Commentary: Let’s get kids drinking healthy

Delaware residents lead busy lives, and more and more, we’re on the go and eating out. Unfortunately, many of the meals on kids menus come with sugary drinks. Did you know children are consuming up to 10 times more sugary drinks than the American Heart Association recommends every week? But we have a chance to make a real difference. Healthy drinks like water, seltzer and low-fat milk could become the norm for kids’ meals in Delaware restaurants and help reduce the amount of sugar being consumed by our kids if we pass can pass House Bill 79.

From a young age, parents, caregivers, and educators emphasize the importance of healthy foods and living an active lifestyle — practices that are essential for a productive future. Instilling healthy habits in our children is reinforced when the environment supports this effort.

Louisa Phillips

Yet, all too often, restaurant children’s meals are packed with calories, salt and fat. And then washed down with sugar-laden soda. Consuming sugary drinks, like sodas, energy and sports drinks, sweetened teas, etc., is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. If milk or water were automatically served with children’s meals, we could begin to improve the quality of restaurant options.

Last fall, the Wilmington City Council approved a healthy beverages ordinance that requires restaurants in the city to offer water, milk and 100% fruit juice as the default drink included in kids’ meals. The intent of the ordinance is to limit sugar consumption in children and help control chronic disease rates. We thank Wilmington for its leadership on this issue and now it’s time for the state legislature to follow its lead by passing similar legislation for all of Delaware.

Let lawmakers know — by providing healthier drinks with kids’ meals, we are supporting our children’s health and helping them live longer, healthier lives.

Louisa Phillips, MSN, MS, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE

Louisa Phillips is the co-chair of the Delaware American Heart Association Policy Committee.

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