The venue came joint bottom in a survey ranking the UK’s top attractions on the nutritional value of food and drink served to children, in a report from the Soil Association.
The charity sent “an army” of secret diners to the UK’s most popular visitor sites. It found attractions “are using promotional deals to push unhealthy junk food on families”.
The report said the junk food available at some places was more expensive than high quality food available elsewhere.
The prevalence of unhealthy options meant just 5 per cent of parents said they believe children’s food at popular attractions is good enough, the research team said.
At Legoland, the report noted the “all inclusive” entrance ticket provides children with refillable fizzy drinks throughout the day and lunch at one of two restaurants, both of which offer burgers, fried chicken and chips. Neither provide children with any veg, even though veg is offered on the adult menu.
Rob Percival, coordinator of the Soil Association’s Out to Lunch campaign, said: “It’s unacceptable that popular attractions are denying children healthy choices. The attractions at the top of the league table are showing that healthy and high-quality food can be fun and affordable. The attractions at the bottom are not giving families the opportunity to enjoy a balanced meal.”
He added: “Some of the food on offer is simply junk. Legoland should be renamed ‘Deep Fried Crap Land’.”
A spokesperson for Legoland told The Independent: “At the Legoland Windsor Resort we offer our guests a variety of high quality food choices. We recognise the importance of offering healthy eating options, along with the fun treats that you would expect to enjoy during a visit to a theme park.”
They added: “The survey does not reflect the healthy options we have available across the wider resort, including our most popular family restaurant; City Walk Pizza Pasta, where we offer a salad bar alongside our freshly made pizzas or Knight’s Table where we serve vegetable sides with our grilled chicken. In our family restaurants, all of our children’s meals include a portion of fruit and a choice of water, milk or a juice drink.
“We are committed to providing healthy options for our guests and when we reopen for our 2019 season, we will be enhancing our children’s meals with a vegetable or salad option in each restaurant.”
The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh topped the league table for best children’s food. The gardens serve seasonal and organic produce from their own market garden alongside ingredients sourced locally and from within Scotland, including all the meat, with meals freshly prepared on site. All meat is farm assured and fish is MSC certified, the Soil Association said.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, placed fourth after the Eden Project in Cornwall and Chester Zoo. The menu includes two portions of vegetables with every child and adult meal.
The chef said: “The point of River Cottage’s collaboration with Whipsnade is to show that food that’s a treat for the whole family can still be healthy, vibrant and bursting with veg. Our kids’ menu ensures that our young diners get at least two portions of fresh veg included in their meal – that’s really important to us. Of course, we don’t see it as ‘job done’. We’re devising new dishes all the time and hope to make our menu even healthier and even veggier!”
Legoland was the worst offender in England, but it shares the overall lowest ranking with Glasgow’s Kelingrove Art Gallery and Museum – one of Scotland’s most visited venues.
Several other attractions have made improvements since the same survey was done in 2016. The British Museum has climbed 10 places, after introducing more vegetables and salad to children’s meals, and the Natural History Museum has climbed 9 places having scored in last position in 2016. The Museum introduced a portion of veg with every child’s meal and made information about ingredient provenance and animal welfare available on the menu.