hunter 060121

SPRINGFIELD – 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 was signed into law Friday.

“Ensuring health for our children and future generations is something I am very passionate about, and I am proud that we were able to pass this legislation for our youth,” Hunter said. “Setting healthier beverages as the default for their meals will only set an example of healthy dietary habits for children to grow into.”

Starting next year, restaurants will be required to provide a healthy beverage option, such as water, sparkling water, unsweetened flavored water, unsweetened low-fat or non-fat milk as a default in kids meals.

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

A 2012 analysis reported that 33% of children eat foods or beverages from fast-food restaurants and 12% from full-service restaurants on a typical day. Americans spend almost half of their food budget on restaurant foods. Eating out by children 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. Diet soda isn’t much better, and is actually linked to an increased likelihood of gaining weight.

“Improving the nutritional quality of children’s meals can help improve diet quality and cultivate lifelong healthy eating behaviors, and hopefully avoid health issues,” Hunter said. “If we can prevent children from having certain illnesses and behavioral issues, we should do everything in our power to do so, and we can start with their beverage options.”

Senate Bill 1846 is effective immediately.