Every year I go to the Dairy Farmer’s Symposium and I always look forward to it. It’s a chance to re-connect with ol’ nutrition buddies from McGill and other dietitians I’ve met over the years. It’s also free and I get points for continuing education.
The same thing happens every year. I get there and I see my friends, we catch up and all is good. Then the conference starts and the first speaker seems interesting. Then the next speaker starts and I start to feel uncomfortable. Then I remember this expensive symposium is payed for in its entirety by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. The whole point of this conference is to get dieticians across Canada recommending dairy products left, right and centre to every patient, client, friend, family member and person they come in contact with.
They do this by finding speakers who present their research with a strong bias towards dairy. Now do not get me wrong, I am not bashing milk. Milk has merit and we will get to that in an upcoming blog. Today, I take serious issue when the information presented is trying to convince me to recommend flavoured milk to kids. The American speaker presented research indicating that removing flavoured milk from some USA schools actually reduces essential nutrients. Apparently, there is no other way to provide these essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and potassium other than through flavoured milk. I think this is a joke. My children go to the English Montreal School Board and are provided with regular white milk 3 to 5 times a week. Never have these children been given flavoured milk at school.
Flavoured milk has its place and I do recommend it in certain situations. But the message that was presented today was that flavoured milk is nutritious. Flavoured milk is milk with ADDED sugar. Herein lies the problem. As a nation, we over consume sugar. Everyone, including myself eats too much sugar. It is in everything, cereals, condiments, drinks, grain products, added to coffee, candy, chocolate and many other foods. Sugar is the enemy. It leads to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We need to teach our children to moderate their intake of added sugars. We need to moderate our own intake.
Instead of criticizing American schools for removing flavoured milk, why not provide serious education to the children of these schools along with their families on proper nutrition. If regular education is part of the system perhaps the children will actually eat the foods that would provide them with the nutrients they need. Didn’t Jamie Oliver try this? Wasn’t it effective?
The bottom line is this, if parents think that flavoured milk is nutritious then they will give it to their children. Kids will never have the opportunity to develop a taste for plain old white milk. As they grow, kids will always need added sugar in their milk.