Ottawa Citizen


Fruit Juice Also In Food Guide Sights


Canada’s chocolate-milk wars could soon be over.

Chocolate milk, along with fruit juice, is expected to get a thumbs down as a healthy food in the new Canadian Food Guide set to be released this fall. That could eventually end debates about whether chocolate milk should be routinely offered to schoolchil­dren.

Canada’s previous Food Guide, issued in 2007, termed chocolate milk a suitable alternativ­e for dairy and juice a suitable alternativ­e to whole fruit, both of which were considered a healthy part of a daily diet. Those recommenda­tions became the focus of criticism. Ottawa obesity expert Yoni Freedhoff termed the 2007 food guide “obesigenic,” partly based on chocolate milk.

Whether chocolate milk should be regularly offered in schools became a focus of the recent provincial election in New Brunswick. The Conservati­ves, who won 22 seats in the election, vowed to relax

If we could get people to make half their plates fruit and vegetables, I think a lot of the problems would go away.

nutrition guidelines in schools in the province. The Liberals, who won 21 seats, had vowed to ban chocolate milk in schools, along with other sugary drinks.

Freedhoff, who was part of a panel on the upcoming Food Guide at a Centre for Health Science and Law conference Tuesday in Ottawa, said a clear statement from the federal government about chocolate milk would make a difference to debates about chocolate milk in school.

“If the Food Guide had said, ‘This is something that should be limited in children, that should be considered a treat,’ this would be a non-issue,” Freedhoff said. He added that is what he expects to happen when the new guide is released.

“I would be flabbergas­ted if the new Food Guide did not state that sugar-sweetened milks are beverages that should be explicitly limited in children. Should it say that, it would follow that school chocolate-milk programs would be on school boards’ chopping blocks — though I’d also bet it will take a fair bit of time until it is universall­y removed.”

The people drafting the new Food Guide did recommend chocolate milk and fruit juices be limited for children as part of its recommenda­tions sent out for consultati­on.

But Hasan Hutchinson, who is the director general of the office of nutrition policy and promotion at Health Canada, said nothing is final until the guide is approved and released by the federal government.

Freedhoff, founder and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, called the idea that children should be offered chocolate milk daily “backwards.” A small, 250 ml chocolate

milk carton, consumed daily during a 180-day school year, provides a child with 10 pounds, or 24 cups, of sugar, he said. Chocolate milk has twice the calories of Coke and Gatorade, although it contains more nutrients, and 20 per cent more sugar.

Considerin­g chocolate milk a reasonable alternativ­e to milk products, he said, is like considerin­g apple pie an alternativ­e to an apple.

“If you wouldn’t give a kid who doesn’t like apples pie every day, perhaps you shouldn’t give that same kid chocolate milk every day.”

The rethink of chocolate milk and fruit juice is just a small part of the new, updated and redefined guide, expected to be released in several parts beginning later this year.

Hutchinson said the new guide will be dramatical­ly different from the six-page document with a graphic rainbow design on front that was released in 2007.

“We were hearing the existing Food Guide was not enough detail for policy-makers and way too much detail for most Canadians. We have gone in quite a different direction,” he said.

“We decided to explode it apart and instead of having one six-pager we will have a whole suite of food guide products.”

The guide will be digital first, said Hutchinson, and will include interactiv­e, easily accessible tools. The version of the guide for consumers will contain dietary guidelines as well as tools and resources they can use to apply the guidelines at home, while shopping and dining out, among other things.

The Food Guide will no longer contain recommende­d portion sizes, Hutchinson said.

“We heard very strongly from people that they just found that confusing, and we heard from dietitians that is what people had the most trouble with.”

The new Food Guide will focus on proportion­s, rather than portion sizes, he said.

“If we could get people to make half their plates fruit and vegetables, I think a lot of the problems wouldgoawa­y.”

The guide will include more details for health profession­als, policy-makers and institutio­ns that prepare food. It will also include a new focus on how people eat and the importance of selecting, preparing and sharing food.

Hutchinson said there is growing research about distracted eating — specifical­ly that people tend to eat more when they are watching television or looking at mobile phones or other screens.

The overall message to consumers will be to be mindful of what and how they eat and to be given a sense of the foods they should have lots of compared with the foods that can “disrupt healthy eating.”

The guide will be a living document, said Hutchinson, that can be adapted regularly, based on new research.

Freedhoff said he believes the Food Guide is important, but more for policy developmen­t and practices than for individual­s.

“Do we really think people are going to be using these documents on a day-to-day basis to change their dietary habits? I am skeptical.”

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 ??  ?? Chocolate milk has twice the calories of Coke and Gatorade — although it contains more nutrients — and 20 per cent more sugar.
Chocolate milk has twice the calories of Coke and Gatorade — although it contains more nutrients — and 20 per cent more sugar.

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