Out To Lunch Campaign. Picture; Soil Association

Best and worst kids’ menus at restaurant chains

Soil Association and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall reveal shocking statistics

A new league table ranking children’s food in 25 of the UK’s most popular restaurant chains was published on World Obesity Day (October 11), by the Soil Association’s Out to Lunch campaign.

Several chains have improved their menus since the last survey two years ago, but the Soil Association, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and 80 secret diner families, has uncovered continuing widespread poor practice.

The survey highlights revealed:

  • Jamie’s Italian came top, with Burger King last. Wetherspoons and Beefeater were in the top five.
  • Oversized children’s puddings: one dish at Hungry Horse included 78g of sugar, more than 400 per cent of a child’s daily sugar allowance.
  • Meals included additives linked to hyperactivity (E133 Brilliant Blue FCF), some made from insects (E120 cochineal), and MSG (monosodium glutamate).
  • Poor support for British farmers, with restaurants serving potatoes from Egypt, apples from Canada, and a side salad containing ingredients from 32 countries, including Madagascar, Russia, Malaysia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Turkey, India and Peru.

Despite the horror stories, the table shows that children’s food on the high street has improved since the campaign launched in 2013. There are now 13 chains now serving a portion of veg or salad with every meal (up from six in 2013) and 12 chains that include organic ingredients (up from four in 2013).

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with the Out to Lunch team, from left, Hattie Shepherd, Joanna Lewis and Rob Percival. Picture; Soil Association
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with the Out to Lunch team, from left, Hattie Shepherd, Joanna Lewis and Rob Percival. Picture; Soil Association

Rob Percival from the Soil Association said: “There is still a national scandal unfolding in plain sight: 75 per cent 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.”

This year Out to Lunch joined forces with TV chef and campaigner, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who is filming a new BBC One series on obesity. Fearnley-Whittingstall and Out to Lunch urged chains to offer puddings and drinks in a healthier portion size and to include calorie information on the menu.

In response, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays have committed to discontinuing free refills of sugary drinks by March 2018 and to include calorie information on the children’s menu. Harvester, Café Rouge and TGI Fridays pledged to offer puddings in a healthier portion size by March 2018.

The campaign also discovered:

  • The most calorific pudding is Harvester’s Chocolate Cookie Pizza, which contains 721kcal – almost 50 per cent of a seven-year-old’s daily calorie requirement. In response to the campaign, Harvester has said it will reformulate the pudding.
  • Although not advertised on the children’s menu, free refills of sugary drinks are still available to children at Frankie & Benny’s and Nando’s.
  • At Carluccio’s and Zizzi, parents have to pay extra to include a portion of veg with some children’s main meals.
  • Jamie’s Italian, Wahaca and Nando’s are the only chains serving 100 per cent British meat.

    The Out to Lunch campaign is calling on all high street restaurants, pubs and cafés to take seven simple steps to improve the service and food they offer children:

  • Serve two portions of veg with every child’s meal
  • Ensure children’s puddings are an appropriate portion size
  • Make water freely available and stop promoting sugary drinks to children
  • Offer children’s portions of adult dishes
  • Offer quality ingredients such as free-range and organic on the children’s menu
  • Provide children’s cutlery as standard
  • Make breastfeeding mums feel welcome

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “I’m delighted that two chains have risen to our challenge and gone some way to stop selling children ‘bottomless’ fizzy drinks – which of course amounts to ‘all the sugar you can eat’, and some chains have also reduced the shocking amount of calories that are often found in puddings.”

Jamie Oliver said: “The Out to Lunch award means a lot to us because we put so much effort into making our kids’ food balanced and delicious. All our meals for children contain at least two of their five-a-day, and nothing artificial.”

An interactive league table featuring a profile of each chain can be viewed at www.soilassociation.org/outtolunch.

