The calorie content of meals in UK restaurants is “excessive” and sit-down restaurants are unhealthier than fast-food chains, BMJ research suggests.
Health experts say meals should not exceed 600 calories, but in this
University of Liverpool researchers
The research team looked at more than 13,500 meals on the menus of 21 sit-down restaurants and six fast-food chains. By using online company information on calorie content, only one in 10 meals was classed as healthy or fewer than 600kcal, as recommended by Public Health England.And nearly half of the meals contained 1,000kcal or more.
Sit-down restaurants were five times more likely to offer high-calorie meals of 1,000kcal or more than fast-food restaurants, the research found.
Dr Eric Robinson, lead researcher from Liverpool’s department of psychological science, said the results were “shocking” but probably underestimated the calories consumed in restaurants. “We don’t know about energy intake but ‘plate clearing’ is a common behaviour.
Hungry Horse restaurants had the highest average meal calorie content of 1,358kcal.
Chains including Flaming Grill, Stone House
Even when the study compared similar meals, the energy content in restaurant meals was greater. Burger meals in restaurants contained an average of 414kcal more energy than burger meals in fast-food chains, while salad meals in restaurants had 142kcal more energy than fast food salads.
Dr Robinson said portion size, the ingredients used and cooking methods could explain the difference, but he said the food industry had to make changes. “It’s really clear what the food industry need to do. They need to act more responsibly and reduce the number of calories that they’re serving.”
Hungry Horse said it offered something for everyone at good value. A spokesperson for the chain said: “We have been working hard to increase the range of lower calorie options, including recently launching a dedicated Live Well range with dishes under 600 calories, and we are committed to further changes.”
The government is currently consulting on a plan to introduce mandatory labelling in restaurants, takeaways and cafes, which is likely to finish in the new year.
- Source: BBC Health News