Out To Lunch – questioning the quality of Children’s meals

We don’t tend to go out to eat with the kids all that often. They prefer running around and squealing to sitting down and eating, well – unless it’s ice cream on offer!

If we do go out, I like it to be to somewhere that I know offers a healthy choice of kids meals, at a reasonable price, that’ll be served quickly enough to keep their attention.

Unfortunately, that’s often a bit of a tall order. Which is why we don’t tend to go out much!

One of the places we do like to go is Wagamama. They do ‘noodle snakes’, accompanied by chicken, peppers, sweetcorn and the like which is not only a lot healthier than the usual chicken nuggets and chips, but also arrives a lot more quickly and is eaten just as fast – and the kids love watching it be cooked too! As an added bonus, they get as much free babyccino as they can drink as well; keeping them happy, and helping me (and my wallet!) to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Bubby D enjoys being a lady who lunches, at Wagamama
Bubby D enjoys being a lady who lunches, at Wagamama

But that experience is certainly not the norm in my experience, when it comes to children’s dining.

So I was very interested to see that the Soil Association, in partnership with Organix (one of the kids favourite snack brands!) have launched an Out To Lunch league table. They’ve had a look at 21 of the most popular high street pubs and restaurants serving children’s food, and dissected what’s on the menu.

Here’s what they found:

  • 12 out of the 21 restaurants and pubs have children’s menus dominated by nuggets, burgers and sausages
  • Eight out of 21 chains don’t include vegetables or salad in the majority of their children’s main meals
  • 10 don’t include a portion of fruit in any of their children’s puddings
  • Only 11 out of 21 chains were willing to tell us if their food was freshly cooked and where it comes from. Of the 11, only 4 were making and cooking the majority of their children’s food in the kitchen: Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama, Carluccios and Café Rouge
  • Only one chain (Jamie’s Italian) could reliably tell parents where its meat came from
  • Only 1 offers children’s cutlery as standard
  • No restaurants have signage welcoming breastfeeding on their premises
  • Only 2chains offer a children’s drinks menu free from added sugar and sweeteners

No surprise to see our favourite Wagamama on there, with a fairly sparkly halo around their heads!

But otherwise, the results are somewhat disappointing. And that’s why the Out To Lunch campaign is calling on pubs, restaurants and cafes serving childrens meals to stick to the following great criteria:

  1.   Offer all young diners the choice of a children’s portion of adult meals
  2.   Serve freshly prepared food, not ready meals
  3.   Offer free water to families on arrival
  4.   Offer children’s cutlery as standard
  5.   Make breastfeeding mums feel welcome

I think this is a great campaign, and we’ll certainly be taking along one of their Family Campaign Packs which includes a review slip to fill out and leave on the table, next time we do brave the great restaurant unknown with the kids!

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