The new State of Obesity report recently showed that more than 1 in 4 Vermont adults is obese. Health habits are learned at a young age and early prevention is key to ensuring our children grow up healthy. Research shows that what children drink from birth through age 5 can impact their long-term health. The average age of children who order kids meals in restaurants ranges from 2-5 years old. Vermont needs to pass legislation around restaurant kids meals, which would set healthy beverages of water, milk and 100% fruit juice as the default choice on restaurant menus.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for children over the age of 2. People living in the United States consume an average of 10 teaspoons of added sugar just from just sugary drinks alone every day.
To prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, we need to present Vermonters with healthy choices. Sugary drinks are a huge culprit in the obesity epidemic and are the largest source of daily calories in the diets of American children. The American Heart Association and the Healthy Choices Vermont Coalition are promoting legislation for healthy restaurant kids meals which would ensure that beverages of milk, water or 100% fruit juice are served with restaurant kids meals instead of having sugary drinks be the automatic option. This legislation is supported by more than 50 Vermont organizations, including the Vermont Beverage Association.
This legislation is important because it helps to reduce one of the biggest culprits in the obesity epidemic and change the current norms of offering sugary drinks to our kids. California, Hawaii and Delaware have all passed similar legislation. It’s time for Vermont to take action. Each extra serving of a sugar sweetened beverage consumed a day increases a child’s chance of becoming obese by 60 percent. Let’s start them off on the right foot while they are still developing their lifelong eating and drinking habits.
Vermonters are in trouble, but we can begin to fight obesity by intervening to limit the unhealthy choices our youth are exposed to. Making the healthy choice the easy choice benefits children and decreases health care spending by preventing diseases. It’s so much easier to start kids on healthy eating patterns early than trying to reverse chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer that have been brought on by a lifetime of unhealthy choices. Legislators need to act by requiring kids meals to provide healthy beverages as the automatic option in restaurants.