Chocolate milk is a favorite drink for kids and for parents. But it is also a contentious drink. There are many parents, nutritionists and educationists who are strictly against the widespread consumption of chocolate milk, especially among kids. And there are millions of parents and kids around the world who would not even considering shunning the delicious drink. There are some nutritionists who don’t accept the rampant criticism of chocolate milk but that number is not very encouraging.
Surely, there are some pros and cons of chocolate milk and if you are wondering what standpoint you should take, as a proponent or critic, then you have to delve into the details in an objective manner. Any general or sweeping comparison leading to an inference will be ill-informed and unfair. Let us first consider the basics and then we shall go into subjective discussions.
The Pros of Chocolate Milk
1. Chocolate milk is nutritious.
It is rich in calcium, protein, potassium and vitamin D. There is also sugar but that’s an undesirable ingredient which we shall talk about later. The nutrients that milk possesses are all there in chocolate milk. So in a way, when a kid drinks chocolate milk, one is effectively drinking milk and getting all its desirable nutrients.
2. Amazing taste.
Kids and even adults love the taste. The taste comes into significance when we talk about kids because they don’t normally like the taste of plain milk. In such a situation, kids can be provided with the goodness of milk by the virtue of chocolate milk. Millions of parents agree that it is very difficult for them to get their kids to drink milk every day. It is almost impossible to have kids drink milk twice or thrice a day. Chocolate milk comes to the rescue, just as other flavors. In effect, kids who wouldn’t have drunk milk otherwise are not just drinking it but are loving it as well. There are studies that have proven an increase in consumption of milk when it is chocolate milk served in schools.
3. Great recovery drink.
Athletes and sportspersons can have a glass of chocolate milk and expected to recover sooner. There are studies that have shown a positive impact of chocolate milk on muscle recovery. Muscles get exhausted of their glycogen reserves in the tissues and this can be replenished by chocolate milk. Professional athletes have been seen to carry chocolate milk with them to consume it after exercise or a gaming session or some training.
4. Energy booster.
Literally, it is an instant supplier of energy. Physically tired or exhausted kids and even adults can drink chocolate milk and feel refreshed immediately. The impact is immediate which is also very desirable and other than the taste being amazing, one can actually spring up and get into action despite having been lethargic just a while back.
The Cons of Chocolate Milk
1. Lots of sugar.
The biggest critic of chocolate milk pertains to sugar. Chocolate milk contains loads of sugar and that is not healthy at all. It is certainly not good for diabetics or those at risk of diabetes. It is also not good for kids. When kids start to take up diets that are rich in sugar, they aren’t just going to be at risk of diabetes later in life but there can be more than a dozen odd ailments plaguing their health as they grow up.
From affecting metabolism to facilitating obesity, from increasing the dependence on sugar to causing hormonal problems, chocolate milk or any flavored milk that contains a ton of sugar is not healthy at all. Now, here comes the tricky part. There is all the goodness of milk and the deliciousness of chocolaty taste. How do you balance or compare the pros and cons of nutrients and sugar respectively? Does the goodness of milk outweigh the badness of sugar or is it just a quick drink that is avoidable and should be avoided?
2. Not the most nutritious.
The answer may lie in the second major problem with chocolate milk. It is such a sweet and tasty drink that kids and even adults can get almost addicted. This leads to overconsumption or overdrinking. When kids start to consume several glasses of chocolate milk in a day, it is a huge concern. The same goes for adults. Going back to that nutrient versus sugar debate and how one can outweigh the other, the answer lies in how much a kid or adult is consuming in a day. Also, lifestyle choices and how much calorie one burns through the day will determine if the amount of chocolate milk consumed is healthy or one has to cut down.
For instance, a child who’s aspiring to be an athlete or plays some sport regularly would be burning hundreds of calories more than a kid playing video games. The active kid can easily metabolize the sugar present in a glass or even two glasses of chocolate milk. The inactive or sedentary kid is not really a suitable candidate for even one glass of chocolate milk. Eventually, it all boils down to how much one eats, how much one burns and if the latter outdoes the former.
There is one really disturbing aspect of chocolate milk that the manufacturers will not want the public to talk about. Parents are informed enough to give importance to labels. Most families in the country are conscious of regulations and how to study the labels to pick the best foods for their kids or even for themselves. Major brands of chocolate milk don’t indulge in wrong labeling but there are formulas or additives, flavors and preservatives that are used. Often, such materials or ingredients are defined as of a certain category or class, not exactly spelling out what’s in it. So if you are buying chocolate milk of some brand and the label just mentions certain recipe or some formula of an ingredient, you don’t really know what it is. This can be something undesirable or unhealthy for all you know.
Chocolate milk manufactured by different brands is not made in the same way. The source of milk, cocoa, how the milk and the cocoa are processed, the quantum of sugar and even the source of that sugar; all these factors are variants. Companies obviously don’t have the same source. So when you buy chocolate milk off the shelves, you don’t really know the long history of it in the making. To say that chocolate milk is a healthy drink for kids or even a nutritious and necessary drink for kids would be thus unfair and outright wrong. Anything processed is not exactly ideal for kids.
Now, there is low fat milk and many variants of milk. Some parents opt for low fat milk while some parents don’t mind the fat in milk as that is natural. A comparison has to be drawn between what is healthy fat and unhealthy fat. The human body does need some fat as without it there would be no treasure-trove of energy. Excess fat is unhealthy.
In an attempt to make low fat milk or milk with certain added vitamins and minerals, as you may be aware of from commercials and advertisements, many companies opt for ways that are questionable or at least debatable. It is similar to that argument of normal soda and diet soda. Diet sodas actually increase the body’s dependence on sugar.
The Ideal Approach?
Chocolate milk doesn’t have to be banned as some may want. It doesn’t need to be made an obviously common or imperative drink, as it has happened over the years. Moderate consumption of chocolate milk is the best approach.
A child can have one serving of chocolate milk a day, but no more. However, it must be noted that other foods or meals of the child should not have much sugar. A tenth of our calorie intake can be accounted by sugar. That is the maximum. It can be a tad stretched if one is hyperactive or into sports, athletics or just runs around a lot. Two or three servings of chocolate milk a day is a recipe for disaster.
Now, parents can make chocolate milk at home if one wants to be sure of using the best milk and the best chocolate. There are some brands that don’t add tons of sugar to their chocolate syrups and these have a strong flavor and taste but not sweetness. Parents can use such products and then add sugar for taste as they want. This way, a guardian would know how much sugar the child is consuming in the glass of chocolate milk.
Whether chocolate milk is healthy or unhealthy wouldn’t just depend on the nutrients and ingredients inside it but also how someone uses the energy. It is similar to the calorie debate. A person who burns three thousand calories in eight hours of work doesn’t get exposed to any risk if he or she gorges on a pizza or some burger. A person who sits through the eight hours at work should stick to fruits and veggies.
Similarly, kids who are very active can easily metabolize even three servings of chocolate milk and be at no health risk. Kids who don’t play or are very inactive should not be given chocolate milk every day. Once in a while is good enough. Else, obesity will be almost impossible to avoid. It is futile to even think that other meals through the day will not contain sugar and that the kid will not consume other drinks, which would also be loaded with sugar.