As discussed yesterday, organic flavored milks are one of the newest food trends aimed specifically at parents and children. But nutrition experts have mixed views on the subject.

“Moms can feel good about giving their kids flavored milk, such as chocolate and strawberry,” says Molly Pelzer, a registered dietitian with the National Dairy Council and mother of two. “Kids not only savor the flavor, but it provides them with the nutrients they need to grow healthy and build a solid bone bank.”

“Milk is a critical part of kids’ diets, yet it’s competing against some less healthy, but very flashy, beverages,” adds Grant Prentice, executive vice president of marketing for Dairy Management Inc., an organization that helps build demand for dairy on behalf of its producers—including the much-publicized 3-a-Day campaign.

“Serving milk to kids in colorful plastic bottles and giving them a choice of flavors—whether it’s at school or their favorite restaurants—catches their attention and motivates them to drink more milk, which helps build stronger bones and better bodies,” he adds.

But not everyone is buying into this marketing message.

“I strongly disagree with sugared flavored milk,” says Chef Ann Cooper, former executive chef and director of wellness and nutrition at The Ross School in East Hampton, New York. She’s also the author of In Mother’s Kitchen: Celebrated Women Chefs Share Beloved Family Recipes and Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Danger in the Foods We Eat and What You Can Do About It.

“They’re really no better than soda—except for the calcium,” Chef Cooper asserts. “Many have a sugar and calorie content that equals or exceeds that of soda, and they become just another way that we’re teaching our children to drink sweets.”

Chef Cooper believes children and teenagers can meet their calcium needs from other sources and outlines the following daily requirements:

  • Preschool-age children: 500 to 800 mg calcium (2 to 3 servings)
  • School-age children: About 800 mg (3 servings)
  • Adolescents: About 1,200 to 1,500 mg (5 to 6 servings)

“While calcium is the most important component of dairy, it is possible to get it—minus the fat—in other ways,” she tells Organic Authority. “Many plant sources contain calcium that is more readily absorbed by the body than the calcium found in dairy. Some examples include nuts, broccoli, dark leafy greens [add some lemon to help free up the calcium], tofu, soy milk, sardines, beans, sunflower seeds and molasses.”