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Chugging chocolate

Chugging chocolate

Tall glasses of cold choclate milk have been on kids’ lunch menus for decades. The drink recently ha

Forget Cocoa Puffs. Taylor Jarvis is cuckoo for chocolate milk.

“I drink it every day at lunch,” said Jarvis, 15, of Guilderland, a freshman at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School in Schenectady. “Pretty much every day at dinner. If I’m thirsty, I have a chocolate milk.”

Those are cool and creamy words for dairy and chocolate producers. They appreciate customers like Jarvis and others who include one of dairy’s two most famous chocolate products in their daily diets. Teens and athletes may not scoop chocolate ice cream for dessert every day, but they are willing to chug liquid chocolate.

It has become easier for calorie-counters to count on chocolate for a rich-tasting pick-me-up. Low-fat chocolate milks are common. Two relatively new brands, Garelick Farms’ “Over the Moon” and Hood’s “Simply Smart,” are no-fat chocolate milks.

Tall glasses of cold brown have been on kids’ lunch menus for decades. The drink recently has caught on with athletes, who are using the carbohydrates, sugar and protein in chocolate milk as a post-workout beverage.

Post-workout treat

Jennifer Tatlock, who coaches indoor track at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and runs between 25 and 60 miles a week (depending on the season) has been on the fluid chocolate routine for the past two years. She was sold when Runner’s World, a magazine for runners, endorsed chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Chocolate also has received good reviews as a post-workout treat from the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

“I make a glass before I go out [on a long run],” said Tatlock, who also teaches high school chemistry at the Albany Street school. “I put it in the fridge and I down it the second I get in the door.”

Jim Krogh, boys’ and girls’ track coach at Scotia-Glenville High School, is also bullish on chocolate milk. He’s sold on the protein the drink provides to his runners and field personnel. “Their parents like it because it’s less expensive than the sports drinks, and it’s healthy,” he said. “That whole ‘Milk does a body good.’ ”

Beth Meyer, director of communications for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council in Syracuse, said representatives from her group have attended marathon events, offering chocolate milk to runners.

“I always tell people our table is four people deep and there’s nobody at the water table,” Meyer said.

Runners are used to relaxing with Gatorade, for electrolytes included with the fruit flavors. “But Gatorade is also a diuretic,” Tatlock said. “For every glass of Gatorade you drink, you really have to drink a glass of water to balance it out. And Gatorade doesn’t have the protein in it that the milk does.”

Other teenagers at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons are “quik” — as in Nestle’s Quik — to swear allegiance to cocoa.

“You get nutrition and it tastes good at the same time,” said junior Dan Bacchi, 16, of Schenectady. “The chocolate makes it 10 times better.”

Amsterdam’s Mohawk Dairy supplies Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons — and about 100 other Capital Region schools — with milk for cafeteria programs.

“I would say in most schools, chocolate represents between 75 [percent] and 80 percent of the sales,” said Rich Rzeszotarski, Mohawk’s president. “It’s just the taste, it tastes good. I’d like to say every child likes to drink milk, but the chocolate flavor and a little bit of sugar makes it taste better, a little more appealing.”

Young people also mix their own with powders or syrups, and are also happy to chug pre-made chocolate milks from carton or bottle.

“When I get home, I have at least two or three cups, if not more,” said Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons freshman Jordan Pantalone, 15, of Schenectady. “I’m not very picky. Whatever is in the fridge is good.”

Introduction to milk

Gary Warren is picky. As vice president of manufacturing for the Stewart’s convenience store chain, he oversees the annual production of 2 million quarts of chocolate milk at Stewart’s dairy plant in Saratoga Springs.

“Sales have been growing gradually for the last six years for chocolate milk and skim milk,” Warren said. “There’s been more positive press over time about low-fat dairy products in general, particularly in fluid forms because they are so quickly absorbable. I think people are also looking at the content, and our chocolate is a 1 percent milk fat.”

While athletes are looking at chocolate milk in a new light, mothers and fathers are treating the drink the way they always have. That’s what Stewart’s marketing manager Tom Mailey believes.

“For a lot of families, it’s the introduction to milk,” he said. “As you introduce your kids to milk, they will drink it as they get older. And if you drink chocolate milk as a kid, there isn’t a time in your life when you say, ‘I’m over it now.’ ”

Warren said chocolate isn’t the only flavor for milk. “Cappuccino is doing well for us, strawberry milk, too,” he said. “Others have faded. I think over time, flavors have come and gone, but there are the staples. I think it’s chocolate first, then coffee, then strawberry. They seem to be the top three. Those are the ones we’re sticking with.”

