The Scoop on Food

This State May Ban Sugary Drinks from ALL Kids' Meals

Boy drinking soda
Maryland legislators have proposed a bill that, if passed, will determine which beverages dine-in and fast-food restaurants can offer with their kids' meals. "The law, proposed last week in an economics committee meeting by Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City), would limit drink options in children's meals to bottled water, low-fat milk, or 100 percent fruit juice," reports Yahoo Parenting. If a restaurant fails to comply, they could face up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail—although who would actually go to jail is unclear.

In the past, dining out tended to be a special treat, so when parents let their children indulge in a sugary drink on these occasions it wasn't detrimental. But now, families are choosing to eat out far more frequently, which makes the consumption of these less-than-healthy drinks even more likely. According to Sugar Free Kids Maryland, just one 8-ounce sugary drink per day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60 percent.

Those who oppose the bill believe it crosses a line and is an attempt at parenting someone else's children. "What if my child is underweight? What if he needs high calories? Who is the state of Maryland to tell me I can't give him whole milk — or a milkshake — at dinner?," said David DeLugas, executive director and general counsel for the National Association of Parents.

To be clear, though, parents would still be able to buy their children a soda or a milkshake; they just won't be listed as options on kids' menus.

And Maryland might not be completely wrong in trying to dictate children's consumption of these drinks. A recently released survey concludes that many parents don't realize how unheathly sugary drinks actually are. More than a quarter of parents who participated in the study published in Public Health Nutrition, considered fruit drinks (like Capri Sun and Sunny D) and sports drinks a healthy option.

Maryland's proposed bill is not the first time soft drinks have made headlines this week. Burger King announced its decision to remove soda from their kids' menu displays on Tuesday—lagging slightly behind Wendys' and McDonalds' earlier announcements.

Banning sugary drinks—or taxing them like one California city is—may not be the end-all, be-all solution to childhood obesity, but it is definitely a step in the right (more healthy!) direction. Avoiding these beverages, increasing activity, and educating children on their eating habits will together make for more healthy kids.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

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