Lightfoot trying to save Chicago youngsters from kids’ meal soda pop

Lightfoot trying to save Chicago youngsters from kids’ meal soda pop

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to require Chicago restaurants to first offer a selection of government-approved healthy drink options for kids’ meals. Restaurants would be barred from advertising sugary beverage options.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a new city ordinance Dec. 15 that would prohibit Chicago restaurants from serving sugary drinks as the “default beverage” with kids’ meals.

Lightfoot said the measure stems from concerns that young Chicagoans are “reflexively being given really high-caloric, very high sugary drinks” like soda pop that contribute to growing rates of childhood obesity.

“What we want is to give kids healthy things: water, milk, juice,” she said. She denied the ordinance was an effort to create a nanny state. The mayor clarified that parents would still be able to request sugary drinks for their children.

However, every drink “listed or displayed on a restaurant menu or in-store advertisement for children’s meals” would have to be among the government-approved “default” beverages, according to the ordinance. City inspectors would be making sure of it.

Lightfoot has decided the “default” beverages on kids’ meals should be:

  • Nonfat or 1% dairy milk containing “no more than 130 calories per container or serving offered for sale.”
  • Water, sparkling water or flavored water with “no added natural or artificial sweeteners.”
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice, juice combined with water, or carbonated water with no added sweeteners in a serving size of no more than 8 ounces.
  • “Nondairy milk alternatives” that meet National School Lunch Program standards, contain “no added natural or artificial sweeteners,” and have “no more than 130 calories per container or serving for sale.”

Lightfoot said the ordinance “is the right thing to do” following state reports of increasing childhood obesity rates among young Illinoisans. Health experts attribute the growth in obesity rates to behaviors learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the parents decide they want something different, that’s their prerogative to be able to do that,” Lightfoot said. “Everybody knows we’ve got serious issues with childhood obesity.”

But whether government should be telling restaurants and parents what the “right thing” is, remains a question.

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