Just when you thought nothing could be as simple and plain (or boring) as unflavored milk, Magic Milk Straws come along. While the magic is debatable, we can imagine that the straws enchant calcium-conscious parents and their kids. Stuffed with tiny candy-like pieces in pink, brown and white, the straws look cool and almost futuristic. (Imagine Dippin' Dots, but smaller, and encased in a narrow tube.) The flavors -- strawberry, cocoa, vanilla, banana, orange cream, berry, cookies-and-cream plus others -- ease milk's ho-hum quality. The point isn't to flavor the entire glass, only your sips through the straw. As you drink, the little pieces gradually dissolve into the milk, until the straw's empty.
Milk Processor Education Program California Milk Processors Board, which runs the "Got milk?" campaign, is promoting the straws and bills them as nutritious: No fat, cholesterol, gluten or preservatives. Each has between 17 and 22 calories and about 4 grams of sugar. Add that to a glass of skim milk for a total of 91 calories and 16 grams of sugar. In comparison, a cup of fat-free chocolate milk contains 160 calories and 30 grams of sugar.
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One company, Webb Candy, is distributing its own, nearly identical version of the straws. Cartoon characters Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants are displayed on the packaging in an obvious move to attract kids. Maybe local school officials should take notice, too. Last summer, the L.A. Unified School District voted to remove flavored milk with added sugar from cafeterias. (Along with foods high in fat, sugar and sodium, such as chicken nuggets, corn dogs and nachos.) Yet there seems to have been a rebellion.
In December, the L.A. Times reported, "Many of the meals are being rejected en masse. Participation in the school lunch program has dropped by thousands of students. Principals report massive waste, with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away."
Unopened milk cartons?! The revamp clearly needs some work. Even Magic Straws won't cast any lasting spells. But maybe they can encourage cafeteria chefs and school officials to seek creative solutions.