Chocolate Milk as part of a Nutritious Diet

A recent article in the newspaper of the town I grew up in recently confirmed to me that the high school I used to attend stopped serving chocolate milk on all but one day of the week.

( http://unioneagle.com/2012/09/new-school-menu-gets-mixed-reviews/ )

There had been a large menu change this school year at PHS, and I would say mostly for the better. They are offering more whole grain choices, unlimited raw veggies and fruits, and decreasing sodium and sugar in the overall menu. The one awful decision someone made, however, was to take away chocolate milk almost completely (chocolate milk is offered only on Fridays). As a strong supporter of all things dairy, I would just like to say this choice on removing chocolate milk from the school lunch menu is greatly hindering many people’s nutrient intake throughout the week. Many students (and teachers for that matter) simply do not enjoy the taste of skim or 1% milk out of a cardboard carton, and with removing the choice of chocolate; you are entirely removing their serving of dairy from their lunch. In the newspaper article about the recent menu changes, 7 out of the 10 interviewed students/teachers commented negatively on the milk situation (none positively), several saying they were entirely choosing not to even drink milk at lunch without the choice of chocolate or 2%. One quote that stood out to me was from a past teacher of mine, a very successful basketball coach at PHS and supporter of health, wellness, and physical activity. He himself said, “I never drank white milk.” He also makes a valid point, that assuming a one-fits-all, low-calorie, very-low-sugar diet is good for such a large group of people is unfair, as many are more active than others.

The elimination of chocolate milk from the menu of a large group of people, such as in schools, does more harm than good to the overall diets of people. Chocolate milk has every one of the 9-essential nutrients unflavored skim or 1% milk offer. These include calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, protein and phosphorus. Not offering the more preferred choice takes away from many people’s’ 3 servings of dairy a day and harms their overall nutritional intake. With about only 29% of families in America serving milk at their dinner table, milk consumption at school is a crucial opportunity for nutrient consumption for many developing adolescents.

But what about that added sugar in flavored milk? Flavored milks contribute only 3% of the added sugars in the average kid’s diet. Let’s really compare white milk to chocolate. The white, whole milk in my fridge has 11 grams of sugars, entirely natural lactose occurring in milk. Our chocolate milk offers only 6 more grams of sugar, just more than a tspoon, what most adults consume in their morning coffee each day. Compare these both to the same serving size of my Naked “Blue Machine” juice? A whopping 29 grams of sugar per serving almost double that of chocolate milk. I don’t hear anyone deeming that choice unhealthy!

What do the experts say about this sugar trade-off? The Institute of Medicine recognizes flavored milk as a great nutritional source with a moderate sugar level. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recognizes both white and flavored milks as a great alternative to soft drinks, which many teens choose when they cannot have their good tasting chocolate milk. Most of our nation’s leading health and nutrition organizations and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recognize the valuable role that milk, including flavored milk, can play in meeting daily nutrient needs. They recognize the small amount of added sugars in flavored milk as an acceptable trade-off for the nutrients provided.

I think it is clear here that we should not be attacking chocolate milk to make our school menu more nutritious or healthy. According to the USDA, flavored milk is chosen 66% of the time in school lunch programs. Limiting the choice of chocolate milk in school lunches lowers milk consumption by more than 35%, a big ouch in the nutrition intake. I think the people have spoken; we need to allow the choice of chocolate milk in our schools. I truly admire all the efforts this school district is making toward healthier lifestyle promotion, but chocolate milk was really NOT the thing to remove from the menu. A lot of great choices were made for a healthier diet, but to make sure the student and staff body are consuming the nutrients they need, we need to allow flavored milk as a choice in our school lunches.

I think we also need to look at this issue as a nation-wide concern. With the First Lady’s positive support toward a healthy and active lifestyle in kids, many school districts are incorrectly turning against chocolate milk as a way to cut a bit of sugar from kids’ diets. There are more appropriate ways to cut calories, sodium, fat and sugar from diets, and we need to protect this one nutrient-rich miracle food we have in milk. School boards and congress-people need to be aware of how much people love chocolate milk and all the benefits in keeping it in our schools. In order to ensure our nation is staying strong and healthy, we need to offer our growing kids the nutrients they need through milk, and offer it in a way that the majority will choose to drink it.

