Did you know that over 75 percent of all milk offered to our kids in school is flavored?That’s a lot of extra sugar for nothing. Every half-pint carton of flavored nonfat milk adds approximately extra eight grams sugar to children’s diet, so it’s possible to smuggle five extra pounds into a child’s diet through flavored milk alone during one year of school.Sugary beverages are worrisome because of sugar’s known link to obesity. Studies show a link from added sugar to obesity that is independent of the rest of one’s diet and physical activity.

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Childhood overweight and obesity rates have doubled in the last two decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly one child out of two is either overweight or obese. (Have you checked out your school playground recently, or perhaps the local mall?  Stop and look at the kids around you!) This pandemic of childhood obesity has real and damaging health consequences. Think: hypertension, stroke, diabetes, pulmonary problems, bone and joint issues.

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But here’s the scariest stat: This generation of children may be the first in our nation’s history to have a shorter life span than their parents, largely in part to our obesity pandemic.Many health organizations are weighing in on this topic. For example, The American Heart Association recommends a limit of no more than three sugary drinks per week.These guidelines are not just for home, though. A growing number of schools have started to implement healthier choices for their students: Los Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., and Washington D.C., for example, have all banned flavored, sugared milk from their lunchrooms.So if you’re packing your child[ren] lunch this year, or they are getting lunch at school, be mindful of what they’re drinking!

COLUMN: Sneaky Sources of Sugar, from Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.

Water and plain milk are great options. And when it’s your turn to sign up for snack duty, bring fruit kebabs and skip the cupcakes (They’re so easy to make: load up wooden skewers with the fruit of your choice! My kids and I like to make them with grapes, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple and melon.)