Children ‘eating extra meal a day in calories’, says health watchdog

Public Health England calls on food industry to cut portion sizes in bid to tackle obesity crisis

An overweight man eating junk food
(Image credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Britons are being urged “to go on a diet” as research reveals that many of the UK’s children are eating up to 500 calories more than the recommended daily amount - the equivalent of an extra meal.

Public Health England (PHE) is calling on the food industry to cut portion sizes and promote healthier foods, as part of a government drive to reduce calorie consumption by 20% by 2024.

The health watchdog warns that obesity is becoming “the norm” and wants everyone to get into the habit of counting calories to limit their consumption, the Daily Mail reports.

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PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: “Britain needs to go on a diet. The simple truth is, on average, we need to eat less.

“Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it’s why so many are overweight or obese.

“Industry can help families by finding innovative ways to lower the calories in the food we all enjoy.”

The drive “is not an attack on overweight folk”, insisted Selbie, adding: “It is about getting more options and extending knowledge and more choices.”

The 20% calorie reduction target will apply to 13 different food groups that together account for about a fifth of children’s calorie intake, the BBC reports. It comes on top of the sugar reduction programme, launched last year, which targets nine different food groups, and the sugar drinks levy, coming into force next month.

PHE is also encouraging people to follow a “rule of thumb” of eating 400 calories for breakfast, and 600 each for lunch and dinner, says Sky News. Fast-food chains including McDonald’s, Subway and Greggs have signed up to the “400-600-600” plan and agreed to “signpost” customers towards lower-calorie options.

Experts advise women to eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, while men should limit their intake to 2,500. It is estimated that the average adult currently consumes between 200 and 300 calories more than they need each day.

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