I Hate Homelessness

Tomorrow, I am so excited to start something I have travelled 800 miles from Minnesota to Indiana to do. I get the chance to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at a local homeless shelter. This chance to let God use my people skills for his good, to hopefully brighten at least one person’s difficult day, is so exciting to me! I cannot wait. Although it is already after 9 pm here and 5 am is approaching quickly, tonight I am just too excited to sleep. Well, anyone out there reading this, keep my endeavors in your prayers, that I am in the right place for the Lord taking a year off college to serve others.

Changing the Statistic in Africa… One Beautiful Kid at a Time

“Can I keep all of them?” Looking through the sponsorship profiles of kids in poverty at the Christian bookstore where my ma works is definitely one of my more depressing hobbies…

One girl in particular had caught my eye lately. I had seen her beautiful, dark-colored, stern face on the shelf now for a couple of weeks. After reading her profile one day, I fell in love. I remember putting her back on the shelf in the front, not that I thought she deserved a sponsorship more than the other kids in the stack, but I felt a belonging to her. After reading her biography, I was so attached, as if she were my burden now… I just wanted someone to pick her and give her the school and basic health necessities she needs to have a fair opportunity at life!

This 8-year-old girl (young woman, I should say; she has probably has had more life lessons than most) is one of 6 kids in a small mud hut home in rural Niger. She runs errands for her household (probably a larger task than we can imagine with no running water nearby). She has never had the chance to go to school, common in a country where only 15% of women are literate. A sponsorship could offer her basic health care in a country with the highest ranking risk for major infectious diseases. Putting her in school could perhaps save even just one life from the horrifying trend in sex-trafficking of young girls in that area.

Every time I looked at her picture on that shelf, I thought of gifts I could send her if she were “my kid”; a lovely letter often, a colorful scarf to wrap her head, a fresh new notebook and pencils to do whatever she pleases with… simple things even American girls that age view as luxuries. I just wanted to love her.

Well, I GOT HER!! I get to love on this beautiful blessing of a child. Thanks to my parents’ generosity, I received the best birthday gift I could have ever asked for; help sponsoring this beautiful child until I am financially fit (I am only 19 and focusing on volunteer work in a homeless shelter).  I cannot wait to send her my first letter and gift. I am so happy God put that burden on my heart, and that he also had the power to show my mother how much I wanted her. I know God will do his work in both my life and hers through this opportunity to show love.

Can you ever have too much butter?

“Is there anything better than butter? Think it over, every time you’ve tasted something that’s delicious beyond imagining, and you say, ‘what is in this?!’ the answer’s always going to be: Butter.” (Julie and Julia)
Perhaps I have such an appreciation for butter because it is the way I was raised… I grew up on a dairy farm with about 35 cattle on it in a small town in Minnesota. We lived on our products, drinking way more milk than you could imagine, and butter in and on EVERYTHING. But butter is such a magical product. Butter is the perfect accent to any flavor, the way it absorbs the flavors around it and adds its own sweet, savory touch.
Last night I served one of my favorite dinners for my family; Mediterranean green beans, cheese and spinach lasagna, veggie salad, and fruit. I have a few strategies I like to use when I cook/bake, such as using only Roma tomatoes for their retention of juices and flavors, never being afraid of garlic, and always using real olive oil when frying or keeping moisture in foods. None of these stands above the power I see in some good old fashion butter you can add to almost any food. The addition of butter to so many foods makes the difference between, “Mmm, these are some good beans,” and, “Wow! I love these beans! How did you get the garlic and seasonings to blend together so well?” The answer is in the way you roast the garlic and the final touch you add to the dish; adding butter, of course! It somehow magically absorbs and brings together all the flavors in a dish.
So what about margarine? The product from milk fat has received a bad rep, with many claiming margarine as an equal and healthier alternative. Excuse me if you are one of these margarine advocates, but I cannot imagine why so many honestly have followed this movement toward a fake trans-fat in exchange of a natural animal fat. Not to mention that butter tastes so much better than its hydrogenated imitation! I wouldn’t even bother with the flavor-adding touch of butter if it weren’t the real deal.
Although I would not eat a whole stick of butter this evening, I stand behind butter all the way for its magical deliciousness. I hope I have at least inspired a small change in someone out there that you will be motivated to add a little butter to a dish and name it your “secret ingredient” or brag about the remarkable addition to an outdated family dish and spread the word about butter!