Public Health England’s (PHE) new guidelines for calorie intake at meal times have certainly sparked a big debate! But is calorie counting really the way forward for weight loss and general health?
According to Public Health England, Britain needs to go on a diet, in fact on average, adults are over consuming by as much as 200-300 calories per day. PHE claim that this overconsumption of calories is a primary driver behind the growing rates of obesity.
To tackle this massive public health issue, they have created the One You campaign which limits calorie consumption at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The aim is to help people become more aware of portion sizes following a 400:600:600 rule of thumb, with an aim to consume 400 calories for breakfast, and 600 calories each for lunch and dinner. This 1600 calorie diet leaves room for extra snacks and drinks.1
Some high street brands such as Greggs, McDonalds and Subway are also partnering with the campaign, signposting meals that meet the calorie recommendations.
PHE are also challenging the food industry to reduce calories in products consumed by families by 20% by 2024.2Many people have been shocked by the new guidelines with fitness experts pointing out that people have differing basal metabolic rates and activity levels, therefore a one-size-fits-all approach really does not work. However, with obesity rates at 27% in the UK and being the most obese nation in Western Europe, it's hard to deny that the country faces a crisis...
1. MAY HELP THE PUBLIC REDUCE PORTION SIZES
Up until now, there has not been any official guidance on energy intake for our three main meals of the day, these new guidelines may help us to stop and think about how much we're eating by becoming more portion and calorie aware at meal times.
2. EATING OUT COULD BE MADE EASIER
It is a positive that restaurants are becoming involved in the scheme as eating out is a likely source of over-consumption. A Cochrane review3 and meta-analysis found that people consistently consumed more food and drink when offered larger portion sizes. They also estimated that by eliminating larger-sized portions from the diet could completely reduce energy intake by up to 16% among UK adults.
3. IGNORES CERTAIN POPULATION GROUPS
Whilst these guidelines fit the average person, many individuals do not fit into this bracket.
1. IGNORES QUALITY OF FOOD
Counting calories disregards nutrient intake. For example, a pain au chocolat can be close to the recommended intake of calories for breakfast but it doesn't necessarily make it a nourishing choice.
People may become too focused on the calorie content of foods and could begin to ignore important factors such as salt, sugar and saturated fat content (do all calories have the same effect? No!)
2. CALORIE COUNTING CAN BE LABORIOUS AND MAY NOT BE SUSTAINABLE LONG-TERM
When cooking from scratch, are the general public equipped with enough knowledge to be able to calculate the calorie content of their meals? It can be difficult to work out the correct portion sizes, especially when different family members consume different amounts.
3. IGNORES CERTAIN POPULATION GROUPS
Whilst these guidelines fit the average person, many individuals do not fit into this bracket. Some people may find it difficult to consume a large meal of 600kcal at one sitting. For example, an elderly person may struggle to eat this much and would benefit much more from several, smaller meals.
BREAKFAST: SUPER GREEN SMOOTHIE BOWL (serves 1)
- 300-400ml PRESS Greenhouse 3 (kale, spinach, celery, romaine, cucumber, ginger, lemon)
- ½ avocado
- ½ mango
- 1½ tbsp chia seeds
- 1 handful spinach
- Blend all the ingredients and serve
- Pour into a bowl and decorate with toppings of your choice, we love pomegranate seeds, desiccated coconut and sliced kiwi
LUNCH: BEETROOT & AVOCADO GOODNESS BOWL (serves 1)
For the goodness bowl:
- 1 cup cooked brown rice (216kcal)
- ½ avocado (150kcal)
- 1 handful of spinach leaves (10kcal)
- 1 handful of cooked broccoli (31kcal)
- 2 tbsp edamame beans (50kcal)
- Pomegranate seeds (10kcal)
- Wedge of lemon to serve
For the beetroot and cannellini bean dip:
- 410g tin cannellini beans
- ½ packet cooked beetroot
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- zest of lemon
- Place the rest of the ingredients into a bowl and top with a dollop of beetroot dip
- Place all of the bean dip ingredients into a blender and blend
- Serve with a slice of lemon
DINNER: TUNA SWEET POTATO JACKET WITH CHIA & YOGHURT DRESSING (serves 2)
- 4 x small sweet potato
- 185g tuna, drained
- ½ red onion
- 1 small red chilli
- juice of 1 lime
- 6 tbsp Greek yoghurt
- handful of coriander leaves
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6. Prick the potatoes in several places and bake for 45 mins until soft
- Cut the potatoes open, spoon the tuna on top of each sweet potato and season with the sliced onion, chilli and squeeze over the lime juice
- Mix chia seeds in yoghurt and dollop on top of each potato
- Finally, scatter over the coriander leaves
NHS. (2018). Eating. URL: https://
www.nhs.uk/oneyou/eating - zVxv2XJ7HbkDDBkU.97 [March].
- Public Health England (2018). Calorie reduction: The scope and ambition for action. Protecting and Improving the Nation's Health. UK: Gov UK.
- Hollands, G. J., Shemilt, I., Marteau, T.M., Jebb, S. A., Lewis, H. B., Wei, Y.H., Higgins, J. P. T. & Ogilvie, D. (2015). Portion, package or tableware size for changing selection and consumption of food, alcohol and tobacco. COCHRANE DATABASE OF SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS, 2017 (9), CD011045.
Photo Credit: Brooke Lark
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