Op-Ed: Don’t include chocolate milk in school lunch sodium bill

I am writing in regard to the recent House Bill No. 5566 that proposes to prohibit added sodium in drinks offered in Connecticut Schools.

Chocolate milk will be eliminated from all Connecticut schools menus because there is no chocolate milk formulation in place without added sodium.

Op-ed submit bugAs president of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I am expressing our concern that this will have a significant negative impact on school meal participation and ultimately nutrient intake for students.   School chocolate milk has between 60-90 mg added sodium, which is only 2-4 percent of sodium intake in a day.  Removing chocolate milk hardly moves the needle on added sodium intake; but what it does remove is critical nutrients for growth and development.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, milk is the No. 1 food source of three of the four nutrients both adults and children need to consume more of –- vitamin D, calcium and potassium. The majority of the milk sold in school is chocolate and research has shown that when chocolate milk is not served, milk consumption drops 35 percent and does not recover.

Whether white or flavored, milk contains nine essential nutrients that are important for good health. It is difficult and expensive to replace the nutrients lost from decreased milk intake in school meals, undermining the efforts made to improve student nutrition in the state of Connecticut.

Chartered by the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, our goal is to serve as the leading food and nutrition experts in the state, serving the public through promotion of optimal nutrition, health, and well-being. We strongly encourage the Governor’s office to revise this bill to exclude flavored milk. We are very concerned this bill will have a tremendous impact on our collective efforts to improve student nutrition in the state of Connecticut.

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND, is president-elect of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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