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”

Win The Jam Maker’s Garden book

new gardening cookbook review and competition

The Jam Maker's Garden
The Jam Maker’s Garden by Holly Farrell

Ever grown a crop of fruit or veg and it’s done so well you end up with a glut and haven’t got a clue how to use or preserve it?

Well, this new book, The Jam Maker’s Garden – Grow Your Own Seasonal Preserves could be the answer – and you can win one in this week’s competition.

Written by Holly Farrell with pictures by Jason Ingram and published by Frances Lincoln, this is NOT a book to keep on the shelf – you’ll need it to hand in the kitchen when you bring your crops indoors and decide what to do with them.

As well as a useful beginners’ section on what equipment you’ll need to make jams, jellies, chutneys, ketchup, curds, etc, the Continue reading “Win The Jam Maker’s Garden book”

Veg and fruit stars from Dobies

Veg from seeds plus chilli plants

Carrot Oxenheart
Carrot Oxenheart from the Rob Smith Heritage Range. Picture; Dobies

Cut your fruit and veg bills this summer by growing your own and Dobies has some cracking ideas for those with and without gardens.

From the firm’s spring catalogue comes the Good Life Range, come these three top veg choices – two which can be still grown from seed and chilli plants, ideal for a patio, sunny windowsill or under glass up north.

Carrot Oxenheart: From Rob Smiths’ excellent Heritage  Range. A snub-nosed, old French variety you certainly won’t see in the shops. It will grow well in containers or shallow soil, unlike most standard carrot varieties. Sweet and tender, Oxenheart is a quick grower and an excellent keeper. Code: 434119, price £2.50 per seed packet.
Continue reading “Veg and fruit stars from Dobies”

Rude veg competition

Van Meuwen’s saucy contest has a serious message

rude carrot winner
The winner… from Mrs. D Brand, of Weston-super-Mare

Oh, matron! Following the success of its Vulgar Veg competition last year, Van Meuwen is again giving growers the chance to enter its ‘veg patch misfits’ into a contest to find the UK’s naughtiest-shaped produce.

There’s a prize of £500 worth of Van Meuwen vouchers to the grower of the winner.

Last year, Van Meuwen relaunched chilli pepper Chilli Willy, which caused a sensation at the Garden Press Event. Hidden for the sake of decency behind a pair of red boxer shorts, this old variety gave those who dared to lift the covering quite a shock! Continue reading “Rude veg competition”

Vegetable shortages – eat seasonally!

Cut veg air miles and eat our own growers’ winter produce

Monster last Cavili courgette of the year

While I’m not missing courgettes and lettuce in February, it appears shortages of imported vegetables from Spain and Italy due to bad weather are causing consternation among the chattering classes.

I’m all for DT Brown’s advice to rely more on seasonal produce and stored home-grown vegetables – give me Continue reading “Vegetable shortages – eat seasonally!”