Many of the UK’s biggest family restaurants are failing to offer healthy food choices to children and parents, a report claims.
The Soil Association says that some popular food chains still serve up junk food as ‘treats’ for youngsters, including chips, fizzy drinks and ‘eat as much as you like’ ice-cream.
None of the meals at the ten chains inspected came close to meeting new school dinner standards, and almost all of them favoured pre-prepared and frozen food over homemade options.
Cafe Rouge was named the worst offender, with a ‘complete absence’ of fruit and vegetables on its children’s menu.
Fat and sugar
None of the restaurants surveyed passed the researchers’ fat and sugar tests, and the average meal served at Nando’s, the second worst chain, contained eight teaspoons of added sugar.
The Soil Association’s Policy Director Peter Melchett said parents had a right to be given a healthier choice of food options in restaurants.
‘Sadly, our survey of children’s food in restaurants reveals that all the major providers of children’s meals are simply continuing their unhealthy business of serving up junk food to children.’
The report, carried out by organic food and farm group the Soil Association in partnership with food firm Organix, is based on a nutritionist’s analysis of 568 possible meal options for children sold across the 10 chains.
The restaurants were then ranked according to how their food compared to the government’s new minimum standards for school meals.
They were rated according to food and nutrient standards, information provision, policies on additives and whether ingredients were organic and locally sourced.
Responding to the report, Cafe Rouge said in a statement: ‘The menu chosen by the Soil Association is only one of the many options that we offer on our children’s menu.
‘In fact, Cafe Rouge provides a selection of six different children’s meals and half of these are healthy options that are freshly prepared.
‘Our menu is designed to provide our customers with a number of choices, allowing them to select a healthy option if required.
‘We welcome feedback on our menu from our customers as well as nutrition experts and keep our menu under constant review accordingly.’
The restaurant chains surveyed and marks given out of a maximum of 30 are as follows:
- TGI Fridays – 16
- Harvester – 15
- Beefeater – 15
- Pizza Hut – 14
- Brewers Fayre – 13
- Garfunkel’s – 12
- Hungry Horse – 12
- Little Chef – 11
- Nando’s – 10
- Cafe Rouge – 8