Calories

Unhealthy high streets

Last week it was featured in the news, a report identifying the UK’s unhealthiest high streets.  High streets were ranked by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) according to the numbers of payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets.  There was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy high streets with Grimsby, Blackpool and Walsall topping the list in contrast to Edinburgh, Canterbury and Taunton which had the healthiest high streets.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of fast food outlets (FFOs) in the most deprived areas – but why is this an issue?  To start with, there is plenty of evidence backing the link between the frequency of visiting FFOs and health outcomes such as weight gain, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.1 A recent study added further weight to this evidence by finding an association between FFO exposure, fast food consumption and obesity.2  These associations are hardly surprising given that fast food tends to be energy-dense, high in salt and served in large portion sizes.

Despite the reputation though, we have all had fast foods in our time and as the old saying goes ‘everything in moderation!’ I was quoted in an article a couple of years ago suggesting ways to make healthier choices when ordering your favourite takeaway:

  • Switching creamy curries to tomato-based dishes such as tandoori and madras
  • Opt for steamed dishes rather than fried foods
  • Choose diet/sugar free soft drinks instead of regular ones

 

Public Health England also announced in March 2018 a challenge for the whole food industry to reduce calories in foods (most commonly eaten by children) by 20% by 2024.  The introduction of the sugar levy has resulted in widespread reformulation amongst high profile soft drinks manufacturers resulting in commercially successful lower-sugar options.

The government is currently consulting on plans to make the display of calorie information mandatory in out-of-home food and drink outlets because some research suggests that this is effective in reducing overall calorie intake.  (Read my previous blog about this).

 But what can you start to do today in order to provide healthier options?  Now, I‘m not saying take chips off the menu – but you can make small changes to top-selling items to make a big impact!  Look at ways you can modify your existing recipes by the types and amounts of ingredients used and also in the way you cook and prepare the dishes.  Here are some of my top tips:

Reduce calories by switching from double to single cream
Use thick cut chips or wedges in preference to thin cut fries
Use rapeseed oil for frying and remember to drain food well by giving it a good bang and shake
Dry fry meats where possible after trimming away visible fat
Try to include more vegetables into dishes and use seasonal, frozen or canned to keep costs down

 

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers and caterers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling & menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to find ways to make existing dishes healthier and provide support in complying with the law if you want to make nutrition claims. Contact Anne for further information about our cost-effective nutrition and labelling services.

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1  Health on the High Street, RSPH, 2018
2  Burgoine, T., Sarkar, C., Webster, C.J., Monsivais, P., 2018. Examining the interaction of fast-food outlet exposure and income on diet and obesity: evidence from 51,361 Biobank participants, , International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 15(1):71 doi: 10.1186/s12966-018-0699-8.

Will calorie counts on menus make us healthier?

Around two-thirds of adults in the UK are either overweight or obese – and this increases the risk of chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes.  Nowadays, a significant proportion of the food people eat is consumed outside of the home.  People are also eating out more often – the UK population consumes more than 100 million takeaways and ready-made meals in a week1!  Evidence suggests that people dining out consume 200 more calories per day than when eating at homeand so it is clear that there needs to be a mechanism to reduce the amount people consume when eating out if current obesity rates are to be halted and reversed.

As part of the government’s childhood obesity plan for action, the whole food industry (restaurants, retailers and manufacturers) has been challenged to slash calories in foods by 20% by 2024 but this alone will not tackle the complex issue of obesity.  Interestingly, 79% of people agree that menus should include the number of calories in food and drinks3.  Although many businesses already provide nutritional information on their websites only a few provide calorie labelling at the point of choice.  The point of choice can include menu boards, printed menus, chalk boards or display tags. So, with this in mind, the government proposes to introduce legislation to mandate consistent calorie labelling in England for the out of home sector.

Calorie menu labelling has already been mandatory in Ireland for a couple of years. A study into the effect of this in a hospital staff/visitor canteen found that customers made healthier choices and fewer calories were purchased, particularly by males4.

Putting calories on your menus is a public health initiative that can even benefit your business.  A recent Diabetes UK poll found that 60% of people are more likely to spend their money in an eating establishment that provides traffic light labelling, and almost as many said they would be more likely to eat where there is calorie labelling on food menus/packaging5.

Displaying the amount of calories on food and drinks for sale however is a form of food labelling and the most important rule of food labelling is that the consumer must not be misled.  It is therefore important for food businesses to have clear procedures and methods in place to ensure that calorie information is kept accurate.  If ingredients in a menu item change, the calorie information should be updated as soon as possible.

Obtaining the calorie values for all your menu items might seem a daunting task at first, but with help from AB Food Nutrition this can be done quickly, easily and cost-effectively.  We calculate the nutrient profile of your recipes based on the ingredients, quantities and cooking methods used. We can even provide suggestions on how to improve the nutritional profile of your recipes so that you can offer customers healthier choices.  For more information, please contact Anne.

