The Problem with Your Child's School Lunch

Lunch Lessons

At its core, the National School Lunch Program is a noble institution. Started in 1946 by President Truman to provide lunches to school-age children, the program was founded on the principle that keeping children healthy is vital to America's prosperity. But even that basic mandate has become a complicated issue. Take milk, for example: Chocolate milk, for decades a school-cafeteria staple, has double the sugar content of unflavored milk, and some school districts, including Washington, D.C., have banned it while others are trying to reposition the drink as a dessert and limit when it's offered. (For example, Chicago schools serve it only on Friday.) But flavored milk's defenders can be found among the ranks of parents who fear that their children will miss out on crucial vitamin D and calcium because they won't drink the unsweetened variety. The dairy industry, naturally, is also supportive: "It's important to know that flavored milk provides the same nine essential nutrients as white milk, while contributing only 2 percent of the added sugar in a child's diet. There are more valuable places to look if you're trying to reduce sugar, like sports drinks, sodas, and other empty-calorie beverages," says Ann Marie Krautheim, R.D., a spokesperson for the National Dairy Council.

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