Children’s menus at the UK’s leading restaurants and pub chains are “unhealthy and unimaginative”, with nuggets, burgers and pizzas dominating over fruit and vegetables, it has been claimed.
Charity the Soil Association and organic baby brand Organix, sent “secret diners” to 21 popular eateries to asses the choice of healthy options, the experience and the quality of food, as part of their Out to Lunch campaign.
Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama and the Wetherspoon pub chain were placed highest, while Burger King, KFC and Prezzo came bottom.
Jamie’s Italian was the only chain who could tell the diners where its meat came from – significant in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, the charity said.
They also found that 40% eat out as a family at least once a fortnight, despite 66% thinking that food provision for children in restaurants is not good enough.
Jamie Oliver said: “Since the first Jamie’s Italian opened, we’ve always kept things kid-friendly … so to come top of the table is a fantastic achievement, and more importantly, confirmation that we’re doing things right.
“We believe that the quality of the kids’ food should to be right up there on the same level as the main menu.”
A spokesman for Prezzo, said: “We are disappointed with the findings of the survey and believe it is not a true reflection of the children’s meals served at Prezzo.
“We have served almost 400,000 meals from our children’s menu in the past six months and the quality of these meals is very important to both ourselves and our guests.
“The children’s menu dishes are made in-house, and our bolognese sauce is made using our own recipe, using fully traceable British beef and fresh ingredients.”
Burger King, which came bottom of the table, said: “We are committed to offering a welcoming environment for families in our restaurants, and to providing parents with a range of options to allow them to make healthy choices for their children. This includes offering them apple fries, milk, water or juice in our kids’ meals.”
Head of policy at the Soil Association, Joanna Lewis, said: “Our investigation reveals that most high street restaurants are not even meeting the most basic standards families should expect when they eat out.
“Most are still churning out children’s menus dominated by the usual suspects – burgers, nuggets and pizzas – turning the table into a battlefield for any parents wanting their child to eat well.
“It is not simply a choice between turkey twizzlers and a superfood salad. Restaurants need to raise the bar and listen to parents who are saying they want fresh food not ready meals for their children – and the same kind of variety you would expect as an adult.”
The campaign is calling for all young diners to be routinely offered the choice of children’s portions of adult meals.
With additional source material from: The Independent; The Telegraph; The Guardian