top of page
  • Vicky Wilson

Calories on Menus

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

The NHS spends £6.1BN per annum tackling obesity issues and around £61.7M of this is on childhood obesity initiatives.

I welcome new initiatives to tackle the obesity crisis but feel displaying calories is a very blunt tool. The government’s own research into childhood obesity found that it is an overly complex issue and not solely as a result of more calories consumed and less exercise undertaken.

For most people eating out is a treat and displaying calories alone could cause confusion and worse still harm. Restaurant food is only a small proportion of what the nation eats and calories in isolation don’t tell the full story. For example, an average avocado contains 190 Kcal per 100g whereas a Mars bar contains around 233Kcal, but an avocado has more healthy fat and vitamin and minerals. Choosing meals on calories alone can be very unhealthy. Guidance on fat and sugar content could be more useful but again not in isolation.

I feel this will be hard for restaurants to provide accurately and will reduce menu flexibility. It’s good that consumers can opt for the menus without calories on. Menus would be better to show where the food is sourced, if it is organic, local, and free from pesticides and additives. It would be more helpful to have guidance available for those who want to make healthy choices.

There has been concern raised by BEAT, the eating disorder charity that this can worsen bulimia, anorexia and disordered eating and may even encourage people to eat more unhealthily.

“Requiring calorie counts on menus risks causing great distress for people suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders, since evidence shows that calorie labelling exacerbates eating disorders of all kinds.” BEAT

In the US, this practice is widespread and research by NYU Langone in New York City where restaurant calorie labelling has been in place since 2008 found that 5-6 years after labelling started consumers of fast food were not altering their food choices due to calorie counts. Other studies noted that some consumers were just choosing 2 smaller dishes resulting in a higher spend.

A previous £75M ‘Change4life’ social media campaign in the UK has ‘had little impact on attitudes and behaviour’ according to a 2012 study. People need to be more informed about macro and micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Government money could be better spent on educating kids especially teenagers on how to choose and prepare a healthy meal. Children in deprived areas are twice as like to be obese than those from less deprived areas (13% v 6.4%). The government needs to support these families.

Vicky Wilson

Registered Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist

©April 2022

31 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page