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Child menus serve up bad diet -- TV chef

RESTAURANTS offering special children's menus are helping to create a nation of unhealthy eaters, according to Antonio Carluccio.

The veteran Italian cook said children should be served the same food as adults when at home or eating out.

"I hate the idea that because you're a child you should have a portion of fishfingers. Food specially prepared for children? No. Children have to grow up eating everything. They might not appreciate everything but they will recognise what they like," he said.

"You see some parents in restaurants and it's, 'Give the children some chips'. Yes, chips are lovely so the children are eating them. But they are not positive for the body.

"Restaurants are for everybody and the earlier you start to appreciate normal food that grown-ups are eating, the better you will eat."

The Carluccio's chain that bears his name offers a children's menu but it only serves smaller portions of adult dishes on offer, such as spinach and ricotta ravioli. He sold his stake in the chain in 2005 but continues to work as a consultant.


The 75-year-old food writer and broadcaster said children were also being bombarded with junk food adverts on television.

In his latest television series, Two Greedy Italians on BBC Two, Carluccio and fellow chef Gennaro Contaldo visited an Italian school and were dismayed to find children there adopting the same unhealthy food habits as their Irish and British counterparts.

"Even in Italy, they have vending machines in school, which is gross. You become hooked on the sugar and fat and I think it is really an illness, a dependence," he said.

However, the chef is not an advocate of fat-free eating regimes such as the Dukan or Atkins diets. He has lost more than three stone since 2009, when he was divorced from his third wife, Priscilla, after 28 years of marriage.

Carluccio said he had followed the simplest diet imaginable.

He explained: "I did it by only eating half the portion. And this is probably the best diet one can have because it doesn't cost anything, it's just willpower."