A new law which requires restaurant chains to display the calorie content of their meals has divided opinion among industry leaders and diners, with some fearing it will fail to tackle Britain’s obesity problem while potentially encouraging eating disorders. 

From today, businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, must display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks.

Calories have to be displayed at the point of choice, including on physical and online menus and on food delivery platforms like Uber Eats and Deliveroo. 

The law was brought in to help reduce the estimated £1.6bn spent by the NHS on fighting obesity each year, but it has been criticised for failing to focus on other important metrics, including fibre and nutrient content and the difference between good and bad calories. 

While some have praised the move for making it easier to eat more healthily, others fear it will do little to change eating habits and may prove a financial strain on medium sized eateries who will have to re-design and re-print menus – with the UK Hospitality body warning it could ‘derail’ the industry’s post-Covid recovery. 

Meanwhile some restaurants are exempt due to technicalities. The top-end of Gordon Ramsay’s UK estate, for example – including his flagship Gordon Ramsay restaurant – can avoid the new measures because they are all under different limited companies. 

Some of the big names adapting to the change from today include Domino’s Pizza and Wahaca.

The leader of the Government’s National Food Strategy, Henry Dimbleby (pictured), who co-founded the Leon restaurant chain, said the move is a ‘small intervention’.

Mark Selby (pictured), co-founder of Mexican-style street food restaurant Wahaca, told the BBC the chain was 'completely up for being clear and transparent', but said the focus on counting calories was a problem.

Mark Selby (pictured), co-founder of Mexican-style street food restaurant Wahaca, told the BBC the chain was ‘completely up for being clear and transparent’, but said the focus on counting calories was a problem.

Businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, must now display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks prepared for customers. (Pictured: Wahaca chain in Great Portland Street, London)

Businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, must now display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks prepared for customers. (Pictured: Wahaca chain in Great Portland Street, London) 

Wagamama has said it will offer two menus, one with calories and one without on request, in order to prevent distressing customers with eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.

Wagamama has said it will offer two menus, one with calories and one without on request, in order to prevent distressing customers with eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.

Henry Dimbleby: The ‘obese’ millionaire who wanted to tax your food 

Businessman Henry Dimbleby - the co-founder of fast-food chain Leon - is the man behind Boris Johnson's war on snacks

Businessman Henry Dimbleby – the co-founder of fast-food chain Leon – is the man behind Boris Johnson’s war on snacks

Oxford and Eton educated businessman Henry Dimbleby – the co-founder of fast-food chain Leon – was the man behind radical proposals last summer to bring in a tax on sugary snacks, which were ultimately ruled out.  

The son of broadcaster David Dimbleby and his cookery writer wife Josceline, he was the writer of the new National Food Strategy, which said Britain should introduce the world’s first tax on sugary and salty food. 

Dimbleby, 51, studied at Eton – where he was a contemporary of Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg – before going on to Oxford University.

While there he studied physics and philosophy. 

Like both of his parents, he would soon find his way into journalism, as a food writer for the Daily Telegraph – having initially worked as a commis chef under Michelin-starred chef Bruno Loubet.

Dimbleby would later join a consultancy firm, before launching ‘healthy’ fast-food chain Leon alongside entrepreneur John Vincent and chef Allegra McEvedy in 2004.

The chain was sold in early 2021 for a reported £100m. 

He also co-founded the Sustainable Restaurants Association in 2009, and The London Union, which controls some of the capital’s biggest street food markets.

With the help of Vincent, Dimbleby also turned his hand to campaigning, and the pair were later invited by David Cameron’s Tory government to write a report into school meals.  The report earned both Dimbleby and Vincent MBEs.  

Dimbleby is married to Telegraph journalist Jemima Lewis. Last year the pair were reported to be living in a £1.5m three-storey townhouse in east London.

Despite being a food tsar, he says he has a ‘conscious struggle’ with obesity.

He told The Guardian he ‘oscillates between the high end of healthy weight and the low end of obese’. 

‘I wouldn’t recommend any diets that I have used,’ he said. 

