Survey makes it clear: parents think there are a lack of healthy options on kids’ menus.
A recent survey commissioned by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease, finds that voters in New York City overwhelmingly support making children’s menus in restaurants healthier.
According to a citywide survey of 601 registered voters from across the five boroughs, New Yorkers express nearly universal support (94 percent) for making the food and beverage options on children’s menus healthier. It’s hard to get New Yorkers to agree on much, but NYC voters are strongly in favor (87 percent) of making healthy drinks like water and low-fat milk the default drink option on children’s menus. Additionally, nearly 9 out of 10 people surveyed say they are in favor of requiring restaurants to provide healthy options.
New York parents want what’s best for their kids. They say that if a restaurant offers healthy options on the menu, they would be more likely to take a child there. They also agree that childhood obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of healthy options are major problems for children in the New York City area. In fact, 89 percent say childhood obesity is a problem; 81 percent say poor nutrition is a problem; and 75 percent say lack of healthy options is a problem.
“In my work as a pediatric nutritionist, many parents report their struggles of trying to provide healthy food and drinks for their kids and the battles that ensue because kids want sugary drinks,” said Pam Bonney, MS, RD, CDN, New York City Advocacy Committee member, American Heart Association, and co-founder of Tried and True Nutrition. “This poll confirms: New Yorkers want to see healthier options for kids. By providing healthier drinks with kids’ meals, restaurants can play a role in supporting children’s health. Communities, families, and businesses should work together to give all New Yorkers the opportunity to be healthy.”
One in three American kids and teens are living at an unhealthy weight, which is nearly triple the rate in the 1960s. More teens are starting to develop adult onset diabetes than ever before. Research indicates that sugary drinks contribute to increasing rates of heart disease and diabetes in children, teens and adults. Children who consume higher amounts of drinks with added sugar have a 55 percent greater chance of growing up at an unhealthy weight compared to those who consume fewer sugary drinks.
“It is recommended that children over the age of two have no more than one 8-ounce sugary drink a week,” says John Rausch, MD, MPH, spokesperson for the American Heart Association and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center. “Yet, children today are consuming as much as ten times that amount. Restaurants can help reverse these trends by making healthy drinks like nonfat milk and water the default option on children’s menus. Surveys like the one commissioned by the American Heart Association are proof that New Yorkers want healthier options for their children.”
Improving the nutritional quality of restaurant children’s meals can help improve diet quality and cultivate lifelong healthy eating behaviors, which can help children grow up at a healthy weight. According to a 2016 analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health, 34 percent of parents purchased a soda or other sugary drink with their child’s kids’ meal at four common fast-food restaurants. Soda and other sugary drinks are the top source of added sugars in the American diet and account for nearly half of the added sugars consumed by Americans. Voluntary improvements by restaurants are slow, and most chain and independent restaurants continue to include sugary drinks on children’s menus.
For more information about healthy kids’ meals in New York City and to add your voice to the conversation, visit www.yourethecure.org/NYC.
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