A measure gaining traction in New York City would require restaurants to serve healthy beverages rather than sugary drinks in kids’ meal combos. The Healthy Kids Meals Bill announced this week by NYC Speaker Corey Johnson would make water, milk and 100% fruit juice the standard beverages in restaurant offerings aimed at children.
The bill has won approval from American Heart Association (AHA) CEO Nancy Brown, who notes that U.S. children are consuming up to ten sugary drinks per week – well above the one-8 oz.-drink-per-week recommended by her organization.
“Beverages are responsible for nearly half of added sugars in their diets,” Brown said. “A few major restaurant chains have already agreed to serve healthier beverages with their kids’ meals voluntarily, but most chain and independent restaurants continue to push soda on our children. We should be making it easier, not harder, for parents to raise healthy and strong kids.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest identifies sugary drinks as the top source of calories and added sugars in the American diet. A typical 12-ounce can of regular cola contains 9 ½ teaspoons of added sugars; a 20-ounce bottle contains 16 teaspoons of sugar. Consuming sugary drinks can cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.
Brown noted that the beverage industry has made a “welcomed about-face” in support of legislation similar to the bill in New York.
“We encourage the beverage industry to more fully embrace this new path forward by supporting policy initiatives similar to the NYC Healthy Kids Meals proposal being considered across the country and abandon efforts to deny other local elected officials the right to address sugary drink consumption and the unique health needs of their communities."
McDonald's stopped marketing sugary drinks as a beverage option in its Happy Meals in 2013.
Versions of the Healthy Kids Meals Bill have passed or are under consideration in San Francisco; Baltimore; Louisville; Lafayette, Colorado; Hawaii and Vermont
Earlier this month, California passed the nation’s first statewide bill mandating healthy drink choices with meals marketed to children (parents may request a different beverage.)