hunter lunch 041521SPRINGFIELD – According to the CDC, six in 10 young people and five in 10 adults consume a sugary drink each day. A measure by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) to ensure kids’ meals have healthy beverage options as a default to combat the risk of health issues passed the Senate Tourism and Hospitality Committee Thursday.

“Improving the nutritional quality of restaurant children’s meals can help improve diet quality and cultivate lifelong healthy eating behaviors, which help children grow up healthier,” Hunter said. “If we can prevent children from having certain illnesses and behavioral issues, we should do everything in our power to do so.”

Senate Bill 1846 would require restaurants to provide healthier drink options to automatically come with children’s meals. Drinks could include water, sparkling water, unsweetened flavored water, unsweetened low-fat or non-fat milk, unsweetened non-dairy milk alternatives, or 100% fruit or vegetable juice.

Parents would still have the choice to ask for other types of beverages, like soda or lemonade, if they wish.

SB 1846 is an initiative of the Illinois Public Health Association to foster healthier eating with children.

A 2012 analysis reported that 33%of children eat foods or beverages from fast-food restaurants and 12 percent from full-service restaurants on a typical day. Americans spend almost half of their food budget on restaurant foods. Children eating out has been associated with higher consumption of calories, sugary drinks, saturated fat, and total sugars, and with lower diet quality compared to meals at home.

Frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with dozens of health issues, including weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and cavities, and gout.

“Ensuring health for our children and future generations is something I am very passionate about, and I am proud to bring this groundbreaking legislation to our state,” Hunter said.

Senate Bill 1846 waits to be heard by the full Senate and can be tracked online here. A podcast on this bill can be heard here.