ITHACA, N.Y.For many children eating school lunch, chocolate milk is a favorite choice. Removing it from the menu not only makes lunchtime less tasty, but can cause children to waste more and receive less of important nutrients like protein and calcium, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers for the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (B.E.N. Center), reported results from data collected at 11 Oregon elementary schools where chocolate milk had been banned from the cafeterias and replaced with skim milk. While this policy eliminated the added sugar in chocolate milk, there were unexpected nutritional and economic backlashes.
The study found that eliminating chocolate milk from the elementary schools decreased total milk sales by 10%, indicating that many students substituted white for chocolate milk. Even though more students were taking white milk, they wasted 29% more than before. Nutritionally, after the milk substitution, students on average consumed less sugar and fewer calories, but also consumed less protein and calcium. Additionally, the ban may have been a factor in a 7% decrease in District’s Lunch Program participation.
That's the thing about kids (and most consumers)taste trumps nutrition. If it isn't both appealing and flavorful, chances are kids won't touch it. This is why formulating products for children can be a challenge, especially with parents becoming more picky about what goes into (and what stays out of) the foods and beverages they feed their families. And demands for healthier foods made with natural ingredients is prompting food product designers to get creative.
In Food Product Design's Digital Issue, "Healthy Snacks for Kids," food product designers look to fruit- and vegetable-based ingredients to help eliminate undesirable colorants, as well as beans and bean flours in baked goods and chips to improve nutrition, among other innovative ideas. And putting emphasis on packaging creativity can take some pressure off of formulations, as it allows manufacturers to serve what are essentially whole-food snacks in the sort of hands-on, "interactive" vehicles that kids find fun. Examples include flip-style yogurts with healthy add-ins and multicompartment snack packs that combine crackers or pretzels with healthful hummus or nut butters.