KFC UK & Ireland has pledged to remove 20% of calories per serving from its menu by 2025, in a move that has been welcomed as industry-leading by health bosses.

The restaurant chain said it planned to roll out “exciting changes” to its menu in the next few months, including more healthy and vegetarian options.

It also plans to provide price incentives as part of trials to try to get consumers to switch to healthier sides, alternatives to fries and low or zero-calorie drinks, saying it hoped to “nudge” consumers towards lighter choices.

By 2020, KFC said it would have introduced a range of lunch and dinner dishes under 600 calories, in line with calls from Public Health England.

The move comes with PHE calling on the food and drink industry to cut 20% of calories from a raft of products, including pizza, ready meals and sandwiches, by 2024.

It is also considering launching a specific programme to ensure out-of-home operators take part. There has been widespread criticism at the lack of uptake on previous moves on sugar, and concern over the lack of measurement of smaller takeaways and chicken shops.

KFC general manager for UK & Ireland Paula MacKenzie said it had a responsibility as an industry leader to take the initiative.

“Our programme will not only provide our customers with an amazing, tasty range of healthier lunch and dinner dishes, but we’ll also be helping find ways to support them to make the lighter choice,” she said.

“Everyone in the food and drink industry, from fast food to traditional restaurants, is being scrutinised for the nutritional content of their meals. As an industry leader and world famous brand, we know that we bear a responsibility to help move the sector forwards.”

PHE chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone said: “Eating out is a big part of our lives, so it is encouraging to see KFC’s leadership in this space.

“We hope this announcement will encourage other eating out of home companies to commit to, and make significant reductions in calories to help us all consume healthier products when eating out.”