Chocolate Milk Not Empty Calories

~ June 2015 No.259 ~

The concept of “empty calories” is one that anyone taking a first course in human nutrition is familiar with. We all need to eat, but there are obviously some foods we need to avoid. All foods contain calories, and consuming too many calories leads to becoming overweight and obese. We should be looking for foods that contain as many important nutrients as possible so that, along with the calories, we are also getting part of our daily requirements of protein, vitamins or minerals. Foods that are high in calories but little else are said to be providing you with “empty calories”. Soft drinks and candies are examples of foods that are on the list of empty calorie foods.

Chocolate milk

As consumers get more interested in reading food labels, some food manufacturers have tried to improve the image of their empty calorie food by adding a few vitamins or minerals and then advertising their new improved food as being nutritious and healthy. In most jurisdictions, health regulatory officials have prevented this obvious ploy to mislead consumers.

Getting people to eat what is good for them is always a challenge. This is particularly true for children. Most of us know what is good for us. But we also know that no matter how healthy a food may be, if it doesn't taste good, we won’t eat it again. So is it right to encourage children to consume a food that is good for them by making it taste good? What if you add sugar and flavouring? This is the dilemma with chocolate milk.

Milk, even if it is chocolate milk is not an empty calorie food. Milk is a good source of calcium of course. But potassium, vitamin B12, Mg as well as some protein come in our glass of whole milk. If you are worried about the calories, you can always choose one percent fat milk. It is, however, the sugar that is added to make chocolate milk that is the justification for some people putting chocolate milk on the banned food list.

If the well-intended experts had assumed that by taking away the chocolate milk options in school cafeterias students would just end up buying regular milk, they were wrong. Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan recently reported that in a primary school that traditionally sold regular and chocolate milk, when the chocolate milk was removed from the menu, “milk” consumption decreased by over 12%. Taking away the chocolate milk option meant that school children were not going back to regular milk. The researchers also showed that chocolate milk was a cost effective and convenient way to provide students with the nutrients found in milk. In an attempt to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, school authorities were in fact cutting back on vital nutrients students were getting in their chocolate milk.

Chocolate milk tastes good to many children and it provides important nutrients and so is not providing empty calories.

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Last modified

February 15 2016