Restaurant meals 'are busting calorie limit'

The calorie content of popular meals in restaurant chains is excessive and only a minority are meeting public health recommendations, a new report warns.

The study found an average of 751 calories in main meal dishes served by fast food chains.

But there were 1,033 calories in dishes served by some full-service restaurant chains.

The study was carried out in the UK but international chains like Nando’s and Wagamama are popular with Irish diners eating out.

While the poor nutritional content of ‘fast food’ has been well studied, the calories of traditional ‘full-service’ restaurants has received less attention, the research, published in the ‘BMJ’ (British Medical Journal) revealed.

The general advice is that midday and evening meals should not contain more than 600 calories.

Restaurants with high calorie dishes include Nando’s, Pizza Hut and Wagamama, along with fast food favourites Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC.

Dr Eric Robinson from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Psychological Sciences looked at calories in 13,500 main meals from 27 large high-street restaurants. They included 21 full-service and six fast-food outlets.

Only a small minority of meals met the 600-calorie public health recommendations, with 89pc of full-service dishes and 83pc of fast food dishes over this limit.

Dr Robinson, said: “Only one in 10 of the meals we surveyed could be considered a healthy number of calories.”

He added: “Our findings probably underestimate the number of calories consumed in restaurants because our analysis did not include drinks, starters, desserts or side orders.”

Healthy tips for eating out

  • Avoid snacking on bread and nibbles before your main meal arrives;
  • Do not order too much – you can always order more later if necessary;
  • Bulk up your meal with a side order of low-calorie steamed vegetables;
  • Swap alcohol or a fizzy drink for a glass of still or sparkling water mixed with some fruit juice;
  • Swap chips for baked, boiled or steamed potatoes.

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