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Water and milk are now the “default beverage” on kid’s menus in California, thanks to a new law that experts say is a public health win against the devastating effects of sugary drinks.
The Healthy-By-Default Kids’ Meal Beverages Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, makes California (39.1% Latino) the first state to require water or milk as the beverage automatically offered with kids’ meals at restaurants, according to Voices For Healthy Kids.
The change also bans the display of sugary drinks on kid’s menus and ads.
A Win For California Parents
The new law is the first of its kind.
Bipartisan legislators and health advocates supported the law, including Public Health Advocates, a Voices For Healthy Kids grantee. Latino Coalition for a Healthy California also showed support.
The law does not ban sugary drinks outright.
Parents can make a request for sugary drinks.
But having water and milk as the default options can give peace of mind to working families always on the go.
“[The measure] takes some of the stress out of providing nutritious choices and makes it more the norm,” Donna Hoffman Cullinan, a California mother of two young children, told Voices For Healthy Kids.
A Win for Public Health
The law is a significant milestone to improve children’s health.
Overall, in the U.S., nearly two-thirds of kids have at least one sugary drink a day.
Latino kids at all ages consume more sugary drinks—soda, sports and energy drinks, sugary fruit juices, and flavored milk—than the average child, according to a Salud America! Research Review.
This puts Latino kids and their families at a huge disadvantage as sugary drinks cause a plethora of health problems.
“Our state is in the midst of a public health crisis where rates of preventable health conditions like obesity and Type-2 Diabetes are skyrocketing, due in large part to increased consumption of sugary beverages,” said Sen. Bill Monning of Sacramento, in a statement.
As always, there is more to do.
Restaurant giants already implemented healthy beverage policies on their own, like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Dairy Queen.
In areas of Colorado, Kentucky, and Maryland, rules are in place to require all restaurants to automatically provide healthy drinks and/or sides with kids’ meals.
A bill proposed in New York City aimed to make kids’ fast food meals more nutritious.
Baltimore recently pushed sugary drinks off kid’s menus.
“In communities like mine, we are fighting a lack of awareness about healthy eating and drinking and big beverage industries that are bombarding families with cheap, innutritious, sugar-laden drinks as go-to options for their kids,” wrote Pastor Kevin A. Slayton Sr. in a recent op-ed in the Baltimore Sun.
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