Research ranks best and worst children’s menus in 25 UK restaurant chains

11/10/2017 - 13:49
To coincide with World Obesity Day, the Soil Association has today (11 October) published a new league table ranking the best and worst children’s menus in 25 UK restaurant chains.

As part of its Out to Lunch campaign, the food and farming charity partnered with TV chef and campaigner, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, to assess children’s food on the high street and whether it has improved or not since launching in 2013.

Although there has been “notable improvement” – 13 chains now serving a portion of veg or salad with every meal and 12 that include organic ingredients – the campaign found that 66% of parents still don’t think “kids’ food in restaurants is good enough,” as a number of chains are yet to serve “fresh food or healthy choices.”

Relying on secret diner families, the results revealed:

  • Jamie’s Italian caters best for children, coming in at number one with a score of 75 out of 90, followed by Wetherspoon’s (65/90) and Strada (63/90)
  • Moving 16 places to 3rd position, Strada was the biggest climber
  • Burger King on the other hand came in last place with 22/90, just behind “family favourites” Prezzo (28/90) and TGI Friday’s (30/90)

With 40% of parents claiming to eat out with their kids at least once a fortnight, it has never been more important that high street restaurants recognise the importance of healthy eating and their role “in influencing what children think good food looks like.”

That said:

  • Restaurants are still serving oversized children’s puddings – the most calorific on the table is Harvester’s Chocolate Cookie Pizza TV, which contains almost 50% of a seven year old’s daily calorie requirement
  • At chains (including Carluccio’s and Zizzi,) parents have to pay extra to include a portion of veg with some children’s main meals
  • Free refills of sugary drinks continue to be available to children at Frankie & Benny’s and Nando’s
  • Children’s meals were found to include additives linked to hyperactivity, additives made from insects, and flavour-enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Chains could do more to support British farmers - Jamie’s Italian, Wahaca and Strada are the only ones that serve higher-welfare (organic or RSPCA) meat

Rob Percival from the Soil Association said: “Thanks to our secret diner families, Out to Lunch is transforming children’s food on the high street – many restaurants are now prioritising child health and investing in healthier and more creative meal options.

“But there is still a national scandal unfolding in plain sight: 75% of UK parents say they are worried by the portion size of children’s puddings when they eat out. We found that renegade chains are ignoring parent concerns by dishing up super-sized calorific junk, undermining national efforts to tackle childhood obesity.”

Since the study was undertaken, Pizza Hut and TGI Friday’s have “committed to discontinuing free refills of sugary drinks by March 2018,” and to include calorie information on children’s menus. Harvester, Café Rouge and TGI Fridays have also committed to offering puddings in “a healthier portion size” by the same time.

Determined to continue improving the service and food high street restaurants, pubs and cafés offer children, the Out to Lunch campaign is calling for:

  • Two portions of veg to be served with every child’s meal
  • Ensuring children’s puddings are an appropriate size
  • Making water freely available and to stop promoting sugary drinks to children
  • Making children’s portions of adult dishes
  • Offering quality ingredients on children’s menus
  • Providing children’s cutlery as standard
  • To make breast feeding mums feel welcome

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