David Domoney Seed Range for Mr Fothergill’s

Love Your Garden presenter’s seed range for novice gardeners

David Domoney
David Domoney at the launch. Picture; Mr. Fothergill’s

Seedsmen Mr. Fothergill’s has teamed up with the celebrity gardener to develop David Domoney’s Get Growing seed range for 2018, with 56 of the most popular vegetable varieties, plus 10 easy-to-use seed mats and tapes for easy sowing.

Varieties include Lettuce Little Gem, Beetroot Solist, Carrot Nantes 5, Dwarf Bean Ferrari and Climbing Bean Cobra.

Though aimed at new gardeners, both novice and experienced growers will benefit from the tried and tested range. Each packet offers simple, jargon-free Continue reading “David Domoney Seed Range for Mr Fothergill’s”

TV preview – The British Garden: Life And Death On Your Lawn

BBC Four, Tuesday, July 11, 9pm-10.30pm

Chris Packham
Chris Packham stars in BBC Four’s The British Garden: Life and Death on Your Lawn. Picture; BBC Pictures

Are you convinced your garden is good for native flora and fauna?

In this 90-minute BBC film, naturalist Chris Packham and a team of experts spend a year exploring eight gardens on a suburban street to answer a vital question: how good for wildlife is the great British garden?
Beneath the groomed borders they reveal a beautiful and brutal world that’s far wilder than you might think.

Through all four seasons, Chris examines the secret lives of the gardens’ smallest residents, finding male crickets that bribe females with food during sex, colour-changing spiders that help them catch prey, and life-and-death battles in the compost heap.

There is also a different side to more familiar garden residents, showing that a robin’s red breast is actually war paint, and a single litter of foxes can have up to five different fathers.

In Spring, Chris witnesses a boiling ball of frogs in a once-in-a-year mating frenzy.

By the end of the year, with the help of a team from London’s Natural History Museum, as well as top naturalists, Chris reveals the sheer variety of wildlife living in the back gardens of just one street, and how good for wildlife our gardens really are.

RHS Hampton: Danny Clarke’s 3-hour challenge for Honda

Live gardening challenge for ‘The Black Gardener’

Danny Clarke
Danny Clarke – three hours to create a vertical garden live at RHS Hampton

Talk about putting yourself under pressure – Danny Clarke, aka ‘The Black Gardener’ has a live challenge today (Tuesday, July 4) at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – creating a nine square metre vertical installation with 616 plants in less than three hours.

Danny’s brief is to create a design based on his interpretation of Honda’s ‘Engineering for Life’ philosophy at the Honda stand at 11.30am, with a strict cut-off time of 2.30pm. Continue reading “RHS Hampton: Danny Clarke’s 3-hour challenge for Honda”

Chris Packham: be tolerant towards slugs

Springwatch presenter’s Radio Times magazine interview

Chris Packham
Chris Packham – looking at the bigger picture ecologically

This may not go down too well with lovers of hostas and strawberries, but TV presenter Chris Packham has urged gardeners to “put yourself in the mind of the slug” and become tolerant towards the creatures.

The Springwatch host urged people to stop killing the garden pests in an interview in this week’s Radio Times magazine. “The slug’s been offered a free banquet. You have to expect it to eat it.

He said: “The slug’s been offered a free banquet. You have to expect it to eat it. If you’re planting a row of lettuces, you’re planting a free supermarket for molluscs. Continue reading “Chris Packham: be tolerant towards slugs”

Hampton Court: Kitchen Garden Live with The Hairy Bikers

Si King and Dave Myers broadcast live each morning on BBC One

RHS Kitchen Garden
RHS Kitchen Garden at Hampton Court, home of Kitchen Garden Live with The Hairy Bikers

There are not just plants on offer at this week’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen is broadcasting a spin-off series live with the Hairy Bikers, from Monday, July 3-Friday, July 7 at 11am.

Si King and Dave Myers will be broadcasting from the RHS Kitchen Garden, which aims to promote innovative, cost-efficient ways of growing fresh food at home. Continue reading “Hampton Court: Kitchen Garden Live with The Hairy Bikers”