Restaurant chains Applebee's and IHOP are dumping soda from their children's menus nationwide.
"We believe this is a small step in assisting parents while dining out, as parents are in the best position to determine the appropriate food and beverage choices for their children," Craig Hoffman, a spokesman for DineEquity, the group that owns Applebee's and IHOP, told ABC News in a statement.
But the move doesn't mean kids won't have the chance to drink soda at all at the two chains; soft drinks will still be available for adults who request them for their children, according to the statement. Other kids' menu beverages such as milk, chocolate milk, hot chocolate and, beginning next spring, juice, will be featured in the IHOP's children's menu, Hoffman said. Similar options are available at Applebee's, he added.
"We believe in having a broad variety of selections so our guests have a choice that best meets their needs," the statement said.
Applebee's and IHOP are the latest to join a growing number of food chains axing soft drinks from the beverage options available for kids. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen have all made similar changes to their menus amid a push for food chains to provide healthier menu offerings. So have Chipotle, Panera and Subway.
Sugary drinks are associated with obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, among other public health concerns. A third of all children in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . In 2012, about 208,000 people younger than 20 years old were living with diabetes, a study from the institute shows. About 9 percent of all Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told ABC News Applebee's and IHOP are moving in the right direction. Portion sizes and an analysis of the whole menu should be next.
"This sends a message to parents and allows parents to make a healthier choice. It doesn't create habit, but it does send a message to parents," Benjamin said. "When you have...a menu that has healthier food options and beverages for kids, parents learn that that's a better option for kids than having a sugary beverage with their meal."