Some takeaways contain more calories than daily limit, UK study finds | Obesity

Some takeaway meals contain more calories in one sitting than is recommended in a whole day, a study into British eating habits has revealed.

Cafes, fast food outlets, restaurants, bakeries, pubs and supermarkets are fueling the obesity crisis in the UK because many of the foods they sell contain dangerously high amounts of calories, it found.

Six out of 10 takeaway meals contain more than the maximum of 600 calories that the government recommends respecting at lunch and dinner to avoid gaining weight, according to research carried out by the social innovation agency Nesta.

One in three contains at least 1,200 calories, double the recommended limit.

Since 2018, the government has recommended that people consume no more than 400 calories at breakfast, 600 more at lunch and again in the evening, and that women and men consume no more than 2,000 and 2,500 calories respectively during a 24-hour period, with the rest in snacks.

However, a pizza with fries contains more than any of the daily maximums: a whopping 3,142 calories. A pizza typically has between 2,000 and 2,400 calories, while a hamburger, chicken nuggets, topping and soda weigh in at a significant 1,658 calories, Nesta found. Fish and chips, that increasingly popular staple of the British diet, also goes well over the 600 calorie limit at 1,425 calories.

“Our analysis shows that people buy takeaway meals that contain more calories than the recommended amount for the entire day. This should raise alarm bells among policymakers,” said Lauren Bowes Byatt, deputy director of Nesta’s health team.

Calories in takeaway meals – chart

It is estimated that Britons spend £21.4 billion a year on fast food and takeaways. The market is growing rapidly as consumers increasingly opt for convenience over home-cooked food, often placing orders online or by phone. Three out of five people eat takeaway at least once a week and 11% daily.

The calorie-laden nature of so many takeaways has sparked claims that the establishments represent the irresponsible “wild west” of the British consumer environment.

“For too long, the out-of-home sector has been the ‘Wild West’ of the food industry due to its lack of consistency and transparency when it comes to the number of unnecessary calories (not to mention salt and sugar) added. to meals,” said Sonia Pombo, nutritionist and campaign leader for Action on Salt.

“Unlike retailers who are legally required to declare nutritional information on the package, out-of-home consumption generally appears to have little regard for public health. “It is therefore imperative that the next government takes decisive action and enforces calorie, salt and sugar reduction targets to create a level playing field and a more sustainable food environment in the long term.”

While takeaway pizzas are, on average, the most caloric product studied by Nesta, sandwiches and wraps contribute more calories to total food intake because many more are sold (1.2 billion a year) compared to just over 200 million pizzas.

Nesta analyzed what foods 5,800 people in England, Scotland and Wales bought between April and December 2021 alongside other data from the University of Cambridge and consumer groups Kantar and NIQ Brandbank.

Found that:

  • Supermarket meal deals, which typically include a sandwich, snack and drink, contain an average of 780 calories, more than the recommended 600.

  • Burgers are the most popular takeaway in England, Scotland and Wales, followed by chips or wedges.

  • People consume an average of 300 calories a day in takeaway food and drink.

  • Non-alcoholic beverages, especially coffee and carbonated soft drinks, provide 12% of all calories consumed by people in places away from home.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, which represents venues such as pubs and hotels, said: “Hospitality offers everything from a healthy lunch to a celebratory treat on a special occasion. The sector strives to offer a wide range of options for customers to choose from, including increasingly healthier options through new menu items, reducing portion sizes and adapting the dishes themselves.”

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets and large takeaway franchises, said many stores were helping consumers eat healthier.

“Responsible on-the-go retailers are making progress by helping customers make healthier choices in the foods they buy through better calorie labeling, product reformulation and portion control. “More is needed to tackle obesity and this will require government action.”

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