Study in Review: "(Over)eating out at major UK restaurant chains: observational study of energy content of main meals" (Robinson et al, 2018)

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased markedly across the developed world over the past few decades. Increases in energy intake, caused partly by a shift in the ‘food environment’ has been identified as a key factor explaining this weight gain at a population level.

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One of the key trends observed is the increasing prevalence of consuming food out of the home. For example, the UK Food Standards Agency (2016) reported that 39% of UK adults ate out at least once per week.

The aim of this study was to examine the energy (calorie) content of main meals (lunch and dinner) sold by major restaurant chains in the UK. 27 full service restaurants and 6 fast food establishments were studied.

Energy content for over 13,000 meals were gathered. Across all meals, the average calorie content per meal was 977 calories. 47% of meals contained more than 1,000 calories.

Because some customers will order a main meal as well as a drink, starter, and/or dessert, we assume that on average the number of kilocalories consumed in both full service and fast food restaurants will be higher still. (Robinson et al, 2018)

Given that people tend to underestimate the number of calories in meals, these findings produce a ‘perfect storm’ of people eating out more regularly, and as a result, consuming more calories than they realise.

The authors of this study suggest that restaurants should start providing energy labelling on meals, so that consumers know the calorie content of the meals they are consuming.

The energy content of a large number of main meals in major UK restaurant chains is excessive, and only a minority meet public health recommendations. Although the poor nutritional quality of meals from fast food restaurants has been well documented, the energy content of meals in full service restaurants in the UK tends to be higher and is a cause for concern. (Robinson et al, 2018)

The high average calorie content of restaurant food provides some insight into why people who eat out regularly may struggle to lose weight. Whilst they might be eating the correct portion sizes the majority of the week, a couple of meals out with the addition of alcoholic drinks, could massively increase weekly calorie intake and un-do a lot of there hard work done outside of these meals.


Anecdotally this was something I saw time and time again with my clients.

As a result I came up with my ‘Nutritional Survival Guides’. They are designed to help you navigate the nutritional landscape we are currently faced with.

The guides will help you make 'better bad choices' when having to eat out for social occasions or work functions, for example.

They will help you understand the calorie content of dishes in many of your favourite restaurants including Burger King, Dominos, Nandos, Pizza Express, Jamie's Italian, and Krispy Kreme Donuts.

I am NOT advocating the consumption of fast food.

This is merely my way of acknowledging that not everyone will be prepping their own food. Eating out socially is a big part of many people's lives, and will probably continue to increase.

These guides will help you navigate these scenarios without sacrificing all of your hard work at the same time.

You can download the guides here: -