Wagamama has said it will offer two menus, one with calories and one without on request, in order to prevent distressing customers with eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.  

Wagamama CEO Thomas Heier said: ‘After two years of working with our charity partners Young Minds, disordered eating for young people is something we’re acutely aware of. 

‘As calories become a legal necessity for all restaurants, we’ve decided to offer a non-calorie menu for guests suffering with a challenging relationship with food.’ 

Some chains already listed calorie intakes, including Pizza Express and McDonald’s. 

It comes after the leader of the Government’s National Food Strategy, Henry Dimbleby, who co-founded the Leon restaurant chain, branded the new law a ‘small intervention’. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Dimbleby, who is also lead non-executive director at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: ‘If you look at what calorie labelling might do, I think it is a small intervention.

‘The primary benefit, I think, actually, and from my experience at Leon – which we sold last year, I should say, so I’m not involved at the moment – it will make companies think a bit more carefully about what they put on the menu. 

‘But for the customer, I think, maybe in everyday eating out, places you go all the time, it may mean that they eat slightly lower calories but I doubt it will have much effect for eating out.’

Meanwhile Mark Selby, co-founder of Mexican-style street food restaurant Wahaca, told the BBC the chain was ‘completely up for being clear and transparent’, but said the focus on counting calories was a problem.

He said: ‘It tells part of the story but I think it slightly misses out some quite important fundamentals around food – be it nutrition, fibre, all those things – which potentially we feel might be more relevant or certainly need to be considered.’ 

His sentiment was echoed by Alix Pickard, director of marketing for the Tao Group, who told Big Hospitality: ‘What the calorie content doesn’t portray is the nutritional value, so we’re looking at calories as a negative, yet our bodies require them as fuel. 

‘By solely looking at calorie content we’re not taking into consideration the goodness the food also provides.’  

In a tweet, Masterchef champion Sven-Hanson Britt said the new policy was a ‘terrible thing to happen to the hospitality industry’, adding that he feared it ‘could end creativity, spontaneity and lead to boring tick-box cooking’.

‘Kids will grow up in restaurants, hotels and cafes only looking at that little number below a dish,’ he said. 

‘Choices will be made based on a number alone. The love of flavour, ingredients, history, cooking craft or nutrition will be lost and masked by a newly perceived focus.’ 

The measure, which forms part of the Government’s wider efforts to fight obesity, has been introduced to help consumers make more informed, healthier choices when eating out or ordering takeaways. 

It is estimated that overweight and obesity-related conditions cost the NHS £6.1 billion each year. 

The most calorific meals at 20 UK restaurants 

  1. Toby Carvery All You Can Eat Breakfast 2,371
  2. Miller and Carter Smoky Barbecue Ribs Full 2,363
  3. Beefeater Flame Grill Combo 2,222
  4. Five Guys Bacon cheeseburger with mayonnaise, grilled onions and large fries 2,206
  5. Harvester Ultimate Mixed Grill 2,177
  6. Honest Burgers Chilli burger, rosemary salted chips 1,840
  7. Frankie & Benny’s Double Bacon Cheese burger 1,726
  8. Subway Mega Meat footlong with Doritos 1,668
  9. Nando’s Fino Pitta with peri-salted chips and garlic bread 1,629
  10. Papa John’s Sausage & Pepperoni 1,584
  11. Burger King Memphis BBQ King with fries 1,583
  12. Pizza Hut Meat Feast Hot 1,548
  13. TGI Fridays The Texan 1,524
  14. Domino’s Meatball Marinara 1,433
  15. Prezzo Calabrese Burger with fries 1,382
  16. McDonald’s Big Tasty with Bacon with large fries 1,289
  17. Giraffe Smoked gravy burger with seasoned fries 1,289
  18. Pizza Express Etna 1,283
  19. Wagamama Hot Vegatsu 1,282
  20. KFC Zinger Stacker with large fries 1,220

It comes as hungover Brits jokingly reported feeling ‘attacked’ this morning and overnight when confronted with the calorie count of their favourite fast food remedies. 

One wrote: ‘That feeling when Dominos showed me by the slice calories for my large hangover pizza was an unneeded attack.’ 

