(WECT) - The increasing childhood obesity epidemic is prompting school nutritionists to dump flavored milk.
But, national health organizations agree that milk, whatever its flavor, has benefits for young bodies. Bone density peaks during adolescence, and calcium is vital to bone strength.
However, the extra sugar is raising concern. Drinking chocolate vs. plain milk can add on five pounds per year.
"I do not believe chocolate milk belongs in schools where children can choose it every single day," said Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services in Boulder, CO.
In Boulder, children can either drink white milk or water.
"Most chocolate milk has more than 50% more calories than white milk," said Cooper.
But, dairy representatives say kids who drink chocolate milk aren't any heavier than those who drink white milk, and their diets are well-rounded.
Their research shows when flavored milk was removed from schools, kids didn't turn to white milk.
"We are potentially robbing them of vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium and it's a great source of protein," said Felicia Stoler, R.D., a dairy campaign consultant.
Some health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dietetic Association have state all forms of low-fat milk help kids meet their daily nutrient needs.
Leading nutritionists don't disagree, but say it simply depends where it is served.
"Chocolate milk can be a treat for kids at home, parents can choose to have it in their homes, but chocolate milk has no place in schools," said Cooper.
"When chocolate milk has been removed from schools, kids simply choose less milk, period," said Stoler.
Teaching children how to maintain a well-balanced diet could be the real challenge that promises to be a battle for years to come.