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Is chocolate milk a healthy option for my child?


August 15, 2023 Well-being


Par Marie-Jeanne Rossier-Bisaillon


In Quebec, the market for flavored milks, including chocolate milk, is booming. Advertising campaigns for chocolate milk are everywhere and on the rise. It can be tricky to decipher the truth from the advertising hype. 

True or false? Chocolate milk contains similar amounts of sugar to soft drinks. 

This is true!  

Did you know that a single container of chocolate milk can contain 14 teaspoons of sugar?  

Like other sweetened beverages, chocolate milk should be consumed only occasionally.  

Regular consumption of this beverage is not compatible with the World Health Organization's recommendations. To reduce the risk of tooth decay and chronic disease, it recommends limiting added sugar intake to 10% of daily calories (or 12 teaspoons of sugar for an adult), and ideally even to 5% of daily calories. Yet a single cup (250 ml) of chocolate milk can contain half the recommended daily sugar intake for an adult, and even more for a child. 

True or false? Chocolate milk is good for your health, as it contains several essential nutrients. 

This is false. Marketing works. In fact, six out of ten Quebec adults believe that chocolate milk is good for you because it contains several nutrients. However, despite the nutrients it contains, the sugar content of chocolate milk makes its regular consumption incompatible with a healthy diet.  

In Canada, deficiencies in the nutrients contained in chocolate milk, such as vitamins A and D and minerals like potassium and calcium are relatively common. But these nutrients do not come exclusively from chocolate milk. For example, many plant-based foods are good sources of vitamin A and potassium, and dairy products in general also contain calcium. Plain milk provides the same nutrients, without the added sugar. 

True or false? Chocolate milk helps your child recover from physical activity. 

This is false. Chocolate milk has no real benefits in terms of sports recovery. This myth is based on effective marketing rather than science. To reinforce the association between chocolate milk and healthy lifestyle habits, the industry sponsors a number of sporting events.  

An analysis by Quebec's Chief Scientist puts this well-established myth into perspective. Some articles point to the benefits of this drink on physical recovery, thanks in part to its water, protein, electrolyte, and sugar content. However, the research behind these results is of poor quality and includes conflicts of interest. If in doubt, consult a nutritionist. 

For most young people, a balanced diet provides enough nutrients to supply the body with what it needs after physical activity.  

The bottom line 

Food marketing for chocolate milk is highly effective, but sneaky. The industry applies marketing techniques that falsely attribute health benefits to chocolate milk.  

Canada's Food Guide recommends water as the beverage of choice and suggests choosing unsweetened milk. Although chocolate milk can be consumed occasionally, on a daily basis, drinking tap water remains the best way to stay hydrated. 

*This article was made possible thanks to the contribution of Alice Trudeau-Gratton, nutrition intern.