The calorie content of meals in UK restaurants is “excessive” and sit-down restaurants are unhealthier than fast-food chains, BMJ research has revealed.
According to health experts, meals should not exceed 600 calories, however in the BMJ study they averaged 1,033 in restaurants and 751 in fast-food chains.
The University of Liverpool study also found that just a minority of dishes meet public health recommendations, prompting researchers to call for the food industry to reduce the number of calories in food products sold to the general public and for mandatory labelling of all restaurant food.
To provide a better understanding to how restaurants are contributing to overconsumption, researchers compared the calorie content of popular meals from major fast food and full service restaurant chains across several countries.
In the study researchers, led by Dr. Eric Robinson from the University’s Department of Psychological Science, 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.
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, 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.”