School districts, PTAs, and parents across the country have grappled with the issue of banning chocolate and flavored milk for years, and a new study from Cornell sheds new light on just how counterproductive such bans really are.

According to the study, published in a recent issue of PLOS ONE, researchers for the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs have found that when chocolate milk is removed from school cafeterias, students aren’t reaching for non-flavored milk.  

Instead, researchers found that students:

  • Reduce consumption of non-flavored milk by 10 percent
  • Waste 29 percent more milk than before the chocolate milk ban
  • Consumed fewer calories and less sugar but also less protein and calcium
  • Stopped eating school lunch altogether; participation in the school’s lunch program dropped by 7 percent

In the end, a ban on chocolate milk may be causing more harm than good.

"There are other ways to encourage kids to select white milk without banning the chocolate,” Brian Wansink, co-author and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said. “Make white milk appear more convenient and more normal to select. Two quick and easy solutions are:  Put the white milk in the front of the cooler and make sure that at least 1/3 to 1/2 of all the milk is white."

Read more from Cornell here or watch the embedded video above.

One Oregon school district found a similar result after chocolate milk was removed from lunch menus. However, less than a year after initially eliminating the popular drink to comply with the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the school reinstated chocolate milk after parents proved students weren’t turning to white milk and instead dumped an average of 72 percent of their non-flavored milk cartons each day. See, “Chocolate milk reinstated in Oregon school district.”

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta noted that “milk with sugar is better than none at all.”

“About half the students in the county live around the poverty level. For many, school lunch and breakfast are the main meals of the day,” Gupta said. “Without milk, local doctors said, kids weren't getting enough vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, or potassium.”

Read more here.