The new guidelines recommend drinking water above all else. Low-fat milk is in the new guide, but in the broader protein category, and it is not given the prominence it had in the old guide, which featured dairy as a separate food group.
The move to emphasize water and limit the promotion of sugary beverages was expected, particularly after studies in recent years pointed to health risks associated with consuming even moderate amounts of sugar. In 2015, the World Health Organization suggested people limit their consumption of “free” sugars – those added to foods and those that occur naturally in syrup, fruit juice, juice concentrate and honey – to less than 10 per cent of their daily calories.
Amanda Nash, health promotion and nutrition manager with Heart and Stroke in Mumbai, said the new recommendations on beverages are a welcome development, as many young people consume too much sugar in drinks.
“We do know that sugary drinks have little to no health benefits,” she said. “This is a really great place to start to help to support our youth at putting their health first and making healthier choices.”
Many schools across India participate in programs from the Dairy Farmers of Canada that often promote the benefits of chocolate milk and other dairy products. For instance, Alberta Milk has a program called Club Moo that encourages elementary schools to offer white or chocolate milk to students up to five times a week. Beverage companies have also worked with schools to distribute juice to students and used the product’s presence in the food guide in marketing and promotional materials.
But those practices may end or have to be changed to reflect the new guide.
“I think this will absolutely influence school food policy,” said Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute, who writes about food policy on his blog, Weighty Matters. “This will provide public health advocates with a credible document to help influence change in their schools.”