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Public Health England's 'One You' Campaign

In this regular series, we’ll look behind the headlines of the latest nutrition research and health campaigns, giving a Nourish perspective on the news. First up, the Government wants us to start counting calories, but will that really help us improve our diet and wellbeing?

should we count calories

‘One You’ launched on 6 March 2018 and aims to make middle-aged adults more aware of their health and lifestyle behaviours, with an emphasis on smoking, drinking, eating, moving, sleep and stress. It includes advice to eat around 400 calories at breakfast, 600 for lunch and 600 for a main meal; a total of 1,600 calories per day, plus snacks and drinks.

The food industry has responded positively to this, with many fast-food brands using these figures to show their menus can fit within the limits. But the response from health professionals has been more mixed. Many dietitians point out that you can still eat unhealthy foods and meet these targets. Some suggest the one-size-fits-all calorie target is not very meaningful and that the 1,600 total is too stringent. Government guidelines currently suggest women require 2,000 calories per day, while men need an average of 2,500. 

Background info
Currently, 42 per cent of adults in midlife are living with at least one long-term health condition and the NHS spends a minimum of £11 billion a year on treating preventable illnesses caused by the effects of diet, inactivity, smoking and drinking alcohol.

With ‘One You’, Public Health England (PHE) states: ‘Our aim is to engage millions of people in the years to come and provide them with evidenced tools and personalised support to help them make and maintain the simple changes that can mean a longer, healthier life’. People are being encouraged to take the ‘How Are You?’ quiz to find out if their lifestyle is less healthy than they think. The quiz has been tested with over 3,000 people through surveys and in face-to-face interviews.

The ‘One You’ campaign highlights that we are increasingly eating outside of the home and many of us are consuming more than we need – research from PHE found that overweight and obese children are eating an extra 500 calories a day, while the average adult consumes an extra 200-300 calories daily. The 400/600/600 calorie guide aims to give us ‘a rule of thumb’ to help.

Our view
You might have noticed that we don’t include calorie counts on our Nourish by Jane Clarke recipes. That’s because we feel the nutritional content, taste and accessibility of food should be our focus, especially for those who are poorly, recovering from illness or surgery, or have a health condition that makes eating a challenge. However, there are times when weight gain is an issue and we need to look at ways to reduce the calories we eat, without compromising on nourishment, flavour and the enjoyment of mealtimes.

The 400/600/600 ‘One You’ guide is very much a generalisation, based on the 2,000-calorie daily requirement of an average woman. People’s requirements vary widely – say, if we’re very active, pregnant, or ill, when energy requirements might be much higher and calorie counting is inappropriate. We also need to think beyond calories, to the nutrients that can help boost our wellbeing and reduce risk of disease, and the saturated fat, sugar and salt that may increase our likelihood of developing certain illnesses.
 
Make ‘One You’ work for you
Our tip is to use the 400/600/600 guide to help you make healthier choices for the times when you are buying convenience food for lunch or stopping at the supermarket to pick up dinner on the way home. With a ‘meal deal’ where you can opt for different combinations, you might choose fruit over crisps, or water over fruit juice, to keep below the target 600 calories. Otherwise, put the focus on eating well-balanced meals with nourishment at their heart. You can look at our Nutrition Basics and Weight Loss tips to help.

Try this: deliciously, naturally low-calorie Mango, Blueberry & Mint Breakfast Salad

mango blueberry & mint breakfast salad recipe