If you give your kids chocolate milk as a way to get them to drink milk, try these techniques instead:

  • Flavor the milk with a drop or 2 of vanilla (or orange, raspberry, coconut…) extract.  (It really is delicious).
  • Mix a cup of milk with a 4-ounce serving of applesauce for a quick smoothie.
  • Vary how much chocolate powder or syrup you mix in so that one day the milk is really chocolaty and the next day… not so much.

Then give your kids some structured guidance.

Tell your kids they can flavor one milk a day, but that each day they have to choose a different flavoring method from the one they choose the day before.

It might not seem like much, but this little bit of variety can totally change the way your kids eat.  Read House Building 101.

Be warned: If you give into your kids’ begging (or your fears that they’ll stop drinking milk altogether) and give your kids chocolate milk every day, you’ll be making a deal with the devil.

Get your kids hooked on sugar and they’ll eat fewer non-sweetened foods.  Research shows sugar accounts for 20% of total calories consumed by families with young children. That’s twice the recommended amount.

You’ve got to mix up your flavoring techniques.

Anytime you solve a problem with a short-term compromise at the expense of a long-term solution, you’re dealin’ with the devil.

I learned this the hard way years ago when my then 14-month old daughter went through a phase during which she cried relentlessly at bedtime… unless someone stayed in the room with her.  (Never mind that she had been falling asleep solo for most of her life.)

My husband and I gave in, but before we knew what had happened my daughter had started waking herself up throughout the night to check that we were still in her room. What began as a 5-minute exercise had turned into a full-blown hostage situation!

Solving the problem upfront seemed harder, but in the long run it would have been easier.

Chocolate milk is the kind of solution that seems to fix a problem but which causes a bigger problem than it solves: Instead of having a kid who won’t drink milk, you end up with a kid who won’t drink plain milk and who probably won’t eat other foods that aren’t as sweet.

Read The (Chocolate) Milk Mistake and Training Tiny Taste Buds.

Avoid Dealin’ with the Devil …

1) Think BIG.  Instead of thinking about the nutrients you want your kids to consume today, think about the long-term habits you want to foster.

I know you want your kids to drink milk every day, but ask yourself this: Do you want your kids to eat chocolate every day?  Forever?

And what will happen when your kids outgrow milk?

Instead of worrying about milk consumption, focus on teaching your kids to eat a wide variety of foods — including greens — and you’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of adequate calcium consumption.

2) Consider the Underlying Lessons.  Every time you feed your kids you are teaching them something about eating.  A daily chocolate milk teaches kids that they can eat any food they want as long as it has desirable nutrients.

That’s an argument for Pop-Tarts too.

Did you know that one Vanilla Milkshake flavored Pop-Tart delivers about 20% of a toddler’s calcium needs?  Or that one Whole Grain Strawberry Pop-Tart has 5g of fiber (26% of your toddler’s needs)?  Read more about calcium and fiber requirements.  Pop-Tarts also have Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin…You can’t say that about milk!

Of course Pop-Tarts are basically blocks of sugary, enriched flour and you would never give them to you kids for the nutrients because doing that would teach your kids the wrong habits. 

3) Remember to mix-it up.   We all know that the only way for people to get the full range of nutrients they need is to eat a variety of foods.  But there’s an even more important reason for kids to eat a variety of foods: Research has shown that food preferences develop by early exposure to a wide range of flavors.

If you want your kids to eat a variety of foods when they’re grown, you have to expose them to a variety of foods when they’re young.  But variety doesn’t have to mean new. You just have to deliberately cycle through the range of foods your kids already eat.  Read Why We Don’t Eat More Fruits and Veggies.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~



Byrd-Bredbenner, C., J. M. Abbot, and E. Cussler. 2009. “Nutrient Profile of Household Food Supplies of Families With Young Children.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109 (12): 2057-62.