for all drinks and foods sold in schools, guaranteeing that students will receive the same message about healthy choices whether they are the cafeteria, in front of a vending machine or in line at the snack bar.
Shaping up school beverage choices can help address the childhood obesity problem while improving the overall health and well-being of students. Sodas and other sugary drinks too often replace nutrient rich choices like milk in children’s diets, and the trend has serious consequences for more than just waistlines: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that most US children over the age of 8 fail to consume the recommended intake of calcium, putting them at heightened risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
School meal programs are part of the solution because under National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs every school meal must offer a choice of milk, and most white milk, and nearly all the flavored varieties, sold in schools today is lowfat or fat free.
Flavored milk continues to be a popular choice for students, and while some have expressed concerns about the added sugars in chocolate and other flavored milks, studies have shown that children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs; do not consume more added sugar or fat; and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers.1-3
In addition, a study recently presented at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo found that when flavored milk was removed from a school district in Connecticut, milk consumption dropped by as much as 67 percent.4 Researchers in a recent second study calculated that a dramatic drop in milk consumption translated to a substantial reduction in nutrients that are not easy to replace.5
Leading health and nutrition experts, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, and the American Heart Association, have proclaimed their support for flavored and plain, low fat and fat-free milk options in schools to help students meet their daily nutritional needs.
Meanwhile, school foodservice directors are doing their part to encourage children to drink their milk. Some are harnessing the power of creative, attractive packaging to influence students’ beverage decisions. Milk served in bottles or cans, instead of paper cartons, or eye-catching packaging can help inspire kids to give their milk a try.
With a little help from Congress, we can ensure that these healthy drink options, like milk, water and 100% juice don’t have to compete with less nutritious beverages.
1. Johnson RK, Frary C, Wang MQ. 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.
2. Frary CD, Johnson RK, Wang MQ. 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.
3. Murphy MM, Douglas JS, Johnson RK, Spence LA. Drinking flavored or plain milk is positively associated with nutrient intake and is not associated with adverse effects on weight status in U.S. children and adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008; 108:631-639.
4. Patterson J, Saidel M. The removal of flavored milk in schools results in a reduction in total milk purchases in all grades, K-12. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:A97.2
5. Adams D, Johnson R. The Impact on student milk consumption and nutrient intakes from eliminating flavored milk in schools,” School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference, July 13, 2010.