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Vitale, Ruiz Legislation to Provide Healthier Restaurant Meals to Children Advances

Trenton – In an effort to encourage healthier eating habits in children, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Joseph Vitale and M. Teresa Ruiz that would set health standards for kid’s meals in restaurants.


“In the last 30 years, the obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled, to the point that today about a third of children nationwide are considered to be overweight or obese,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee. “It is imperative we do all that we can to ensure our children have healthy food options when eating out. This bill will encourage healthier eating habits in children, helping them to live long, healthy lives.”


The bill, S-529/521, would require children’s meals in restaurants to meet certain nutritional standards and to be served with a healthy default beverage. Restaurants would also be required to list the nutritional content of the meal.


“On average, children in America consume 19 percent of their daily calories at restaurants, and oftentimes, soda or juice cocktails are common drink selections,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “While eating out or getting takeout can be a convenient option for working parents, it does not have to be an unhealthy one. By offering water and drinks without added sugar as the default choice, we can make it easier for families to make healthy choices.”


Under the bill, a children’s meal must include a whole grain product, a lean protein or a low fat dairy product. The default drink for children’s meals would have to be either water, sparkling water, or flavored water, flavored or unflavored nonfat or one percent milk or a non-dairy milk alternative, or one hundred percent fruit or vegetable juice which may be combined with water or carbonated water. A restaurant would be permitted to offer another beverage as a replacement to the default beverage included with the children’s meal.


The bill was released from committee by vote of 5-2.