Statement of CSPI vice president for nutrition Margo G. Wootan

What we teach kids today helps set the stage for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, at too many restaurants, we’re teaching them that soda is the drink for meals. But if we want our children to have a fighting chance at warding off diabetes, weight gain, and other health problems, that’s a lesson we need to change.

That’s why CSPI supports legislation introduced today by Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau and David Grosso. Children’s meals at restaurants should come with healthy beverages—not sugary sodas. Several of the biggest restaurant chains already have stopped bundling soda with kids’ meals, but 74 percent of the top 50 chains haven’t. Of course, nothing in the legislation prevents parents from ordering whatever drink they want for their kids. But many parents will be relieved when they can dine out in DC without soda being pushed on their youngsters as the default drink.

Improving the nutritional quality of restaurant children’s meals is a growing trend. A dozen communities have passed healthier kids’ meals policies, and California is poised to become the first state to do so. Even the beverage industry is working with restaurants to offer healthier default beverages with children’s meals. The most important thing we can do to improve kids’ meals is to relegate soda to the rarest of occasions.