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The portion sizes of some of England’s popular foods are to be cut, with health officials telling the public, “It’s time to go on a diet.” Foods that are being targeted are: pizzas; ready meals; takeaways; and processed meat – the aim is to cut calorie consumption by 20% by 2024.

In total, 13 different food groups will be targeted, which are said to responsible for one-fifth of the calorie intake of children.


The calorie plan

  • £6bn is the cost of obesity per year to the NHS, with 13 different food groups being targeted
  • One-fifth of calories come from these food groups
  • 20% reduction proposed by 2024
  • 35,000 deaths may be prevented by calorie reduction


FitPro’s resident dietitian, Linia Patel, commented in response to the latest news, “At the moment, it is all too easy (and often better value for money) for us to eat and drink too much. Researchers found that increased portion sizes, packaging, and the size of the plate leads to people choosing larger amounts of food and eating more. So, for some people, that old saying, ‘You have eyes bigger than your belly’ does ring true. Individuals eat what they are given, not what they need.”

Patel continues, “There is also more and more evidence showing that actions that reduce the size, availability, and appeal of large servings can make a difference to the amounts people eat and drink. Given the rapidly increasing obesity rates, the Government has a responsibility to try and make it easier to make healthy choices. So, the new Public Health England (PHE) approach is a move in the right direction; however, it’s important to remember that addressing obesity requires a multi-faceted approach.”

A quarter of food is now said to be purchased from cafes, restaurants, takeaways or ‘food-to-go’ shops. If action is not taken, PHE said it would be prepared to ask the Government to legislate. PHE chief executive, Duncan Selbie, said the steps were as much to influence children’s diets as well as adults. Selbie told the BBC, “Britain needs to go on a diet; children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it’s why so many of us are overweight or obese.”

 Hidden calories

Linia Patel makes clear the importance of being aware of portion sizes for ALL foods – too much or too little of any type of food can increase our risk of health problems. This is because the body may be getting too much or too little of what it needs to stay healthy.

So what are we referring to when we think of ‘hidden calories’?

“Hidden calories tend to come from foods that are high in refined carbohydrate and fat. This is because these foods don’t fill you up as much, so it’s easy to overeat these foods. People also need to be aware of liquid calories, which are easy to consume but don’t really satisfy us – because we still think we need something solid. Focus on eating whole foods that are unprocessed and nutrient dense, rather than counting calories.”


To sum up what needs to be done, Patel concludes, “Tackling obesity is everyone’s responsibility: the Government; food manufacturers, and individuals. So, strategies need to be implemented at different levels in different settings.”


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