Flavoured milk on par with lollies for sugar content

Flavoured milk, the drink of choice of tradies and families everywhere, has been found to have more than a recommended day’s worth of sugar per bottle, new analysis has found.

The analysis, undertaken by The Heart Foundation’s education campaign LiveLighter, found that the popular chilled drink is typically packed with sugar, with some brands containing up to nine teaspoons per bottle, almost the same as a can of Coco-Cola.

“You would never add nine teaspoons of sugar to milk yourself, so understanding the huge sugar content of these drinks should come as a wake-up call to consumers and help with changing habits,” LiveLighter Campaign Manager and registered dietitian, Alison McAleese, said.

“For many workers and students, morning tea includes a stop at the nearest convenience store or servo for an iced coffee or chocolate milk. These drinks may seem like an easy go-to option, but we want people to realise they could easily be knocking back and entire day’s worth of sugar with just one drink.”

The analysis, which included more than 90 popular chilled flavoured dairy milk drinks, was compared to the popular red-frog lollies for sugar comparisons.

Ice Break 750ml Iced Coffee was found to be the worst offender, with a sugar intake equivalent to 22 red frogs, with Ice Break’s Extra Shot Iced Coffee, Browne’s Choc-Honeycomb and Oak Chocolate Milk following closely behind.

A regular packet of red frogs usually contains 45 individual lollies, with the recommended serving size equating to five frogs.

The breakdown of compared flavoured milk drinks identified the following as the top 20 worst offenders.

Product How many teaspoons of added sugar are in this bottle or carton*? How many red frog lollies worth of sugar are in this bottle or carton*?
Ice Break Regular Strength Iced Coffee 750ml 9.2 22
Ice Break Extra Shot Iced Coffee 750ml 8.6 21
Brownes Chocolate Honeycomb 500ml 8.5 21
Oak Chocolate Milk 600ml 8.4 20
Oak Vanilla Malt 600ml 8.0 19
Oak Molten Caramel 600ml 7.7 19
Dare Double Espresso 750ml 7.5 18
Big M Choc Original 600ml 7.4 18
Brownes Chocolate Chill 600ml 7.2 18
Masters Strawberry 600ml 7.2 18
Oak Banana 600ml 7.2 18
Dare Espresso 750ml 6.9 17
Oak Iced Coffee 750ml 6.9 17
Brownes Choca Mocha 600ml 6.8 16
Dare Mocha Iced Coffee 500ml 6.5 16
Barista Bros Iced Chocolate 500ml 6.4 16
Oak Thick Death by Chocolate 425mL 6.3 15
Oak Thick Mint Death by Chocolate 425ml 6.3 15
Farmers Union Iced Coffee 600mL 6.2 15
Barista Bros Double Espresso 500ml 6.1 15

*Estimated added sugar: milk contains approx. 5% naturally occurring sugar. Added sugar is in addition to this naturally occurring sugar. 1tsp sugar = approx. 4 grams.

** 1 frog = approx. 1.64g. Source: https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/productdetails/307692/allen-s-frogs-alive

What does this mean for flavoured milk drinkers?

With milk linked to healthy body growth and strong bones, the news of high levels of sugar in flavoured milk could flip the popular dairy product on its head.

“All dairy milk contains naturally occurring sugars like lactose, which are not bad for health, however, flavoured milk also contains added sugars,” Ms McAleese said.

“Unfortunately, the two sugar groups are listed as one item on the nutrition panel, making it difficult to identify the natural sugars from the added sugars.”

Ms McAleese indicates that plain cow’s milk contains about one teaspoon of naturally occurring sugars per 100ml, with anything above that likely to be added sugars.

“When choosing a milk drink it’s important to compare brands and choose the one with the lowest amount of sugar per 100g,” she said.

“Consider adding a pinch of cinnamon, vanilla bean or nutmeg to plain milk for added flavour, or switch high sugar varieties with no or low sugar alternatives.”

With the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reporting that almost two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight or obese in 2015, with one-quarter of Australian kids similarly categorised, consumers are encouraged to take a closer look at the sugar levels of their favourite foods and drinks, with higher sugar levels linked to health issues such as Diabetes.

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