Another said: ‘What are calories doing on Uber Eats? Absolutely don’t need to be confronted with that ordering a hungover McDonald’s.’ 

Others avoided the big chains for more local cafes, which are not required to print the calorie information of their meals. 

One tweeted a picture of fry-up, adding: ‘I’m sitting here having a blowout Brexit breakfast with free WiFi. Why not? Can’t see any calories on the greasy spoon’s menu this morning.’ 

While opinion seems divided online, a Public Health England survey on calorie reduction found that 79 per cent of respondents thought menus should include the number of calories in food and drinks.

However, the move has received a mixed response among industry leaders, with one charity warning the move will negatively affect people with eating disorders.

Many on social media agreed, accusing the policy of making people ‘feel guilty’. 

One wrote: ‘It couldn’t be more damaging for people recovering from an eating disorder… I’ll be scribbling them out whenever I get the chance.’ 

Another said: ‘Working hard to stop calorie-obsessing was a large part of getting to where I’m at now, generally eating what I want while trying to remain relatively healthy.

‘To see calories all over menus would really just bring all those feelings of guilt and worry back, which would be very bad!’  

'Unneeded attack': Hungover Brits react to receiving calorie counts with their fast food orders

‘Unneeded attack’: Hungover Brits react to receiving calorie counts with their fast food orders 

At least five restaurants across the country offer meals which exceed the entire 2,000-calorie recommended intake for women in a day, MailOnline can reveal

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, said the eating disorders charity is ‘extremely disappointed’.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘Obesity is one of the biggest health issues we face as a country and clear food labelling plays an important role in helping people make healthier choices for themselves and their families.

‘We are all used to seeing nutritional information on products sold in supermarkets, and displaying calorie information on menus can help us consume fewer calories when eating out or getting a takeaway.

‘The regulations will also allow businesses to provide menus without calorie information at the request of the customer.’

Some believe the new law is a positive step and called for it to go further to include all restaurants. 

One Twitter user said: ‘Today’s news is welcome but doesn’t go far enough, small chains must be included, making it over 250 employees only is wrong.’

Divided: Diabetes sufferers and those seeking a healthier diet have praised the policy, but survivors of eating disorders fear it could bring back 'feelings of guilt'

Divided: Diabetes sufferers and those seeking a healthier diet have praised the policy, but survivors of eating disorders fear it could bring back ‘feelings of guilt’ 

Another said: ‘Adding calories count to menus is a game changer for type 1 diabetics like me. 

‘It will massively help us to calculate the insulin dose needed for that meal.’ 

But experts fear the new law could have a negative impact on medium-sized business due to the cost of implementing it.

 Analysing dishes to work out their calorie intake can be time consuming and expensive, as well as redesigning and reprinting menus.

MW Eat CEO Ranjit Mathrani told Big Hospitality the law could prove a financial strain on companies with between 250 and 1,000 staff.

He said: ‘At that sort of size, they won’t necessarily have the right structures in place to absorb the costs.

 ‘Huge companies such as McDonald’s and KFC have nutritionists on their payroll. 

‘Implementation will also be more challenging for less standardised businesses that cook from scratch.’  

Revealed, the most calorific meals at UK’s biggest chains: Fried breakfasts at Toby Carvery contain up to 2,400 CALORIES (and even a ‘cheeky Nando’s’ can eat up almost all of your daily limit) 

 By Joe Davies for MailOnline

Hungry Britons could be in for a shock tomorrow when major food outlets are finally forced to display calorie information on their menus.

At least five restaurants across the country offer meals which exceed the entire 2,000-calorie recommended intake for women in a day, MailOnline can reveal.

Toby Carvery was found to offer the most calorific meal with its All You Can Eat Breakfast — which can be up to 2,371 calories in a standard serving, according to the company’s own nutritional guidelines.  

The NHS recommends that men stick to 2,500 calories a day, while women are advised against breaching the 2,000-mark. Almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or obese — and one in three children leaves primary school at an unhealthy weight.

