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Kids’ menus in this state are getting a healthy upgrade

Taking the kiddos out for a meal? If you happen to live in Hawaii, you’re going to have a hard time finding soda and other sugary drinks on the kids’ menu. Beginning January 1, 2020, a new state law will require Hawaii restaurants to list healthier beverages on children’s menus. Both fast food and dine-in establishments will be made to provide zero-sugar drinks such as plain milk, nondairy milk, water, sparkling water or 100% fruit or vegetable juice as options on their kids’ menus. So what will happen to the soda options? If your child does want a sugary drink, you’ll have to specially request it.


Hawaii is the second state to pass this type of legislation, following in California’s footsteps. Jessica Yamauchi, Hawaii Public Health Institute executive director, believes offering healthier options in place of those that aren’t so healthy will make a difference — especially since the most popular children’s drinks in Hawaii are often juices loaded with sugar, such as fruit punch.

She said, “It’s trying to make the healthy choice the easy choice and also changing the social norms. The idea is that if a child is not presented with a sugary beverage option, they’ll learn.”

From now until the law goes into effect, the Hawaii Public Health Institute will focus on educating restaurants about the new policy. Yamauchi said many large fast food chains in Hawaii have already adopted the policy, so she doesn’t expect to see mush pushback.

It’s no secret that childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States — and it’s largely driven by sugar. The human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar. Fructose is a hepatotoxin metabolized directly into fat, which can cause a whole host of dangerous health problems. Most Americans consume about three times the amount of sugar the body can safely metabolize each day. The result? Liver damage, weight gain and obesity, metabolic dysfunction, high blood pressure and increased risk of other serious health issues, such as heart disease, chronic disease development and even cancer.

There’s no doubt Hawaii’s new state law could make a positive difference, no matter how small.