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Banning chocolate milk from schools may sound like a good move for kids' health, but efforts to do so haven't turned out that way, a small study found.
Bans on chocolate milk in 11 Oregon elementary schools were linked to a big drop in the amount of healthy, fat-free white milk students drank, a team of Cornell University researchers reports.
Nicole Zammit, former assistant director of nutrition services at the Eugene School District in Oregon, wasn't surprised by the findings.
"Given that the role of the federal school meal program is to provide nutritious meals to students who may otherwise have no access to healthy foods, I wouldn't recommend banning flavored milk unless you have a comprehensive plan in place to compensate for the lost nutrients when kids stop drinking milk altogether," she said in a Cornell news release.
In the study, researchers analyzed data from 11 Oregon elementary schools that outlawed chocolate milk and replaced it with skim milk. While the bans meant children could no longer get the added sugar found in chocolate milk, there were unexpected consequences.
Total milk sales at the schools fell by 10 percent, the study showed, and students ended up wasting 29 percent more milk than before. And while the students consumed less sugar and fewer calories, their intake of calcium and protein also fell.
After the chocolate milk bans took effect, there was a also 7 percent decrease in the number of students taking part in the Eugene School District's lunch program, according to the researchers at Cornell University's Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.
"There are other ways to encourage kids to select white milk without banning the chocolate," study co-author Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said in the news release.
"Make white milk appear more convenient and more normal to select," he said. "Two quick and easy solutions are: Put the white milk in the front of the cooler and make sure that at least 1/3 to 1/2 of all the milk is white."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about child nutrition.