- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2015

Applebee’s and IHOP have yanked soft drinks from their children’s menus nationwide with the aim of encouraging parents to consider alternatives while dining out.

DineEquity, the California-based corporation that owns both restaurant chains, hopes that families will weigh healthier options amid reports that a third of all children in the country are obese or overweight.

“We believe in having a broad variety of selections so our guests have a choice that best meets their needs. While soft drinks are still available by request, we believe this is a small step in assisting parents when dining out, as parents are in the best position to determine the appropriate food and beverage choices for their children,” DineEquity said in a statement.

In place of soft drinks, children’s menus at either eatery will soon offer other beverages including milk and juice, the company said.

Jessica Almy, a nutrition policy counsel for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, hailed the decision as an effort to curtail health issues that are increasingly affecting America’s youth.

“Soda and other sugar drinks promote diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and even heart disease, and a kids’ menu is no place for disease-promoting drinks,” she said in a statement. “Kudos to Applebee’s for taking this important step to promote children’s health. Other sit-down chains such as Chili’s should follow Applebee’s lead.”

Roughly one in three children are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association, a statistic that surged threefold between 1971 and 2011, largely as a result of unhealthy eating habits. Previously, fast-food chains McDonald’s and Wendy’s both elected to stop advertising soda with their children’s meals as well.

IHOP and Applebee’s have more than 3,000 locations worldwide, and their merger in 2007 made DineEquity the world’s largest full-service restaurant company.

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