Some takeaway meals contain more calories than the daily limit, a British study has found

Some takeaway meals contain more calories in one sitting than someone should consume in a whole day, a study into British eating habits has found.

Cafes, fast food outlets, restaurants, bakeries, pubs and supermarkets are fueling Britain’s obesity crisis because so many of the meals they sell contain dangerously high numbers of calories, it has emerged.

Six in ten takeaway meals contain more than The maximum of 600 calories that the government recommends people adhere to for lunch and dinner in order not to gain weight, according to the study conducted 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 should eat no more than 400 calories at breakfast, and 600 more at lunch and in the evening, with women and men consuming no more than 2,000 and 2,500 calories respectively in a 24-hour period. the rest in snacks.

However, a pizza with fries contains more than both daily maximum values: no less than 3,142 calories. A pizza typically contains between 2,000 and 2,400 calories, while a burger, chicken nuggets, side dish and soft drink weigh a whopping 1,658 calories, Nesta found. Fish and chips, the ever-popular staple of the British diet, is also well above the 600 limit at 1,425 calories.

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

Calories in takeaway food – chart

Britons spend an estimated £21.4 billion a year on fast food and takeaways. The market is growing rapidly as consumers increasingly opt for convenience over home-cooked dishes, often ordering online or by telephone. Three in five people eat takeaway food at least once a week and 11% eat it daily.

The high-calorie nature of so many takeaways has led to claims that the outlets represent the irresponsible ‘wild west’ of the British consumer environment.

“For far too long, the out-of-home sector has been the ‘wild west’ of the food industry, due to the lack of consistency and transparency when it comes to the number of unnecessary calories – not to mention salt and sugar – consumed by the food is added. meals,” says Sonia Pombo, nutritionist and campaign leader at Action on Salt.

“Unlike retailers who are legally required to include nutritional information on packaging, out-of-home in general 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 longer term.”

Although takeaway pizzas are, on average, the most calorific product Nesta surveyed, sandwiches and wraps contribute more calories to total food intake because so many more of them are sold – 1.2 billion per year – compared to just over 200 million pizzas.

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

It discovered that:

  • Meal offers in supermarkets – usually consisting of a sandwich, snack and drink – contain an average of 780 calories, more than the recommended 600.

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

  • People consume an average of 300 calories per day in takeaway food and drinks.

  • Non-alcoholic drinks, especially coffee and soft drinks, are responsible for 12% of all calories people consume outside the home.

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

Andrew Opie, food and sustainability director at the British Retail Consortium, which speaks for supermarkets and big takeaways, said many outlets are helping consumers eat healthier.

“Responsible retailers who sell food away from home are making progress in helping customers make healthier choices in the food they buy through better calorie labeling, product reformulation and portion control. More is needed to tackle obesity and this will require government action.”