Pear in Mind: A blog in the public interest
March has been a good month for the healthy kids' meal movement! Both Montgomery County, Maryland and the city of St. Louis, Missouri passed bills improving the health of restaurant kids’ meal options.
The Montgomery County bill requires that healthy beverages like water, juice or milk be the default with restaurant kids’ meals. It also requires that at least one meal on the kids’ menu must meet expert nutrition standards. That meal option must also include at least two or more of the following: (1) one-quarter cup of unfried vegetables or fruits; (2) a whole grain product; and (3) a lean protein. The St. Louis bill requires healthy default beverages with kids’ meals.
U.S. families eat at restaurants roughly 5 times a week, and caregivers frequently order kids’ meals for their child. Unfortunately, the majority of restaurant kids’ meals fail to meet expert nutrition standards, and few chains have taken steps to address the nutritional quality of their full kids’ menu. These healthy kids’ meal bills are therefore critical in assisting families’ efforts to support healthy eating for their children. Under policies like those passed in Montgomery County and St. Louis, families can still choose their preferred drink or meal combination, but they are guaranteed access to an easy, healthier option.
The St. Louis City beverage bill is the first healthy kids' meal policy in Missouri. Montgomery County follows the lead of Prince George’s County, MD, which passed its own comprehensive healthy kids’ meal legislation in 2020.
The first ever kids' meal policy was passed in 2010 in Santa Clara County, California and set nutrition standards for meals that were sold with toys. Since then, over two dozen other states and localities have adopted kids' meal policies, including toy bills, healthy default beverages, and full meal nutrition standards. You can see a full map here.
Congratulations again to the advocates in St. Louis and Montgomery County!