No more fruit punch — kids’ menus at restaurants across Hawaii will be getting a healthy drink upgrade next year.

Starting Jan. 1, a new state law will require Hawaii restaurants that offer set children’s meals to list healthier beverages as default options. Gov. David Ige signed the law June 25.

That means fast-food and full-service dining establishments will have to automatically provide zero-sugar drinks, such as unflavored milk, nondairy milk, water, sparkling water or 100% fruit or vegetable juice to children.

Hawaii is the second state to pass this type of “Healthy by Default” legislation, following California.

If children — or their parents — want soda or sugary drinks, they will have to request them. But incorporating healthier options from the get-go will make a difference, said Hawaii Public Health Institute executive director Jessica Yamauchi, since the popular Hawaii favorites such as fruit punch, guava or passion orange juices are mostly sugar.

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

Many large fast food chains have already adopted this policy, so Yamauchi said she doesn’t expect to see much pushback. The Hawaii Public Health Institute will focus on educating restaurants about the new policy before Act 138 takes effect next year.

Drinks with high sugar content are associated with long-term problems including type 2 diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.

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