The calorie content of popular main meals served in UK and international restaurant chains is excessive and only a minority meet public health recommendations.
Research from the University of Liverpool published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ analysed the calories in 13,500 main meals from 27 large UK restaurant chains (21 full-service, six fast-food).
They found an average of 751 kcal in main meal dishes served by fast food chains, and 1033 kcal in dishes served by full service restaurant chains.
England’s national public health agency recently recommended that midday and evening meals contain no more than 600 calories (kcal) each. But while the poor nutritional content of ‘fast food’ has been well studied, the energy content of traditional ‘full service’ restaurants has received less attention.
Only a small minority of meals met the 600 kcal public health recommendations, with 89% of full service dishes and 83% of fast food dishes over this limit.
Dr Eric Robinson, who led the research said: “Only one in ten of the meals we surveyed could be considered a healthy number of calories. Although some of the results are shocking our findings probably underestimate the number of calories consumed in restaurants because our analysis did not include drinks, starters, desserts or side orders.
“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.”