Is Aspartame-Sweetened Milk Really Necessary?
I was a bit shocked when I found out that the dairy industry is asking the Food and Drug Administration to allow it to add artificial sweetener to flavored milks in order to create a lower-calorie product.
For the record, I am not against lower-calorie products, especially since we have an obesity problem in our society. I regularly promote purchasing lower-fat products, such as yogurt, mayonnaise, and cream cheese, which tend to be lower in calories than their higher-calorie versions.
I am also not against the use of artificial sweeteners to lower calories in certain products that have basically no nutritional value to begin with—for example diet Jell-O, diet soda, and sugar-free ice pops—to aid with weight loss.
However I am really stumped as to why we would need fewer calories in a glass of flavored milk. Milk is packed with nine essential nutrients, including calcium (30% DV), vitamin D (25% DV), and protein (16%). An eight-ounce serving of non-fat chocolate milk is about 140 calories, which in comparison to its nutrient package is rather low. I regularly recommend chocolate milk as a post-workout beverage or simply as a delicious snack.
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The biggest shocker with this news, though, is that they don’t want the label to read “reduced calorie.” Why is that? Shouldn’t all labeling be transparent, especially if we are to add artificial sweetener to a product that is typically targeted toward children?
Advocates of this proposal claim that it will help fight childhood obesity but labeling the product as “reduced calorie” might be a deterrent. In my opinion, they are barking up the wrong tree. Research shows that children who regularly drink milk are not at the highest risk for being overweight. Actually it is quite the contrary: Milk drinkers tend to overall have a healthier diet, even if their milk choice is flavored.
I am not sure what bothers me more: that they feel the need for a reduced-calorie version of a perfectly suitable product or that they don’t want truth in labeling. If an industry wanted to come forth with a nutritious way to lower calories in my French fries or pizza, I might be more on board. In any event, for now I will stick with my chocolate milk without artificial sweeteners.