By Laura Hale
In this busy world, going out with your family to eat can be a rare moment to enjoy your time together. But it also means helping your kids make healthier choices – which can be harder when they’re looking right at choosing a soda before anything else. What if we could make the healthier choice easier for Maryland families?
Sugary drinks, like soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks are loaded with sugar — far too much for children — and are harmful to their health. But they are often the automatic drink served with kids’ meals.
The Maryland state legislature has a chance to change this. HB 661 and SB 263, sponsored by Del. Diana Fennell, D-Prince George’s, and Sen. Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, would make healthy drink options like water, milk, and 100% fruit juices the default choice on kid’s menus when people go out to eat at any restaurant in Maryland. (The House bill has a hearing tomorrow; the Senate bill had a hearing Feb. 3.)
Through this legislation, parents can still choose to order a sugary drink but will be offered the healthier choice first, making it much easier to choose healthy drinks for their families.
The average American child consumes enough sugary drinks to fill a bathtub. Studies have shown this amount of sugar can put children at risk of diet-related diseases like unhealthy weight, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Studies have also shown that children drink more sugary drinks when eating out. By offering healthier choices, young people will grow up recognizing healthy options as the norm, rather than sweetened beverages.
The City of Baltimore and Prince George’s County have already passed similar legislation, and Montgomery County is considering making it a local law. Baltimore City saw strong positive national press for their work in making healthy drinks the default choice.
By putting healthier drink options front and center on the menu, it can make the healthy choice the easy choice. Let’s make healthy choices easier and our children healthier with the passage of HB 661/SB 263.