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Bill would require restaurants to offer kids 'healthy' drinks first

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A study published Monday in the journal Circulation found an association between people who consume sugary drinks and an increased risk of death. Buzz60, Buzz60

When it comes to kids drinking soda in Delaware, parents should make them lay off the white stuff. And public restaurants will help them do it.

That’s the gist of a bill that recently passed the state House and Senateand requires all restaurants to offer a healthy beverage as the first option in any kids meals.

That means no more washing down Happy Meals with soda. At least not as a first option. Parents will have the option to substitute sugar-laden drinks if the eatery offers them.

Here is what many restaurants can offer as first choice:

Water.Sparkling water or flavored water without added sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.Flavored or unflavored whole milk.Nonfat or low fat dairy milk, or a dairy substitute.One hundred percent fruit or vegetable juice, or a combination of the two. Fruit or vegetable juice combined with water or carbonated water without added sugars or sweeteners.

What is different about Delaware’s push for healthier beverages is that it is not a money grab, such as in places like Philadelphia where a soda beverage tax was levied. Profits there were supposed to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program. 

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“At the doctor’s office they show you how much sugar is in juice, which is a lot, but then these places still sell it," said Nish Brown, 27, of Wilmington. "Why even sell it?"

During the recent heat wave, Brown watched carefully as two of her children ran through a spray park at Helen Chambers Playground in Wilmington’s West Center City neighborhood.

She has eight children, and for her 13- and 12-year-olds, she lets them drink soda when they go out to eat at restaurants. The new bill won't make her stop doing that.

“It’s less of a hassle,” she said. “I try to get them to drink water, but they don’t like it, or it has to be ice cold when they drink it, but if they see juice or soda, they want to drink that, so I let them,” she said.

“For my younger ones, I watch what they drink and I limit how much juice they can have, but as they get older, I think they can decide what they want to drink. When they are really young, they can’t have all that juice because they are still growing.”

Ashley Stokes, 28, of Wilmington, said she doesn’t see the change altering much.

“They already offer juice or milk when you go get a kids meal now,” she said. “Sometimes, I let my son get soda, he likes ginger ale — I won’t stop."

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Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, (D) District 17, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover. (Photo: Gary Emeigh/Special to The News Journal)

Stokes questioned if the new law would give restaurants an excuse to raise the price.

“Everything that’s healthy cost more. If you’re on a budget you can’t do it all the time,” she said. “I’m in the middle, I guess. If all you drink and eat is healthy stuff, soon they will tell you that your calcium is too high, or your vitamin levels are too high. It’s not an everyday thing, but kids do want sweet stuff sometimes.”

Research has shown that cutting back on sugary drinks for teens and children can help fight childhood obesity. Research also shows that long term avoidance of sugary drinks is good for maintaining healthy body weight.

Studies point to a correlation between the decrease in hunger with a decrease in consuming sugary beverages. And although beverage brands offer artificial sweeteners as a healthy option there is no data to show that consuming them has positive effects on health.

Representative Franklin D. Cooke (D) District 16, on Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Richard G. Collins, (R) District 41, on Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Ronald E. Gray, (R) District 38, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Stephen Smyk, (R) District 20, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, (D) District 17, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Richard G. Collins, (R) District 41, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Shannon Morris, (R) Dist. 30, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Quinton Johnson, (D) Dist. 8, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Shannon Morris, (R) Dist. 30, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Franklin D. Cooke, (D) Dist. 16, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. John A. Kowalko, (D) Dist. 25, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Richard. G. Collins, (R) District 41, on Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. John. L. Mitchell, (D) District 13, House Majority Whip, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Sean M. Lynn, (D) District 31, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Bryan W. Shupe, (R) District 36, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Gerald L. Brady, (D) District 4, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Kevin S. Hensley, (R) District 9, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Lawmakers at work Sunday during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover. Visitors to Legislative Hall watching action on the floor of the house from the balcony.

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Rep. William J. Carson, (D) District 28, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Michael F. Smith, (R) District 22, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Timothy D. Dukes, (R) District 40, House Minority Whip, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Jeffrey N. Spiegelman, (R) District 11, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Ronald E. Gray, (R) District 38, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Ruth Briggs King, (R) District 37, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Charles S. Postles Jr., (R) District 33, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Kendra Johnson, (D) Dist. 5, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. John J. Viola, (D) Dist. 26, Delaware lawmakers on the final day of 2019 session

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Rep. Kevin S. Hensley, (R) District 9, at work on Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the final hours of legislative session.

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Rep. Shannon Morris, (R) District 30, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Quentin Johnson, (D) Dist. 8, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Michael Ramone, (R) Dist. 21, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Representatives Quinton Johnson, (D) Dist 8, and Sherry Dorsey Walker, (D) District 3, reviewing notes Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Peter C. Schwarzkopf, (D) Dist. 14, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Daniel B. Short, (R) Dist. 39, House Minority Leader, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. John. L. Mitchell, (D) District 13, House Majority Whip, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, (D) District 17, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. David Bentz, (D) Dist. 18, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Representatives Quinton Johnson, (D) Dist. 8, and Sherry Dorsey Walker, (D) Dist. 3, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Paul S. Baumbach, (D) Dist. 23, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Peter C. Schwarzkopf, (D) Dist. 14, Speaker of the House, at work Sunday, June 30, 2019, during the last hours of the session at Legislative Hall in Dover.

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Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, was the bill’s primary sponsor.  She sees data linking the consumption of sugary beverages and a litany of health issues as the driving force why change is needed.

“With the current rising rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, this generation’s life expectancy is being cut short and frankly they are not expected to outlive their parents," she said.

"We have to continually work to change these statistics,” she said. "Switching to healthier drinking options can influence healthy lifestyles for children and change this."

Do you have an interesting story to tell, contact Ira Porter at iporter@delawareonline.com.

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