Burger King Finally Kicks Soda off Its Kids’ Menu

The home of the Whopper becomes the last of the three big burger chains to stop hawking soft drinks to kids.

(Photo: Burger King)

Mar 10, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

You could be forgiven for missing the news that Burger King has dropped soda from its kids’ meals—the company didn’t issue so much as a press release about it.

Maybe that’s because the fast-food giant isn’t exactly blazing a trail here. It’s the last of the big three burger chains to make the move. In 2013, McDonald’s announced it would phase out soda as part of its Happy Meals by this year, while Wendy’s removed soda as an option for its children’s menus in January.

Instead of soda, kids can wash down their BK chicken nuggets with their choice of fat-free milk, apple juice, or low-fat chocolate milk. While soda has been exiled from the kids’ menu board at company-owned stores, it’ll be up to individual franchisees to decide whether to follow suit. (Of course, parents can still go ahead and order soda for their kids if they want to; the sugary drinks just won’t be listed as an official option.)

The change “will help children eat better now, as soda is the leading source of calories in children’s diets,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in a statement. “It also 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.”

Indeed, the public advocacy group has been campaigning for the past several years to pressure restaurant chains to stop plying kids with soda. CSPI cites what it calls a “preponderance of scientific evidence” that shows drinking sugary beverages promotes weight gain, including a 2001 study that found just one extra soft drink per day increased a child’s chance of becoming obese by 60 percent. Sugar-sweetened drinks, which include soda (at the top of the list), sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas, and fruit drinks, account for almost half the added sugars in the average American diet—and too much added sugar has increasingly alarmed nutritionists and other health experts.

As you might expect, Burger King doesn’t appear too eager to tout the health benefits that might be associated with kids drinking less sugar, which might get their parents to rethink the whole classic burger-fries-soda combo for themselves. Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, issued a carefully calibrated statement via email to USA Today, calling the decision to finally drop soda from the chain’s kids’ meals “part of our ongoing effort to offer our guests options that match lifestyle needs.”

While the chocolate milk option “delivers wholesome sweetness and is packed with calcium,” according to BK’s website, an eight-ounce serving of it also contains 25 grams of sugar—just a gram less than the same amount of Coke.