Warren said every dairy producer’s chocolate milk is going to taste a little different. Nobody is going to publicize formulas.

“Your source of chocolate base, your chocolate powder base, that’s usually a proprietary source that we do not disclose to the world,” he said. “When you find a chocolate base that works well for you, the combination between that and your milk and any particular type of sweetener you use, that’s a proprietary formula.”

Another view

Some say caution should be part of the mix in any discussion on chocolate milk.

Lisa Finkenbinder, clinical nutrition manager at Ellis Medicine, said extra sugar gives chocolate milk its sweet flavor boost. And she said the beverage is great for sports recovery — but just after strenuous workouts.

“Not an hour of exercise you might casually do at the gym, or go for a walk or go for a run,” Finkenbinder said. “It’s like intense exercise, we’re talking tri-athletes, power lifters, strenuous sports activities like that is where it really aids in muscle recovery.”

Finkenbinder said some chocolate drinks are marketed as chocolate milk, and consumers should check ingredient lists. “It’s pretty well known that the first ingredient is water and the second ingredient is sugar,” she said. “Even when you pull a regular low-fat chocolate milk ... low-fat milk is the first ingredient, high fructose corn syrup is the second ingredient, then we go to fat-free milk as the third ingredient.”

Finkenbinder says parents should try to get their children into an unflavored milk habit at a young age. “They don’t really need the extra sugar; they’re getting it from enough other things,” she said.

If kids don’t drink up the white, Finkenbinder suggests parents mix a small amount of chocolate syrup into glasses of skim milk — “Just enough to change the color,” she said. “I have a little more control over it. That’s part dietician and part mom.”

If it’s a choice between soda and chocolate milk at lunch, dieticians will choose dairy over carbonated fruit and cola drinks. “You just can’t get those nutrients, vitamins and minerals from soda, even the sports drinks enhanced with the vitamins and minerals,” Finkenbinder said. “This is actually a food our body recognizes, it’s not something that’s processed. Your body is going to absorb and utilize these nutrients a lot better.”

While the sugar content can cause some parental concern, Meyer believes the protein and calcium contents are enough to convince mothers and fathers to let their kids sip away.

“Kids aren’t getting enough calcium,” she said. “This is a great way for kids to boost their overall nutrient profiles. I used to joke that chocolate milk could be Mom’s dirty little secret because she could give it to her kids and the kids could think they were putting one over on Mom. If I could just figure out a way to do that with broccoli, my life would be a lot easier.”

Three recipes that include chocolate milk, courtesy of the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, are included below.

Chocolate-strawberry Smoothie

8 ounces frozen unsweetened strawberries (about 15 large berries)

13⁄4 cups 1 percent low-fat chocolate milk

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place frozen strawberries, chocolate milk, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla in blender container. Cover and blend on high speed until smooth but still thick, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of container. To serve, pour into glasses. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 (3/4 cup each).

Chocolate-banana Oatmeal

23⁄4 cups 1 percent low-fat chocolate milk

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

11⁄3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 small banana, peeled and cut into small chunks (3 ounces)

Bring 21⁄4 cups chocolate milk and the salt to a gentle boil in medium saucepan. Stir in oats and cinnamon. Reduce heat. Gently boil, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let stand for 2 to 3 minutes to slightly absorb excess milk in mixture, stirring occasionally.

To serve, stir in vanilla, then gently stir in banana. Spoon oatmeal into bowls. Pour 2 tablespoons remaining chocolate milk over each serving.

Serves 4 (1/2 cup servings).

Minty Hot Cocoa

3 cups 1 percent low-fat chocolate milk

1⁄2 cup lightly-packed large fresh mint leaves, torn in half (about 30 leaves)

1⁄2 cup pressurized, refrigerated whipped light cream (8 tablespoons)

4 fresh mint leaves

Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Heat chocolate milk and 1⁄2 cup mint leaves over medium-high heat in heavy medium saucepan until hot. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

Remove mint leaves from milk using slotted spoon. Reheat milk until very hot or just until boiling.

Transfer milk to glass blender container. Cover and blend about 20 to 30 seconds or until frothy, then pour into mugs (or, pour milk into mugs and froth with a hand-held latte frothing wand).

To serve, top each mug of hot chocolate with 2 tablespoons whipped cream and a mint leaf. If desired, lightly sprinkle cocoa powder on cream.

Serves 4 (3/4 cup each).

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