Wendy's has won praise from children's advocacy groups for its recent move to stop displaying soda on its children's menus.
Groups such as MomsRising.org, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Center for Science in the Public Interest have long urged Wendy's and other fast-food chains to take soda off the children's menu as part of a push to get the restaurants to offer more nutritional meal options.
Last fall, Wendy's decided to make the change, the chain's spokesman confirmed in an email. The menu boards both in stores and online now show only low-fat white or chocolate milk, bottled water and 100 percent juice drinks, said spokesman Bob Bertini, who added that soda was never the default drink choice for the meal.
The groups calling for the changes argue that soda is not an appropriate beverage choice for children, citing “reputational” health problems and risks that sugary drinks cause like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay.
"While parents bear most of the responsibility for feeding their children well, restaurant chains also need to do their part," Jessica Almy, CSPI senior nutrition policy counsel, said in a statement. "Restaurants should not be setting parents up for a fight by bundling soda with meal options designed for kids.”
Almay added that Wendy's move is a “responsible step” that aims to improve the health of children and for parents to make healthier food choices for them. She hopes other food-chains including Burger King, Applebee's and IHOP will follow suit.
In 2013, McDonald's agreed to drop soda from its Happy Meal menus. That policy goes into effect this year. The moves by Wendy’s and McDonald's leaves Burger King as the only one of the top three fast-food chain to still include soda in meals for children, according to CSPI.
The groups said that next step Wendy's should take is to offer more nutritious menu options for both children and adults. This, they said, should include whole grain rolls, fruits and vegetables, and also reducing sodium across the menus. Frostys, the fast-food chain’s signature frozen dessert that is made from Grade A milk and rich cream, should also be dropped from the children's menu, the groups said.
Bertini signaled more changes could come, saying Wendy's does "intend to continue working to enhance our Kids’ Meal offerings to provide even more nutritious, great-tasting products that children enjoy and that parents feel good about serving."