Eating outside the home and obesity
In the UK we are increasingly eating more food out of the home, and the easy availability and low cost of some of the higher fat, salt and sugars choices has been shown to contribute to overweight and obesity. Public Health England (PHE) estimated in 2014 that there were over 50,000 fast food and takeaway outlets, fast food delivery services, and fish and chip shops in England.
Of course there are some occasions when eating out is a special treat and an opportunity to include a more indulgent option but, if you eat out or buy takeaway food a lot, it’s important to make healthier choices.
With healthier ‘on the go’ options, for example, now available in supermarkets, it may be easier to make healthier choices outside of the home, but there are also many unhealthy options to be aware of.
Eating out and your health: Links with nutrient intake and obesity
On average in the UK, 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children eat meals out at least once a week.
The food we eat outside the home is an important part of our diet, and can make a large contribution to our calories (energy intake).
Compared with meals prepared and eaten at home, those eaten outside of home tend to:
|have higher levels of:
and lower levels of:
This means that the choices you make when eating out can have an impact on your health.
The increase in meals eaten outside of home, particularly the readily available cheap high fat, salt and sugar choices, has been shown as an important factor contributing to rising levels of overweight and obesity.
In England, 1 in 3 children in year 6 (aged 10-11 years) and about 2 in 3 adults are either overweight or obese, so being aware of how many calories we are consuming is important.
When we're out and about it's easy to eat more than we should and on average we're eating an extra 200-300kcal every day! Public Health England (PHE) launched the One You campaign in 2018, which suggests we aim for 400-600-600 to help stay on track when we're eating out of home. That's around 400kcalfor breakfast, 600kcal for lunch and 600kcal for dinner – leaving room for a couple of healthy snacks and drinks.
On average women need 2000kcal a day and men 2500kcal. See the table below:
|Snacks and drinks
Increasingly, fast food restaurants, large chain pubs and restaurants, coffee shops and sandwich bars are displaying calorie information, so you could make use of this to choose options with fewer calories. It’s always worth looking on the food outlet’s website for nutrition information, if you know where you are eating beforehand.
You can also look at the descriptions of dishes to help you make healthier choices. For more information see our top tips when eating out of the home.
Information reviewed January 2018.
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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.