Restaurants Don't Need To Ban Soda, Parents Need To Learn How To Say 'No'

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
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IHOP and Applebee’s recently announced they would be doing away with soda as a beverage option on their kid’s menus. The news is being met with cheers from some parents, but it’s hard to grasp why a restaurant thinks it needs to step in and help parents make dietary choices for their children. Can’t parents just say no?

DineEquity, the group that owns Applebee’s and IHOP, gave a statement to ABC News explaining their decision to remove soda as a menu choice for kids. “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.”

Exactly. Parents are in the best position to make those choices for their children. That’s why it’s strange that of everything DineEquity could do to help parents make dining out with kids more pleasant this is what they chose. It’s a little insulting, isn’t it? As though a parent is not in charge of their children enough to tell them they can’t have soda, even if it is on the menu.

Blogger Sally Kuzemchak says she appreciates it because it’s one less “no” to tell her kids. From Parents, Kuzemchak explains, “I understand why they’re asking: ads, in-store displays, commercials, and culture all tell them to want it. And despite what some parents say, many children will keep asking even if the answer is no. If you have a child who magically stops asking after one “no”, good for you. Marketers know that most kids don’t, which is why they even have a term for it: “Pester Power”. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one less thing to say no to?”

We can all appreciate that to an extent, but the fact is, our kids should learn early on to make good decisions with their diets. Might it be easier and more convenient for a parent if soda isn’t even a choice? Probably. But we need chances to teach our kids to make solid decisions and use those skills as they become adults. To learn how to be healthy and what to say no to.

The thing is, if there’s no “bad” option, how will they know what’s good? Let’s be real. Soda isn’t going away anytime soon. They should understand what it is and that there are many healthier options they can choose from instead.We can’t censor every menu for the rest of their lives, so why not show them now how even if it is a choice, they should pick something healthier? Not to mention, if a child is old enough to even read the word “Coke” on a menu, they’re likely old enough to understand the explanation for why their parents don’t want them ordering it.

Also, the kid’s menus in both restaurants still include juice and chocolate milk, which each have plenty of sugar. Soda is obviously worse as far as nutritional value goes, but tons of parents are as firm in their refusal to feed their kids juice as they are with soda. And for some families, a dinner out is the one time a month their children are allowed a small Sprite. Going out to eat often means treats. Why not teach a child that once in a while, a soda won’t kill them?

It’s easy to see why parents might want soda off the kid’s menu but sheltering children from unhealthy dietary options won’t do them many favors. Leave the menu choices up to parents and let kids see what’s available. We don’t need companies shielding them from a little Coke now and then. We are more than capable of making those decisions on our own.

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