Adding calorie information to menus and next to food in restaurants, coffee shops and cafeterias, could reduce calorie intake by around 8% per meal.
Given that the latest figures from government show that two-thirds of us are overweight or obese, this is not an insignificant number.
Continually eating too many calories leads to weight gain and increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and several cancers, which together are the leading causes of poor health and premature death in the UK.
Clear calorie labelling
Until now several published studies looking at whether putting nutritional labels on food and non-alcoholic drinks has an impact on what people buy have had mixed results. The Cochrane review, published today, has collated the information of these studies in a systematic review, recognised as the gold-standard for high-quality trusted information.
Which? has long campaigned for calorie and nutrition labelling in catering outlets so that people can make informed choices about the food they eat. It is well recognised by nutritionists and dietitians that people under estimate the number of calories in food and the amount they eat.
Sue Davies, Which? food policy expert says: ‘This research highlights the value of calorie information and why it is so important that it is provided more widely for people when eating out.
‘In a recent Which? survey*, 63% of people agreed that calorie information should be provided on the food in cafes and restaurants for transparency.’
Find out more about how Which? is helping all consumers have access to safe, affordable, nutritious and good quality food that enables healthy lifestyles and informed choices.
Make calorie labelling compulsory?
Professor Theresa Marteau, lead author of the study said ‘Our review suggests there is now sufficient evidence to require food businesses on the high street to display calories clearly and prominently at the point where people make decisions about what to buy.
‘Businesses are already required by law to hold this information and may provide it on their websites, but the evidence now suggests that displaying calories clearly and legibly on menus, or adjacent to food and drinks being sold, encourages people to purchase [food with] fewer calories.’
In the US, calorie labelling has been made a requirement for chain restaurants. Do you think we should do the same here? Join our calorie labelling conversation.
Three ways to calorie count when eating out
Professor Marteau says: ‘There is no magic bullet to solve the obesity problem, so while calorie labelling may help, other measures to reduce calorie intake are also needed.’
Shefalee Loth, Which? nutritionist, has these three tips to watch your weight when eating out:
- Avoid cream-topped and flavoured coffees as the syrups can contain a lot of sugar.
- Skip mayonnaise-based dressings in salads and ask for the dressing on the side so you can decide how much you want to add.
- Swap cream and cheese based sauces in pasta and curries for tomato based ones.
*Which online survey, between 12 and 17 January 2018, of 1,003 UK adults.