Calorie Labelling

Calorie Labelling

31st January 2019

Time to Support and Promote a Healthy Lifestyle and Healthy Weight

All of us wants to be fit, healthy and live an active life. A very important part of this is being a healthy weight. But do you know that we live in what is called an obesogenic environment. What is that I hear many of you asking? Well an obesogenic environment is a term that was first used many years ago by obesity researchers to describe our modern environment - one which makes it easier to eat foods that are particularly high in calories and usually low in essential nutrients. At the same time making it easy not to use up much energy in activity. So, we are talking about fast foods, high energy snacks, most readymade meals, sugary drinks, car journeys, lifts and escalators and all forms of electronic communications.

Why is this important? The Scottish Health Survey in 2016 showed us that the rates of overweight and obesity in Scotland is one of the highest in the developed world. It found that 65% of adults were overweight or obese, with 29% obese. While 29% of children are either overweight or obese in Scotland. This is shocking and action needs to be taken. 82% of people surveyed by Food Standards Scotland thought that reducing the level of obesity in Scotland was a shared responsibility. 

Supporting and promoting a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight doesn't mean not eating any high energy foods or never doing less energetic things. It is about making informed choices which ensure that we minimise these ways of behaving and eat healthier lower energy foods and become more physically active. This will help us actively support our own healthy weight choices. The Government is looking to make our food environment in Scotland more supportive of healthier choices. The recent sugar tax on drinks is part of that movement and an example of how recent policy can support positive healthy lifestyle choices.

Calorie labelling on food and drinks in out of home outlets is now also an important part of this strategy. Appletree has carried out public engagement on this question at a number of events. Over 200 people have overwhelmingly supported calorie labelling in cafes and restaurants, with 81% voting yes. Indeed, through our conversations many people said they would also like to see the macro nutrients displayed as well and even instead of the calories.

Very interestingly, the Office of National Statistics reported last year that the average person underestimates their usual calorie intake by 30-50%. They could be eating on a regular basis up to an extra 50% more calories per day than they think. For a woman, that could equate to approximately 1000 kcals i.e. around taking an extra fast food burger and bun or 2 large slices of chocolate cake every day. Which at the end of the week would relate to around 1kg (2lb) weight gain. Over a year that could be an astounding amount of unintentional extra calorie intake. Reasons for this include our increased tendency for snacking and eating outside of the home, combined in general with large portion sizes.

This is why it is now a challenge to the Catering and Hospitality sector to show leadership in taking up the call for labelling calories and even macro nutrients. To help us all make their way through our obesogenic environment knowledge is power. This information will enable us to be able to make more informed healthy choices around our daily calorie intake. We all will be able to correctly estimate our intake when this information is generally and routinely available. Appletree is a young healthy lifestyle enterprise with a wealth of experience to help support with this labelling goal.

Laura Stewart

January 2019