Thursday, August 26, 2010

Out with Flavored Milk, In with Flavored Yogurt

Is sugary yogurt better than sugary milk?

D.C. school officials have ditched chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk because of the added sugar. But yesterday the kids who chose the alternate cold lunch at my daughter's elementary school were served a raspberry flavored yogurt with even more sugar, ounce-for-ounce, than Mountain Dew.

Other parents have noted that the same type of flavored yogurt is being served as part of breakfast to pre-schoolers.

Fortunately, the serving size is fairly small--just four ounces--meaning kids are eating at most 16 grams of sugar. That's 33 percent more than the naturally occurring lactose in an 8-ounce carton of low-fat milk. It works out to four teaspoons of sugar in that little plastic tub.

Apparently, finding a flavored yogurt without a ton of sugar isn't easy. Have you ever checked out the yogurts at the grocery store? They're full of sugar. In fact, most of them are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Maybe the food service folks in D.C. Public Schools thought this particular variety of yogurt was not so bad because it's sweetened with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. But as far as your body is concerned, the two are equally bad.

The yogurt is made by Upstate Farms, otherwise known as Upstate Niagra Cooperative outside Buffalo, N.Y., a group of Western New York dairies that's been in business since 1965, according to their website. Could we ask them to try making a yogurt for schools with less sugar?

In addition to live bacteria, these are the ingredients listed on the label: cultured pasteurized Grade A non-fat milk, sugar, water, raspberries, modified corn starch, whey, natural flavors, purple carrot concentrate, tricalcium phosphaste, gellan gum, potassium sulfate (for freshness), citric acid, carob bean gum, Vitamin D3.

A 4-ounce container counts as one "meat alternate" in the federal school lunch scheme. The other items in the cold alternate lunch were an individual piece of string cheese and wedges of pita bread. According to the Chartwells menu, the Wednesday alternate is supposed to contain a "hummus combo" to go with the pita, carrot sticks and "locally grown cucumber coins."

One thing you learn fairly quickly hanging around a school cafeteria is that the meals served are not always identical to the meals on the menu published at the Chartwells website.


  1. I wish I could buy a yogurt at the store with sugar that low! What you fail to distinguish is that 1) yogurt is a great nutritional food for kids and 2) most of the sugar is naturally occurring. A 4-oz of plain yogurt has 9g of sugar. I think adding 5g of sugar to make kids want to eat a nutrient-packed item like yogurt is a great deal. You should be praising this move, not criticizing!

  2. Thanks so much for weighing in, Lisa. I report what I see and try not to editorialize. But in point of fact, it doesn't matter whether the sugar is naturally occurring or added, it's still sugar. The lactose in milk in yogurt is sugar, it just does not have nearly the sweetness of table sugar, or of high-fructose corn syrup, which is even sweeter and much cheaper than regular sugar. The plain yogurt I checked (Brown Cow) lists 15 grams of sugar in a cup, which works out to 3.75 grams for four ounces, the size D.C. schools is serving. That's less than a teaspoon, and 12.25 grams (three teaspoons) less sugar than what in the container of raspberry yogurt I've described in this post. My question is to readers: what do they think of this, especially in light of the fact the schools have said no to milk with far less sugar in it. And is there a yogurt alternative?

  3. We make our own yogurt by using plain, low-fat yogurt to which we add a kind of a jam that we make using fruits cooked down with sugar - not s alot, just enough to make it nice, and lemon juice. We use fruits in season and have been storing the "jam" refrigerated - not sure what we'll do when we run out of 'jam'... I'd use a brand like Polaner, but it contains high fructose corn syrup, which is why I stopped using it. BTW, those wheat rolls on your kids' plates also are made with high fructose corn syrup....but just a little

  4. what's wrong with plain yogurt? if we didn't stuff kids with sugar and flavored everything from infancy, they'd be fine with plain yogurt.

    the only "flavored" alternative i can think of would be a drizzle of honey- but i'm not sure how to control portion, unless the lunch servers do it.