Let's face it -- kids are not consuming enough milk today. Most children would rather drink sugary juice or a soda rather than a glass of milk. The reason for these choices can be attributed to the fact that kids like foods with lots of sugar -- one ingredient that plain milk does not have.
Unfortunately, when kids do drink milk, it's not the ordinary white milk -- it's the artificially colored and flavored chocolate or strawberry milk. And, sadly, most children probably believe there are cows that make chocolate and strawberry milk.
One serving of chocolate milk has four teaspoons of sugar. Might as well give a child a soda for breakfast. Rather than encouraging and serving kids regular milk without added sugar, parents might start giving their kids flavored milk sweetened with aspartame, an artificial sweetener. But adding aspartame as a means to lower the amount of sugar in milk is not the healthiest or safest option for children.
Adding aspartame to milk doesn't make it milk anymore, so the dairy industry has decided to petition the Food and Drug Administration to change the definition of milk.
Dairy producers don't want to advertise on the front of milk cartons that the milk is sweetened with aspartame because that is unappealing to children. So, rather than labeling the milk carton as "low-calorie," or "diet," the dairy industry wants to leave the label as it is. But, there are several problems that arise from this addition of an artificial sweetener.
Not only does the dairy industry want to place artificial sweeteners in milk, but its petition wants to allow these artificial sweeteners in other dairy products, like yogurt, cream, half-and-half and sour cream, among others.
Milk comes from cows and is naturally sweetened. It doesn't have artificial sweeteners and it isn't flavored/colored chocolate or strawberry. When we allow children to drink milk that is artificially sweetened with a sugar substitute and dyed different colors to be chocolate or strawberry, we aren't teaching them good habits with healthy eating and we are not contributing to their overall health.
More importantly, aspartame doesn't lend itself to stopping consumption of high-sugar, high-carb and high-calorie foods. Research has shown that artificial sweeteners actually make people crave those types of foods even more. The goal to reduce the intake of sugar and calories in children won't exactly be accomplished with the addition of aspartame in milk, or the inclusion of artificially sweetened milk under the definition of milk.
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One of two things needs to happen. Either artificial sweeteners in milk need to be advertised clearly on the carton and not hidden in the long list of ingredients, or sweeteners ought to eliminated from milk altogether.
The best way to promote more milk consumption and to promote a healthier lifestyle among children is to take out the added sugar in milk. It's simple. Give kids milk without the addition of chemicals, flavorings and other additives. Not only will this teach children the origins of food, but it will show them that eating healthy means eating real food, not chemically processed products.