one green planet
one green planet

If you’re like me, you grew up sliding your tray down the cafeteria lunch line, eager to eat those disgusting chicken nuggets, trans-fat ridden fries, and nutrient-zapped vegetable of the day (mind you, this was before you knew how bad these foods are). You even remember getting excited when the cafeteria started offering flavored milks like chocolate or strawberry. But in hindsight, school lunch is the last food you want your child eating—especially school milk. This once heavily advertised dairy product simply doesn’t belong at the school lunch line anymore. Between the sugar, the hormone content, and the fact that humans aren’t designed to consume dairy, here are three reasons to opt for water instead:

Milk is an Excuse to Sneak in Sugar

There’s a reason children can’t wait to gulp down a carton of chocolate milk at lunch: sugar. While you might think flavored milk is rich in calcium and vitamin D, it’s also loaded with sugar. A small carton of chocolate or strawberry milk can have over 20 grams of sugar. That’s more than a candy bar or serving of cookies!

Excessive sugar consumption is arguably one of the leading causes of child diabetes and obesity in America. It’s packed into everything from ketchup to popcorn to crackers. Essentially, it’s put into foods it doesn’t need to be in. Now it’s also included in school milk. Save yourself the extra pounds, insulin spike, and cavities by opting out.

Milk Has a Questionable Hormone and Antibiotic Content

If you’re familiar with factory food procedures for cattle, surely you know dairy cows are fed all sorts of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. Dairy cows are often given hormones to promote lactation. Although the jury is still out about whether or not these additives affect the beef and dairy products you consume, do you really want to risk your child drinking liquid hormones and antibiotics?

Some milk companies are getting better about growth hormone in their dairy products. But you’re still not guaranteed hormone-free milk when your child purchases it at school. Packing your child a custom reusable water bottle is a far better choice than milk at the cafeteria.

Milk is for Cows, Not People

The final reason against milk in school lunches is perhaps the most compelling. Many vegan diet advocates argue that dairy is not a natural part of the human diet, and they seem to be on to something. To effectively break down dairy, the body needs a sufficient supply of the enzyme lactase in order to break down the lactose in milk. As we get older, our lactase production diminishes. As we have less lactase in our systems, we decrease our ability to digest milk and milk products effectively. If our bodies naturally produce less of the enzymes to break down milk, why is it in our children’s school lunches?

While it might take some time to take milk off the lunch line, using your dollar as your vote is a great start! Have your child opt out of milk (and school lunch in general) by packing wholesome, organic, and plant-based foods for lunch.  Also talk to your educational board and see if they’d consider other options like milk alternatives instead of sugar-laden milk. Getting your voice heard and speaking to the right authorities is the first step in stopping milk from being served in school lunches.

Image source: Niklas Bildhauer / Wikimedia Commons