Gordon Tokumatsu, Sergio LeLevier
LA-based dietician Alicia Calvo says an effort to ban large servings of soda and other sugery drinks in New York City could help people struggling with weight loss control their portion sizes. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on May 31, 2012.
Super-sized, sugary drinks could be a thing of the past if New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ordinance to limit their size to 16 ounces is approved.
The move is catching the attention of city leaders and health experts across the country, including on the West Coast.
If passed, no eatery in New York, from restaurants to theaters, sports venues to street carts, will be able to serve sugary drinks over 16 ounces in a serving.
"I think that could be a very positive thing," Alicia Calvo, Torrance-based registered dietician.
Dietitians said they've seen the effect large, sweet drinks have on clients struggling with obesity.
"By putting an ordinance on an amount, it could help the public by limiting their portion sizes," Calvo said.
But the proposal raises a significant question: can you legislate behavior?
Kris Turk filled up his cup three times with sweet tea refills within about ten minutes, while waiting for his lunch Thursday at Yaki's Teriyaki Bowl.
"If it's smaller, you're just gonna get up to get more," said his girlfriend, Natali Nikolich.
"They can't ban the refills," Turk said.
In most places, customers can choose from three sizes of cups: 21, 32 and 44 ounces. Under the Bloomberg rule, the smallest one is already five ounces too large.
"I would have to, of course, get smaller cups," said Harry Duenas of Yaki's Teriyaki Bowl. "Maybe not include the ice."
But if diners can order two drinks or go back for refills, what can a per-serving limit accomplish?
A lot, according to proponents.
The government has stepped in before to force motorcyclists to wear helmets or warn smokers of the health risks, Calvo said.
Studies note that while people still smoke and sometimes ride without helmets, they know the consequences.
Calvo said the battle against obesity has to begin with education.