Concerned about significant increases in obesity, Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and heart and liver disease, the Hawaii Legislature this year passed a bill to counter the unhealthy trend.

That bill becomes law on New Year’s Day, and it requires restaurants that serve meals to children make the menu’s default beverage a healthy one rather than a sweetened sugary drink.

Milk cartons sitting in the Aina Pono cooler.
Servings of low-fat milk will be considered a default beverage choice in children’s meals in Hawaii restaurants beginning Jan. 1. Kuʻu Kauanoe/Civil Beat

The default options include water, sparkling water or flavored water, but with no “added sugar, or syrup, or other natural or artificial sweeteners,” according to the bill.

What’s allowed includes low-fat dairy milk and 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Restaurants are still permitted to offer alternatives to the default beverage if requested by customers who purchase children’s meals.

The state Department of Health, the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association were in support of the legislation.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association and American Beverage Association suggested clarifying language.

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