Public health England unveiled their new OneYou “diet plan”for adults last month – widely reported in the media as Britons being “put on a diet” by the government! Recommended calorie (energy) intake for men is 2500 calories a day and for women 2000, so the plan consisted of a 400-600-600 calorie split for breakfast lunch and dinner, leaving room left for snacks.

But why are we being recommended to divide up our calories this way – and should we all be doing it?The backdrop to this PHE campaign is the government’s new calorie reduction plan, a response to the fact that the average Brit is eating about 200-300 calories a day more than they need, leading to excess weight gain. The aim of the report is to work with industry to cut 20% of calories in certain food categories by 2024, through reformulation or portion reduction.

Of particular interest is food we buy and eat out of the house, including in cafes and restaurants. The 400-600-600 guidance is designed to be helpful when choosing from food outlet menus, as many breakfasts, lunch and dinner options can cause us to easily exceed our recommended calorie allowance. With an Almond Croissant fromStarbucks containing 410 calories, and a McDonald’s big mac with medium fries working out at 845 calories, it’s easy to see how you can overindulge!

Sticking to these guidelines when eating out is surprisingly hard, but positive signs are that industry giants are trying to step up to the task of reducing calories in foods. Several major food chains have already committed to offering under 400/600 calorie meal options. More information about which shops and which meals fit the 400-600-600 structure can be found here.

If you do find that sticking to the daily calorie guidelines is hard, holding those meal recommendations in your mind might even help with picking ready meals or breakfast options from the supermarket. On the other hand if you simply prefer to have larger breakfast or dinners then don’t worry – you’ll be absolutely fine. The meal guidelines are really designed to help you to compensate throughout the day, but they can be modified. If you have a 1000 calorie meal at lunch, try and cut down a bit at dinner and vice versa.

The take home message then is to try and stay aware of what you’re eating – and make sure you enjoy your meals at the same time!

Charlie Rose Howard, Dietetic Student

Charlie is a BSc Nutrition and Dietetics student at King’s College London. She’s interested in all things public health, child health, and evidence based. Tweet her @charlieroseRD2B


Foodtalk blog posts are written by a variety of health and care professionals in order to showcase different perspectives in the world of nutrition and health.