While it's common sense that a key to a good diet is plenty of leafy greens, lean proteins, and a good mix of carbs and healthy fats, there's still a part of you deep down that tries to convince yourself into thinking that French fries could count as a vegetable or that a grape-flavoured popsicle is the same as grapes if you just believe hard enough. After all, the infamous "ketchup is a vegetable" debacle that plagued the Reagan administration resurfaced in 2011 when the US federal government passed a bill that would essentially make the tomato sauce on a pizza count as a serving of veggies. We all know it's stilly, but there was a part of you that was a bit excited about shotgunning a daily slice of vegetables.
In Canada, the government's daily food recommendations haven't gone to that extreme yet, but the nation's rising obesity rates have been making its daily food guide a target of criticism from health experts, the latest being its inclusion of juice as a serving of fruit, as reported by the CMAJ.
The current Canadian food guide counts half a cup of 100-percent juice equal to a cup of raw leafy greens or an apple. The problem, as more and more people realize, is that fruit juice can contain just as much—if not, more—sugar than a can of pop and much less of the healthy fibre you get from actually eating whole fruits. Also, when was the last time you poured a glass of juice and stopped at the half-a-cup mark? The CMAJ reports that at a recent summit on Canadian obesity held in Toronto, Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, director-general of the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion at Health Canada, did say that the food guide's portioning is a problem and that juice might be given less weight as a fruit source in the coming months.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and a vocal critic of Canada's food guide, says that the country's dietary guidelines needs an overhaul and something like eliminating juice can be an easy first step.
"I think juice is an obvious one. Given the specific concerns over sugar from the World Health Organization and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, juice is flat soda pop, sugar water, and not fruit," he says. "I see no reason not to start with that now, long before a long and formal overhaul of the food guide. I think that is something Health Canada can absolutely change tomorrow if they choose. Why they haven't done that is just as inexplicable to me just as it is inexplicable that they chose to include it in 2007."
Freedhoff points to Australia's food guide as a better model, which nixes fruit juice from the veggie and fruit category entirely but ultimately, he sees Brazil's daily guidelines as the best example. There's no colourful food wheel. It stresses eating foods that are in season and have a low impact on the environment, avoiding junk food, and eating at home, free from distractions or with friends and family.
"It's the food guide I think we should be looking as the food guide of the future, but when you look at it, it should be the food guide of the past. The thrust of that food guide shifts the focus to food, cooking, and consuming together as a family; not trusting the packaging from the food industry; and trying to minimize the use of restaurants and processed foods in our diets. We know these things are true in a good diet. We don't have to worry about whether we have enough of this nutrient or food group."
So, sorry, juice-heads; chugging the orange juice that tastes the same year-round no matter what season it is—or the bougie cleansers dropping $10 for a measly bottle of green water—the days of juice being on the same level of eating an apple may be numbered. Blame Canada.
Watch Matty Matheson in Keep It Canada