Vail Daily letter: Regular milk best |

Vail Daily letter: Regular milk best

Dr. Jen Bettenhusen
Vail, CO, Colorado

In reference to the Vail Daily article on May 4, I would like to commend Avon Elementary and Ray Edel, director of nutritional services for the Eagle County School District, for taking the first step to remove chocolate milk from the school cafeteria.

We need to take that momentum and remove flavored milk from all of the schools in the district by fall of 2010.

The ingredients of the schools’ chocolate milk include: milk plus liquid sucrose, cocoa processed with alkali, nonfat milk solids, artificial flavors, salt and carrageenan.

By processing the cocoa beans, beneficial antioxidants called flavonoids are destroyed. Chocolate milk has 25 grams of sugar compared to 12 grams in milk without flavoring. Over the school year that could mean an additional 4-6 pounds of sugar to a child’s diet!

It also has twice the sodium content of plain milk. The strawberry milk is similar, but adds the chemicals sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (and of course, no strawberries).

We are fooling ourselves to believe that we are contributing to a child’s health with flavored milk.

I recognize Ray Edel’s concern that kids choosing not to drink milk without flavoring will miss out on the calcium and other nutrients in milk. Calcium is important.

The schools will always offer milk.

However, as a local family physician, I do not see problems in children related to lack of calcium. I do regularly see problems related to excessive sugar intake, including overweight and obese children.

There are other healthy ways to get calcium in a child’s diet, including low fat plain soy or cow’s milk, low fat yogurt and cheese, fortified orange juice, leafy greens, broccoli and several others.

I send water with my son’s lunch every day and find it easy and inexpensive to meet his daily calcium needs.

I told my son that I was working on getting chocolate milk out of the schools (in case of angry kindergartners). Interestingly, he told me that early in the year when he got milk at school he always chose chocolate milk, but added on his own, “I like regular milk too. I’m just really thirsty after recess.”

I am part of a committee that is looking at ways to improve school lunches. Removing flavored milk is one small step. We need to remove other sources of excess sugar, decrease processed foods and preservatives, and increase fresh foods — especially fresh vegetables and fruit.

The committee has great ideas. The Eagle County School Board is listening. Ray Edel is working on it. Now as a community we need to find ways to get behind them and support these changes. There is no better preventative medicine than nourishing our children appropriately.

Note: For those with children who will only drink chocolate milk, you can make a healthy version of it using 100 percent cocoa with a little bit of sugar and vanilla. This gives them the healthy flavonoids from the cocoa without the excessive sugar and other additives of commercial chocolate milk.

Dr. Jen Bettenhusen


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