Why putting the nation on a diet won’t solve the obesity crisis

By Gabriella Bittante, Policy Manager, UKHospitality 

On the 6 March 2018 Public Health England (PHE) published its Calorie reduction: the scope and ambition for action report. The report highlighted overweight or obese boys and girls consume up to 500 and 290 excess calories each day respectively – suggesting the UK is well on the way to an obesity crisis.

Along with the launch of the One You campaign – encouraging adults to consume 400 calories at breakfast, and 600 for lunch and dinner as a solution – PHE is challenging the food industry to reduce calories in products consumed by families by 20% by 2024: in effect, passing the buck onto the industry.

The hospitality industry has long been leading in good practice when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles. Businesses offer healthy options, and provide advice on making healthier choices –  such as the Dare campaign by Bartlett Mitchell. Providers have also made efforts to reformulate recipes, reduce sugar, salt, fat and calories in meal options – like Amadeus’ efforts to cut sugar. The industry has made considerable investments in their endeavours to provide healthier options. With severe pressure on hospitality businesses across the board, demonstrated by recent restaurant closures, now is not the time to put further stress on operators to meet targets.

With more meals being eaten outside the home, and a growing consumer demand for healthy food choices, we recognise that equipping hospitality businesses with a working knowledge of current nutrition thinking can make a major contribution towards improving the health of their customers. To this end, last year we worked with eminent nutritionists from our member businesses to produce an Industry Nutrition Guide, to help every chef and catering manager in the UK provide healthier choices for customers. This guide sets out the basics of nutrition in a practical manner, arming hospitality businesses with easy to implement tips for healthier catering.

However, tackling obesity needs a holistic approach. While PHE also rolled out the One You campaign, the cause of obesity is not just about what is eaten, but also about the reasoning behind food choices. We therefore need the Government to not only support industry efforts but also to place more emphasis on nutrition and physical exercise as part of the school curriculum, and to also improve more general education around food for children and adults alike. By working together, we can all be part of creating a heathier, happier nation, well equipped to make educated nutritional choices.

As we confront the challenge of obesity together, we will continue to work with our members, government, and Public Health England. Supporting the industry in promoting healthy living and driving best practice remains a priority for UKHospitality.


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