Chocolate milk in schools: Yummy treat or evil sweet?

May 9, 2011 at 3:02 PM ET

Those familiar cartons of chocolate milk could be disappearing from elementary school cafeterias soon, if anti-obesity advocates get their way. Some school districts already prohibit flavored milk, and many others are considering a ban.

Joy Bauer/ /

About time, says Joy Bauer, nutrition and health expert for TODAY. It may seem like an innocent treat, but flavored milks actually pack in a lot of extra sugar and calories that kids don't need. Here's what Joy Bauer wrote for TODAY Moms:

Added sugar from chocolate milk may not seem like a big issue, but over time the extra calories and sugar add up, especially if kids are drinking it at school every day and having a sweet treat with their lunch.

At a time when so many kids are already struggling with their weight and unhealthy eating, I feel offering sugary chocolate milk in schools is sending the wrong message.

So, what to do if your kids are already hooked on the sweet stuff... or if it's the only way they'll drink milk? Joy Bauer advises: 

Encourage your kids to drink water or plain skim or 1 percent low-fat milk with their lunch at school. If your child will only drink sweetened milk with flavoring, it’s better to have them drink water with their school lunch and then allow them one serving of chocolate milk at home, where you can make your own healthier version and control the sugar.

Commercial chocolate milk is typically made with higher-fat milk and excessively sweetened with sugary syrup. At home parents can make a better-for-you version by using fat-free milk and adding just enough chocolate syrup to entice your kids. If you stir just 2 teaspoons of chocolate syrup (or sweetened cocoa powder) into skim milk, you’re only adding about 7 extra grams of sugar and 35 calories. That’s very reasonable, and your kids still get bone-building calcium.

Bottom line: Commercial chocolate milk contains added sugar and calories that kids don’t need, and in my opinion, it shouldn’t be offered at school. If your child will only drink chocolate milk, serve it occasionally at home where you can whip up your own healthier (lower-sugar) version.

What do you think: Should chocolate milk be banned in schools? Vote in our poll, and have your say in the comments.