NEW YORK — Sorry, kids — now you'll have to ask for that Coke. New York City restaurants will likely be banned from offering kids sugary drinks under legislation the City Council approved Thursday.
The bill restricts the beverages that eateries can offer with children's meals to water, juice and low- or non-fat milk. Restaurants could still give kids soda or another drink if they ask for one, but those that get caught offering heavily sweetened sippables could be fined up to $200.
"Healthy drinks with kid's meals will be the new normal in New York City no matter where they are eating," Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the bill, said in a statement. "While parents can still order whatever they want the default will be healthy."
Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has said it supports the measure, which marks an effort to curb obesity among kids.
Sugary beverages are the biggest contributor of added sugar in American adults' and children's diets, and an 8-year-old would have to walk between City Hall and Times Square to burn off a 12-ounce soda, according to testimony from the New York Academy of Medicine.
While it requires that healthy drinks be the default option for kids, the bill allows for some variety. Water can be sparkling or flavored, juice can be made from fruit or vegetables, and milk can be flavored or unflavored, the legislation says.
Changing default menu options has been shown to nudge consumers toward healthier choices. The number of McDonald's Happy Meals sold with milk, juice or water has risen 14 percentage points since the company removed soda from U.S. kids' menu boards in 2013, the company testified in February.
Then-Councilman Leroy Comrie first introduced legislation to set nutritional standards for kids' meals in 2011. The beverage bill got support from the American Beverage Association, a trade group for the nation's soft drink industry, when Council Speaker Corey Johnson got behind it last summer.
"This change will hopefully set a precedent for current parents and future generations to make better choices overall in the kinds of beverages they consume when they visit a fast food establishment," Johnson, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday.
But Jennifer L. Pomeranz, an assistant professor at New York University's College of Global Public Health, criticized the legislation last month for allowing 100-percent fruit juice and flavored milk, the latter of which she said contains "loads of added sugar."
"Only through an evidence-based definition of the healthy default beverage, can this bill actually help improve children's health," Pomeranz wrote in her testimony.