New Study Finds Students Drink More Nutrient-rich Milk When Flavored Milk is an Option

Keeping flavored milk in schools could make a difference when it comes to total milk and potentially even nutrient intakes, according to a new study from PLoS ONE.1 Researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab analyzed school milk sales before and after chocolate milk was removed from 11 Oregon elementary schools, and found total daily milk sales dropped 10 percent when chocolate milk was taken off the menu. The research also found that when students’ choices were limited, the amount of nutrient-rich milk wasted at lunchtime rose by 29 percent, resulting in a loss of milk and its nine essential nutrients, including protein and calcium.

Additionally, National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participation declined by 6.8 percent after chocolate milk was removed from the cafeterias. Researchers concluded the drop could be in reaction to the chocolate milk removal, along with other factors, which could impact students’ health and wellbeing as the NSLP provides nutritionally balanced, free and reduced-price lunches to more than 31 million children each day.2

The researchers note that most students drink chocolate milk for taste rather than nutrition, and removing chocolate milk may not lead to students immediately substituting with white milk. Previous studies from Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. David Just suggest changing the way white and flavored milk are displayed in the cafeteria could encourage white milk selection without the unintended consequences of eliminating chocolate milk.

Flavored milk is a nutrient-rich choice, with the same nine essential nutrients as white milk, including 3 of the 4 nutrients of concern that most kids fail to get enough of - calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Research suggests flavored milk drinkers have more nutritious diets and do not consume more added sugars than non-milk drinkers.3 Offering a choice that is as appealing as it is nutritious can help boost kids’ overall milk intake and help them get the key nutrients they need. The new USDA federal school nutrition standards require schools to offer two choices of milk either low fat and fat free plain milk or fat free flavored milk as part of the reimbursable school meal.

Full study available on PLOS ONE


 [1] Hanks A, Just D, Wansink B. Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluation the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Cafeterias. PLoS ONE 9;4:e91022.

[2] United States Department of Agriculture. National School Lunch Program Fact Sheet.

[3] Murphy M, Douglass J, Johnson R, Spence L. 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.