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First Wendy’s, now Burger King drops soda pop from kids’ meals

What’s a kid got to do to get a Coke in this town? Well, avoid fast-food restaurants, for starters.

On the heels of a similar move from Wendy’s, Burger King has stopped listing soda as a drink option on its kids’ meal menus. The change represents “part of (the restaurant’s) ongoing efforts to offer guests options that match lifestyle needs,” said Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, to USA Today.

Boys and girls will now be encouraged to choose fat-free milk, 100 percent apple juice or low-fat chocolate milk to pair with their Jr. Whoppers and chicken nuggets, USA Today reported.

The shift away from soda began about a month ago in Burger King franchises, but reports on the change say pressure from parents and nutrition groups has been building for years.

U.S. News and World Report highlighted high-profile campaigns like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed in 2010, as key precursors to the fast food industry’s focus on encouraging healthier diets for children. Both programs emphasize that healthy habits in childhood can carry over into adulthood.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children over the last 30 years. In 2012, 18 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years were obese.

Margo Wootan, director nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told USA Today that sugary soft drinks can lead to weight gain in children one sip at a time.

“Soda is the leading source of calories in children’s diets,” Wootan said. Her organization, along with MomsRising.org, is a leading force behind a national effort to keep soda off kids’ menus.

The two groups issued a statement on Tuesday celebrating the Burger King news.

“Restaurant chains that market soda as part of their children’s meals are making life harder for parents, most of whom want to reserve soda as a special, occasional treat if they allow it at all,” the statement noted. “(Burger King’s decision)helps to set kids on a path toward healthier eating in the future, with fewer kids becoming conditioned to think that soda should be a part of every eating out occasion.”

Contact Kelsey Dallas at kdallas@deseretnews.com. Find her on Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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