Cleveland kids are sweet enough! That is the message the Cleveland City Council sent Wednesday by approving a measure to make healthy drinks –- water, low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice –- the automatic options when ordering from restaurant menus with kids’ meals.
“This is a simple way of helping parents make healthy choices when ordering off of the kids’ menu,” said Valerie Hillow Gates, the executive director of the Cleveland American Heart Association.
University Hospitals’ Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, the American Heart Association’s board president, commended the Cleveland City Council’s unanimous vote to give children and families healthier options. She noted that studies that show how sugary drinks can lead to a slew of chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and dental decay as evidence in support of the measure.
“Moreover, when it comes to kids’ meals, things are more challenging for some children than others,” Gates explained. “In neighborhoods with limited access to grocery stores and nutritious meals, restaurant meals are a prime source of daily calories. The healthy default drinks policy addresses the health inequities that exist in our community, and it offers protections for Cleveland children.”
There will be a six-month implementation period, so restaurants and other businesses have time to adjust their menus and train staff.
“As a chef, and someone who fought a personal battle to lose weight, I understand the importance of starting healthy habits early,” said Douglas Katz, chef/owner at fire food & drink and other Cleveland restaurants. “The Cleveland restaurant community has a great opportunity to help kids and families develop healthy eating habits. This is a positive start, and I applaud City Council for taking it up.”
While restaurants must offer healthy choices as drink options with kids’ meals, parents still have the option to request other drinks off the menu.