“Britain needs to go on a diet”

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“Britain needs to go on a diet”

Public Health England announce plans to cut the nation's calorie intake as new evidence shows we eat 300 extra calories every day

Public Health England have announced new plans to tackle Britain’s growing obesity crisis, calling for action from the food industry while offering new healthy eating advice to the public. 

The plans are set out in their report, Calorie reduction, the scope and ambition for action, in light of their research showing that we typically eat an extra 300 calories on a daily basis, contributing to the obesity epidemic. Obesity and weight-related illness costs the NHS £6.1 billion every year and is a leading cause of ill health and premature death. 

The ideas in the plan aim to address both children’s and adults’ health and eating habits, acknowledging that foods eaten by children are typically eaten by families and that being overweight brings emotional and physical problems during childhood and adulthood. 

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive at PHE said "Britain needs to go on a diet… The simple truth is on average we need to eat less. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it's why so many are overweight or obese.”

The food industry to reduce calorie content of popular foods by 20%

The new plans from PHE ask the food industry to reduce the calorie content of foods by 20% over the next six years, and apply to both shop-bought foods as well as foods eaten in restaurants, cafes and takeaways. 

The 20% reduction target can be achieved by changing recipes or reducing portion sizes. Companies are also asked to encourage customers to choose lower calorie options.  The food categories include the foods which are eaten most often and make up a large part of our calorie intake, including bread, cooking sauces, processed meat, rice, pasta, ready meals, sandwiches and pizza.

PHE are due to release more specific guidelines for each food category in mid 2019. They come with the promise of regular transparent progress reports, indicating those who don’t comply could be named and shamed.  

If the targets are met, they will prevent an estimated 35, 000 premature deaths and save £9 billion in healthcare costs over 25 years.

The new reduction targets do not cover sugary foods, which are addressed separately in the sugar reduction programme with separate targets set last year to reduce children’s sugar intake. Together with the new soft drinks levy which comes into play this month, these targets form a broader approach to tackle the obesity crisis.

400, 600, 600: the new guide to a healthy calorie intake 

As part of its One You campaign which offers user-friendly information and ideas for healthy living, PHE have developed a new simple tip: aim for 400 calories at breakfast, 600 at lunch and 600 at dinner. The idea is to help people end the day within the recommended 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men, while still allowing for drinks and snacks. They haven’t changed the maximum amounts of calories to aim for each day.   

The One You guide includes an app for healthy meal ideas, a calorie counter, and examples of the lower calorie options available at popular high street cafes and restaurants. PHE aim to encourage people to be more aware of how much they are eating and make it easier to make healthier food choices, both while shopping and eating out. 

Earlier this year PHE launched a new Change 4 Life campaign offering healthy snack ideas to reduce the extra calories children take on with sugary snacks throughout the day. 

Prof Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Blood Pressure UK comments:We’re pleased to see that PHE are addressing the role of the food industry in the nation’s growing obesity crisis. Both food reformulation and clearer labelling on menus and packaging are a step in the right direction and definite progress after the disappointment of 2016’s childhood obesity plan. We urge them to legislate if companies fail to comply.

“PHE have based the calorie reduction target on the previous success of salt reduction in foods as a public health strategy, and it’s time they set new targets for salt reduction as well as calories. Salt is the single most important cause of high blood pressure and is as important as obesity in destroying our health.”   

Hemini Bharadia, Marketing Manager at Blood Pressure UK adds: “The plan acknowledges the role of the food industry and our modern lifestyles in making it difficult to control what we’re eating and our weight. If you’re struggling with your weight, take heart in knowing that even small changes help you to lose weight, and even a little weight loss will bring benefits to your health. 

“Use the FoodSwitch app to help you make healthier choices when you’re shopping and see our ideas for eating a healthy diet.

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