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Is juice in schools really that much better than pop?

Ontario has imposed tough restrictions on what types of drinks can be sold in schools and how much sugar they can contain.

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Pop is out. Juice is in.

A growing number of schools across Canada - and in countries around the world - are cracking down on the sale of sugary, calorie-laden soft drinks on school property and moving in favour of milk, water and juice.

Students across Ontario will soon see those efforts in their schools, as the province has imposed tough restrictions on what types of drinks can be sold and how much sugar they can contain.

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On Wednesday, the Toronto District School Board voted to give vending-machine rights to a small company, HealthyVendCanada, instead of giants such as Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

According to reports, the company pledges to stock healthier options, such as vegetable cocktail, fruit juice, milk and water.

Whether children choose to drink milk or water, which are much blander than pop, is another question.

But a more important one is whether fruit juice should even be promoted to children as a healthy option.

Under Ontario's new rules, juice must be 100-per-cent fruit and contain a maximum of 28 grams of sugar.

But many parents may not realize that 28 grams of sugar is close to seven full teaspoons of sugar. Not exactly a healthy option. By comparison, a 250-millilitre bottle of Coca-Cola has 30 grams of sugar, while a 250 millilitre bottle of Sprite has 27 grams of sugar.

Dietitians encourage children, as well as adults, to consume fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy diet. But there is growing concern about the fact that children may be drinking too many of their calories, even when it comes in the form of all-natural fruit juice.

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For instance, British Columbia became the first province to ban pop in schools in 2008 and has seen the introduction of more juices for sale in schools. Some nutrition experts there have questioned whether children may be getting too much juice, particularly considering some serving sizes tend to be larger than one cup, which is the maximum amount of juice many say children should consume in a day.

A 2008 study from the Center for Obesity Research and Education took aim at the inclusion of 100-per-cent fruit juices in school vending machines.

"Contrary to common belief, fruit juice is not a healthy snack if drunk in excess," Amy Virus, senior health services co-ordinator involved in the study, said in a news release.

Do you restrict the amount of juice consumed in your home?

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