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No Legislation Required for Choosing Your Own (Calorie Controlled) Diet-itude in 2019?

Monday, January 21, 2019



It is only boxing day and as I update and overwrite this article penned earlier in January 2018 the headline with legislative intent ‘Calorie Cap for Ready Meals and Restaurants’ has appeared on the front page of the Daily Telegraph. No doubt slimming organisations, celebrity chefs, tv and screen stars, the web, social media, and advertisers will shortly be advising us, the consumer, how to best manage and shed those festive excess calories.

It is generally acknowledged that the UK is now experiencing obesity/overweight levels of epidemic proportion affecting two-thirds of the adult population with the average adult perhaps consuming an additional 200-300 calories a day above requirement. The health and wealth costs are astronomical with potential life-threatening conditions including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancers contributing to a direct economic fall out to the NHS, attributable to the projected obesity rise, of around £10 billion and a further £49.9 billion economic fallout on wider society and business.

Fueling Obesity

The 2017, ‘Size Matters’, report by RSPH and Slimming World highlighted the impact of ‘upselling’ on weight gain across all sectors of the food and drink industry with increasing portion sizes contributing on average to an additional consumer spend of 17% and consumption adding on average 55% more calories.

Emma Forbes’s, director for the prevention of obesity and diabetes at the UK Department of Health, suggested in 2017 that the obesity problem was, “more than about sugar”, and that it was, “time for governments and related bodies to engage with the food industry on the role played by calories and fat in the diet”.

NHS Health Scotland’s 2017 ‘rapid evidence review’ on: “The impact of promotions on high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) food and drink on consumer purchasing and consumption behaviour and the effectiveness of retail environment interventions” concluded:

Regulation that is led by Government is likely to be most effective in creating a level playing field for retailers.

More recently on the 21st of December 2018 BBC News Highlighted Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s top doctor and ‘self-styled nanny’ accusing the food industry of "failing the public" and calling for taxes on unhealthy food high in sugar and salt.

A Scottish Government consultation, launched December 2018, is underway on Good Food Nation Proposals for Legislation seeking individual and industry stakeholder views on the means to achieve outcomes sought including through legislation.

The 2018 Boxing Day article in the ‘Telegraph’ highlights draft proposals by Public Health England (PHE) for an imposition of calorie limits on thousands of foods in supermarkets and restaurants:

  • Ready meals
  • Sandwiches
  • Portions of vegetables

The PHE drawn up plans suggest a 554-calorie limit for any convenience meal with sandwiches and main meal salads capped at 550 calories and a 951-calorie limit for restaurant main courses and varying limits for other foods dependent on where consumed!  This fits neatly with an earlier 2018 PHE Childhood Obesity report advising that adults should limit lunches and dinners to 600 calories and 400 calories for breakfast to keep within the 2000 female / 2500 male calorie recommendations.

It was ever thus with government and obesity (the elephant in the room) continues to lurk ominously in the background! However, and regardless of pending legislation there is still a positive attitude that can prevail such as ‘Personal Responsibility’.

Diet, Choice and a Positive Attitudinal Approach

My January 2018 article suggested more regulative assaults on food and drink were likely both in the retail and food service industry and further suggested that it was now time for consumers and retailers to take more personal responsibility in accepting that there is an obesity epidemic, that they are contributing to, take more personal responsibility in adopting, adapting and educating themselves and others about healthier food and exercise and in doing so choose a PositiveDiet_itude for life? In the eyes of government that time has passed!

The Daily Telegraph article suggests that PHE/Government knows best and will impose legislation. That may cause resentment and confusion however both jointly and individually the food industry and its employees can still take personal responsibility in three key lifestyle areas:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep

These are three key components required in maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle. However, are we willing to change our lifestyles, and do we truly understand the meaning of diet or is it something that follows ‘Christmas and New Year over indulging’?


The Oxford Dictionary cites Diet as: “Ones habitual food; prescribed course of food, restrict oneself to special food, especially to control one’s weight”. Diet is more than post-Christmas and New Year detox and offers several options but for most would be a mixture of ‘Ones habitual food’ and ‘prescribed course of food’.

The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure. In adopting a positive attitude to a ‘balanced dietary lifestyle’ it will be important to ensure a diet light in calories, sugar, fat and salt (inclusive of alcoholic intake), interspersed with regular exercise and a regular sleep pattern.  

Choice of diet needn’t be too difficult and once factored in for:

  • lifestyle, cost, allergens, vegetarianism/veganism, culture, food likes, and dislikes etc.

it will be important to create a food plan that embraces healthy nutritious food constructed around small to medium portion sizing.


Managing exercise around and within our lifestyles can be challenging but by taking a positive attitude can be achieved. Harvard Medical School provide a solution in the form of a table listing calories burned across many categorized activities and exercise such as the gym, swimming, golf, home repair and many others. The evidence-based guide can be accessed at:


Sleep management is a much-undervalued tool in the fight against obesity. A Kings College London survey, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2017 suggests, “Sleep deprivation may result in people consuming more calories during the following day” and found that sleep-deprived people consumed an average of 385 kcals per day extra, the equivalent of about four and a half slices of bread.

Reading up on this report may have some consequential uses in the planning of a fitter and healthier lifestyle.

Calories and their Management

Many businesses, individuals and organisations within the food and hospitality industry have their own views on obesity and subsequent calorie reduction and management however one thing is certain ‘they have failed to convince government’ and legislation appears to be imminent.

With several new smart recipe nutrition technology businesses operating, there is a wealth of choice that can provide industry with tailor-made and bespoke solutions to managing and analysing calories in their everyday operations. One such being Kafoodle Ltd who can offer both individual and personalised nutrition and allergen support across the Business and Industry Cost Sector of catering including staff restaurants, hospitals and care homes.


Legislation is looming, don’t get caught short, get ahead of the curve and if in doubt get in touch with smart technology recipe and nutrition companies such as Kafoodle Ltd who can support the ‘management of change in a calorie led legislative New Year in 2019.

Ray Lorimer MPhil, BA (Hons), ARSPH


About the author

Ray Lorimer is a food consultant specialising in healthier food and diet. Recent experience hasseen him working on the reduction of salt, fat and sugar in foods for Unilever and consultingand advising on half fat and reduced salt in the dairy industry and advising on digital recipedevelopment software for Somerset Larder at Hinkley Point. Ray is currently advising Kafoodle Ltd, a smart recipe nutrition communication software business on the challenges and opportunities of healthier food and diet.

For further information contact or by mobile on 07789928730

Twitter: @RayLorimer1

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