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Food Chains Serving Sugary Desserts

Warm brownie with Ice cream on top on a wooden dish

Food chains are serving up largely high-calorie desserts on children’s menus, according to a new report.

The sugar, fat, and calorie contents of the food choices are all way above the recommended limits.

Super-sized sweet servings

A new report from the Soil Association has revealed that the leading restaurant and pub chains in the UK are still offering menus which are full of large desserts. They also highlighted concerns about unlimited refills on sugary drinks, which are also very unhealthy.sweet mini dessert pies in casesThe report complains that this undermines government efforts to tackle the obesity crisis, and that not enough is being done by chains who must take responsibility.

Chefs may well be familiar with the uncomfortable truth: we are still serving desserts to children which are far too sugary and calorific. Some of the examples found in the report are eye-popping – and it’s worth remembering that the vital stats of the meals are not listed on the menu.

Hungry Horse serves a popping candy wafer boat, for example, which contains 78g of sugar per serving. This is more 400% of the recommended daily allowance for a child. Harvester sells a Chocolate Cookie pizza which contains 721 calories, which is half of what a seven-year-old should be eating every day. The marshmallow, butterscotch, and chocolate-topped cookie is gone in one sitting, alongside an equally calorific main course.

Nando’s came under fire for the fact that some items on the children’s menu do not include a portion of vegetables, and their bottomless puddings along with unlimited drink refills increase the sugar content hugely.

Out to Lunch campaign

The report was released as part of the Out to Lunch campaign, a long-running cause for the Soil Association. This association is out to promote organic food and farming, and wants to investigate the food which is served to children in restaurants. They aim to increase the awareness amongst those in food jobs, and encourage a change right across the UK in terms of the way chains think about their young customers.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is this year’s champion of the cause, which calls on high street chains to ensure two portions of vegetables in each main course, small puddings, free water, and no more promotion of sugar drinks.

“Given that we’re in the midst of an obesity crisis, and that we’re eating out more than ever before, restaurant chains have to step up and take some responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their customers,” Fearnley-Whittingstall said. “It’s time to be clear with parents about what’s going into their children’s food, to stop pushing endless sugar and lazy combinations of refined carbs, and start promoting healthy veg.”

Jamie’s Italian is one of the top-scoring chains in the report, with the menu even containing one meal which gives all five portions of vegetables for the day. A close second was Wetherspoons, which has replaced all fizzy drinks with organic juice on the children’s menu.

A Nando’s spokesperson said: “We try to give parents and children as much choice as possible so that they can enoy our peri-peri chicken as part of a balanced diet. Our Nandinos menu is aimed at the under-10s and we provide a range of different meat, veggie and dessert options.”

The lowest-scoring chains may come as a surprise to some. While Burger King was right at the bottom, it is followed by Prezzo, TGI Fridays, KFC, Nando’s, Giraffe, and Frankie and Benny’s, amongst others. It’s clear that many chains are still dragging their feet on healthy changes, which will soon make them social pariahs with health food trends on the rise.