Tomorrow’s measures, which form part of the Government’s wider war on obesity, have been introduced to help consumers make more informed, healthier choices when eating out or ordering takeaways.

It is estimated that overweight and obesity-related conditions cost the NHS £6.1billion each year. 

Will putting meals’ calorie counts on menu make you eat more healthily? 

By Shaun Wooller for the Daily Mail

More than half of diners are likely to order healthier food when restaurants are forced to put calories on their menus from this week, a study suggests.

Some 57 per cent said the new nutritional information is likely to influence their choices but only 21 per cent believe it will help combat the nation’s obesity crisis.

The new rules require cafes, restaurants and takeaways run by firms with more than 250 employees to put calories on their menus from Wednesday.

It is part of a wider Government strategy to cut obesity and promote healthy eating.

Conditions related to being overweight or obese across the UK cost the NHS an estimated £6.1billion each year.

Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of adults in England are overweight or obese and one in three children leaves primary school too fat.

Vita Mojo, whose technology powers ordering systems for over 90 UK restaurant brands including Leon and Nando’s, polled 1,000 adults about the changes. 

It found 48 per cent already track or have an awareness of their calorie intake, with women and younger people more likely to do so.

MailOnline’s analysis reviewed meals sold at 20 major outlets, including fast food giants and sit-down restaurants.

We looked for the most calorific meal options available at each of the chains. 

Miller and Carter was found to offer the second most calorific meal with its Smoky Barbecue Ribs, which contains 2,363 calories per plate. The dish comes with a full rack of pork ribs in smoky barbecue glaze, seasoned fries and coleslaw. 

It was followed by Beefeater’s Flame Grill Combo — which includes half a rack of pork ribs glazed in BBQ sauce, chargrilled chicken breast, hot link style sausage, grilled chicken wings, pulled beef macaroni & cheese and seasoned corn riblets, served with skinny fries and house slaw — (2,222 calories) and a bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions, mayonnaise and a large fries from Five Guys (2,206).

Harvester’s Ultimate Mixed Grill plate was the fifth most calorific option reviewed by MailOnline, with 2,177 calories per plate. 

The dish comes with a quarter portion of rotisserie chicken, an 8oz rump steak, a half rack of BBQ glazed ribs, a 7oz gammon steak, two pork sausages, two fried free-range eggs and two black pudding slices.

The aptly-named Honest Burgers’ Chilli Burger with rosemary salted chips contained more calories (1,848) than any other meal on its menu. 

Meanwhile, one restaurant’s most unhealthy options appeared to be vegan — despite the non-meat or dairy diet usually considered to be more healthy.

Wagamama’s joint-most calorific option is its Hot Vegatsu (1,282), which shares the same amount of calories as the restaurant’s Grilled Duck Donburi. 

The vegan option is made out of sietan — a product made from gluten — covered in curry sauce, while the meat option is a shredded duck leg in a spicy teriyaki sauce, served with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky Japanese rice.

Pizza-lovers may be surprised to learn a small sausage and pepperoni pizza from Papa John’s has as many as 1,584 calories.

This is slightly more than Pizza Hut’s Meat Feast Hot small pizza (1,548) — despite that including the company’s piri-piri stuffed crusts.

Domino’s had the healthiest high-calorie option of the three chains, with its small Meatball Marinara pizza having 1,433 calories. The company told MailOnline the pizza is not on their core range and it is up to franchise’s discretion whether to include it on their menus.

Toby Carvery’s All You Can Eat Breakfast does not specify what quantity of which foods is required to reach the calorie level listed on its nutritional information on its website.

A Nando’s spokesperson said: ‘We firmly believe in customer choice which is why we offer a range of delicious options to cover PERi-PERi fans who are looking for a treat or those who are looking for a healthier option. 

‘We welcome the new legislation and the addition of calorie information on all our printed menus compliments the range of nutritional information that has always been available on our website and app.’ 

