The American Dairy Association (ADA) has had its udders rooted in the USDA’s dietary recommendations for many decades. A week ago I was going over the history of the USDA’s colorful charts depicting what Americans are supposed to eat. One of my favorites, penned in 1943, gives us the Seven Food Groups. Milk has its own group, so does Butter. But dairy finds its way into the Meat Cheese Fish Poultry group and surprisingly shows up in the Cereal and Bread group too where the claim is that “Added milk improves nutritional values”. Wow. Four out of seven. Impressive. If you believe that is an accident, or meant to improve health, think again. Politics abound as nutrition maven Marion Nestle is quick to write a tome on (Food Politics). All this to remind you of the powerful, government-backed organization dairy farmers have profited from for many many moons.
This week the ADA announced its “Raise Your Hands for Chocolate Milk” campaign in an effort to promote school sales of sugary flavored milks. They claim that if kids skip chocolate milk, they will choose fruit juice or soda and miss out on all those important nutrients that they are not getting in their macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, ice cream, smoothies and yo-yo yogurt cups. How much dairy does a child need? Or more precisely – how much calcium?
Cow’s milk is designed to quadruple a calf’s bone structure in six months. At no point in a human’s life do we lay down that much bone. Yet recommendations from the nutrition party line would have us believe that we can never eat enough. The United States has one of the highest intakes of calcium in the world and simultaneously one of the highest rates of osteoporosis. What gives?
I’m not anti-milk, not at all anti-dairy but I’m strongly in the court of “more is not better.” Dairy foods can be difficult for a lot of people to digest. Many kids have dairy allergies or dairy sensitivities. Traditional wisdom teaches us that culturing dairy (adding probiotics or allowing it to sour) breaks down the pesky lactose and casein that many people to have trouble digesting past the age of weaning. Shouldn’t we make sure that each child is sporting a healthy digestive system by getting enough fiber, vitamins, minerals and probiotics before we coerce them to raise their hands for chocolate milk?
Being pro or con chocolate milk once again loses sight of the common sense big picture. Why fill kids up on sugar and milk and leave no room for the nutrients they are NOT getting enough of on their school lunch tray?