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1 https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/sites/default/files/a_weighty_issue.pdf
2 Nguyen and Powell. (2014). The impact of restaurant composition among US adults: effects on energy and nutrient intakes. Public Health Nutrition 17(11) 2445-52.
3 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/calorie-reduction-the-scope-and-ambition-for-action
4 Calories on menus in Ireland – who’s counting? – Volume 74 Issue OCE4 – G.D. Ussher, S.E. Kielthy, K.A. Emerson, F.E. Douglas, O.C. Lyons, M.A.T. Flynn
5 https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/poll-food-labels-influence-spending?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=foodupfront&utm_term=210518&utm_content=organic

Sugar Reduction Progress Report

Public Health England (PHE) published the first assessment of progress towards the government’s sugar reduction programme this week – the challenge of which was a 5% reduction in the first year compared to the 2015 baseline.

Across 8 of the 10 categories (excluding cakes & morning goods due to data collection limitations) retailers/manufacturers achieved a 2% reduction in total sugar and a 2% reduction in calories in products consumed on a single occasion.

Whilst this doesn’t meet the 5% ambition, it is recognised that there are more sugar reduction plans in the pipeline and also some changes took effect after the first year cut-off point.

 

There have been reductions in sugar across 5 categories; breakfast cereals, ice cream/lollies/sorbets, sweet spreads & sauces, sweet confectionery, yogurt & fromage frais

Yogurts & fromage frais, breakfast cereals, sweet spreads & sauces all met or exceeded the 5% sugar reduction ambition

Calories in products consumed on a single occasion have been reduced in 4 categories (Biscuits, chocolate confectionery, Ice cream/lollies/sorbet, yogurts & fromage frais) by reducing the portion size.

Sugar levels are generally the same across all sectors however for out of home sector, portion sizes likely to be consumed in one go are on average double those of retailers and manufacturers

 

The progress report shows that there is more work still to be done and organisations such as the British Dietetic Association have expressed initial disappointment at the lack of progress made.  Some manufacturers and retailers appear to have made very significant progress where others have made very little, if any!

Products not meeting the 5% target include biscuits, ice cream, confectionery and puddings which is no surprise, as sugar has functions in these foods other than just providing a sweet taste.  Finding alternatives that do not impact on texture or appearance will take time as new technologies are developed.

PHE has also published new guidelines for the drinks industry to reduce the amount of sugar children consume through juice and milk based drinks by mid-2021:

reduce sugar in juice based drinks (excluding single juice) by 5%

cap all juice based drinks (including blended juices, smoothies and single juices) likely to be consumed in one go to 150 calories

reduce sugar in milk (and milk substitutes) based drinks by 20% and cap products likely to be consumed in one go to 300 calories

 

The exemption of milk based drinks from the sugar levy will be reviewed by the treasury in 2020. Progress on drinks covered by the levy shows that in response, sugar has been reduced by 11% and calories per portion by 6%.  Data shows more drinks below the 5g/100g cut-off are being purchased.

As part of the wider reformulation programme. PHE have also announced:

Guidelines for foods included in the calorie reduction programme are to be published mid-2019

Progress towards the 2017 salt targets is to be assessed and published by end 2018, followed by consideration of the next stage of the programme

Product ranges targeted at babies & young children are to be considered

Engagement with the out of home sector to move forward with reformulation

The next progress report on sugar reduction is due spring 2019.  In the meantime, it is as important as ever that the industry continues to work on reducing sugar in top selling products by reformulating or reducing portion sizes.

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as a 5% or 20% sugar reduction as well asa reduction in calories. Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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The calorie reduction programme

This week, Public Health England (PHE) published plans to cut excessive calorie intakes by challenging the food industry to reduce calories by 20% in categories that contribute significantly to children’s calorie intakes by 2024. The programme involves retailers, manufacturers and the out-of-home sector following on from work launched last year to reduce sugars.

Products covered include:

It does not cover foods included in the sugar reduction programme.

Reducing calories in these everyday foods will have the ability to benefit the whole population and it has been estimated that a 20% reduction in calories over five years could prevent 35,000 premature deaths, save the NHS £4.5 billion in healthcare costs over 25 years.

PHE will set specific product category guidance to be published mid-2019 (using sales weighted average approach to focus on top selling products), however businesses are encouraged to start work now to reduce calorie content of everyday foods.  The year ending August 2017 will be the baseline against which progress will be measured (first progress report March 2021).

Reformulation or reducing portion sizes will be the main focus for the food industry however shifting consumer purchasing towards lower calories options is an additional mechanism for action.

Alongside this work, PHE are launching the ‘Know your numbers’ campaign which provides a rule of thumb for the calories to eat at each main meal to help consumers be more aware of the calories they consume when eating out.

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers and caterers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling & menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as reducing calories, whilst advising on which permitted nutrition or health claims you can use in product marketing.  Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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