Toby's Carvery's All You Can Eat Breakfast can be up to 2,371 calories in a standard serving, according to the company's own nutritional guidelines

Harvester's Ultimate Mixed Grill plate is the fifth most calorific option reviewed by MailOnline, with 2,177 calories per plate

Toby’s Carvery’s (left) All You Can Eat Breakfast can be up to 2,371 calories in a standard serving, according to the company’s own nutritional guidelines. Harvester’s (right) Ultimate Mixed Grill plate is the fifth most calorific option reviewed by MailOnline, with 2,177 calories per plate

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE? 

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide 

A Subway spokesperson said: ‘Subway stores are well-known for the wide range of balanced and healthy meals available and we work hard to give our guests the information they need to make better choices. 

‘As such, and in line with the new displaying calories regulation from the UK government, we’ve collaborated closely with our delivery partners and refreshed our in-store and online menus to display calorie information. 

‘The nutrition calculator on our website also gives the nutritional values of your exact build – from the bread to the seasonings. 

‘No matter how our guests order or what they choose to add to their subs, they will have access to the relevant nutritional information.’

Papa John’s said: ‘Like any food, our pizzas should be eaten as part of a balanced diet. 

‘Moderation is important, but everyone deserves a treat on occasion, and we’re proud to deliver on our promise of ‘better ingredients, better pizza’ to households across the UK. 

‘At Papa Johns, quality is our top priority — using premium ingredients paired with our freshly made dough makes for an unrivalled pizza experience. 

‘Nutritional information for all of our products is available on our website and in-store menus.’

A spokesperson for Mitchells & Butlers, said: ‘We’re all about offering a wide range of eating and drinking out experiences through some of the nation’s favourite brands, that vary from lighter choices to indulgent treats!

‘The changes to menu labelling mean our guests can make an informed choice and pick what’s right for them.

‘The self-serve breakfast at Toby Carvery offers great value for money with a broad range of choices. The regulations require us to include calories for all the items available, however, in reality, the calories vary from guest to guest and the amount they choose to put on their plate.

‘We have already committed to the Public Health England Calorie Reduction Programme where we are aiming to reduce calories in our businesses by 20 per cent. We have previously supported PHE achieving great reductions with salt and sugar and we hope to achieve the same for calories in the near future.’

A Frankie and Benny’s spokesperson said: ‘All of our Leisure menus were updated in advance of the new law coming into effect, giving our guests the choice to select between healthy food options or more indulgent treat led food options. 

‘Our Double Bacon Cheese Burger is a treat food option and is recommended to be a treat purchase. 

‘We welcome the introduction of calories on menus, allowing guests greater levels of choice when ordering food for themselves, for their families or their friends. 

‘However, we recognise that some guests may require calorie free menus which they can access via our website.’

From tomorrow, calories will need to be displayed at the point of choice for the customer, such as physical menus, online menus, food delivery platforms and food labels. 

Businesses with 250 or more employees in England are the only ones who will be affected.

In a Public Health England survey on calorie reduction, 79 per cent of respondents said they think menus should include the number of calories in food and drinks.

However, the move has received a mixed response, with one charity warning the move will negatively affect people with eating disorders.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, said the eating disorder charity was ‘extremely disappointed’.

He said: ‘We know from the people we support that including calories on menus can contribute to harmful eating disorder thoughts and behaviours worsening.

‘For instance, it can increase a fixation on restricting calories for those with anorexia or bulimia, or increase feelings of guilt for those with binge-eating disorder.

‘There is also very limited evidence that the legislation will lead to changed eating habits among the general population.

‘1.25million people in the UK have an eating disorder, and sadly we know that the pandemic has contributed to more people than ever before needing support for these serious mental illnesses.

‘Beat has continually asked the Government to consider the impact on people affected by eating disorders and to take an evidence-based approach when creating health policies.

‘This should involve consulting eating disorder clinicians and experts by experience at every stage of the process.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘Obesity is one of the biggest health issues we face as a country and clear food labelling plays an important role in helping people make healthier choices for themselves and their families.

‘We are all used to seeing nutritional information on products sold in supermarkets and displaying calorie information on menus can help us consume fewer calories when eating out or getting a takeaway.

‘The regulations will also allow businesses to provide menus without calorie information at the request of the customer.’ 



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