Why calorie counts on menus could actually be worse for our health

According to the NHS calorie checker, a Big Mac burger from McDonald’s is 508 calories, but a jacket potato with cheese and a side salad from Sainsbury’s Cafe is 625 calories.

Prof Flint said menus displaying the high fat, salt and sugar content of food would be more beneficial in helping people make the right choices, and calorie counts alone “are not a silver bullet” to tackle obesity.

Almost a third (28 per cent) of the adult population in England is obese, and more than a third (36 per cent) are overweight, according to a 2019 NHS survey.

It is estimated that overweight and obesity-related conditions cost the NHS £6.1 billion each year.

Calorie labels on menus, which forms part of the Government’s wider efforts to fight obesity, have been introduced to help consumers make more informed, healthier choices when eating out or ordering takeaways.

But Henry Dimbleby, the leader of the Government’s National Food Strategy, said the new strategy will have little effect on diners’ habits.

Learning to ‘manage your appetite’ is more beneficial

Speaking to The Telegraph, he said teaching people to “manage your appetite” would be more beneficial than calorie counting.

“The problem that is going wrong… is the junk food cycle, which is the interaction between our evolved appetites and commercial incentives of companies, and highly calorific food low in fibre. We eat more of it before we get full, we seek it out,” he said.

“Actually, if you are someone who is lucky enough to have the genes [where] you struggle with your weight, focusing on what you eat, and the quality of what you eat, as well as the calories is important.”

Mr Dimbleby proposed new taxes on sugar and salt as part of his National Food Strategy to encourage manufacturers to lower the levels in their products.

Ministers have said the changes will give people more information to make “informed decisions when choosing what to eat when they’re out”.

Maggie Throup, the public health minister, said small businesses also need to “play their part”.

“While these new laws don’t apply to them, I want to encourage them to adopt calorie labeling so their customers can also make decisions which benefit them and their loved ones,” she told The Telegraph.

“Whether people are enjoying a pasty, eating a sandwich, or having a meal out with friends and family, knowing how many calories they’re eating can help them have more ways to look after their health.”

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