New health advice says men and women should only eat 1,800 calories a day — here's the idea behind it

  • Public Health England has issued new advice for how many calories adults should eat per day.
  • Men and women should aim for 1,800 calories per day, which is considerably less than official guidelines of 2,500 for men, and 2,000 for women.
  • PHE is issuing the advice because many people don't account for calorific drinks when calculating their daily calorie intake, and go over the recommended guidelines.
  • Critics say the advice is a panic measure in response to an increasingly overweight population.


For ages, calorie guidelines have been the same — men should consume about 2,500 calories per day, and women should have 2,000.

But Public Health England (PHE) has issued new guidelines to urge adults to reduce the amount of food they eat.

Both men and women should aim for 1,800 calories over their three meals a day, PHE says, as people in the UK are consuming more than we should. About 200-300 calories more, in fact.

The idea behind these new recommendations is that you only count the calories in food, and ignore those from drinks. Calories can be split over the course of the day: 400 at breakfast, 600 at lunch and dinner, then 200 for snacks.

Related:

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11 most obese states
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11 most obese states
10. (tie) Michigan   32.5 obesity rate (percent)
10. (tie) Indiana   32.5 obesity rate (percent)
9. Oklahoma   32.8 obesity rate (percent)
8. Texas   33.7 obesity rate (percent)
7. Kentucky   34.2 obesity rate (percent)
6. Tennessee   34.8 obesity rate (percent)
5. Louisiana   35.5 obesity rate (percent)
3. (tie) Arkansas   35.7 obesity rate (percent)
3. (tie) Alabama   35.7 obesity rate (percent)
2. Mississippi   37.3 obesity rate (percent)
1. West Virginia   37.7 obesity rate (percent)
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PHE's still officially advises that you hit 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day overall, depending on your gender. But those numbers include drinks as well as food, and the new advice is intended to encourage people to think more carefully about how many calories they consume through food alone.

PHE also wants to work with popular chains to persuade them to offer healthier meals, as part of a campaign expected to launch in March 2018 called "One You."

"Calorie guidelines have not changed — it's still 2,000 a day for women and 2,500 for men. Adults consume 200-300 too many calories a day, leading to weight gain and health issues," said a PHE spokesperson. "Our new OneYou campaign will give tips on managing calories for main meals so that by the end of the day, including snacks and drinks, total calories are closer to the guidelines."

Related: Swap this to cut the calories

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Food Swaps That Cut Calories
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Food Swaps That Cut Calories

Read on for simple healthy swaps that can change the way you live and eat.

Replace Granola with Oatmeal

Have you ever read the nutritional facts on a box of granola? The deceptively healthy breakfast can be incredibly sugar-filled. Instead, make a big pot of steel-cut oats and enjoy a small portion all week. Oatmeal is healthier and definitely less sugary than granola.

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Replace Sour Cream with Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is an extremely versatile food. Add fruit and it's sweet, spoon it on tacos and it's savory. Replace sour cream with Greek yogurt, which has a lot more protein and a lot less fat.

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Replace Pretzels with Almonds

If you're looking for a satisfying and crunchy snack, raw or roasted almonds are a filling and nutritious choice.

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Replace Pita and Hummus with Veggies and Hummus

By dipping veggies into your hummus you'll decrease the calories in the snack while increasing the nutritional benefits.

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Replace Spaghetti with Spaghetti Squash

For a healthier noodle, try spaghetti squash, which is lower in calories, but high in fiber.

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Replace Iceberg Lettuce with Kale

Yes, salad is almost always the healthy choice, but there is a hierarchy when it comes to greens and unfortunately iceberg lettuce is one of the least nutritional greens. If you can't give up crunchy iceberg lettuce, just mix kale or spinach into a salad and you'll have a perfectly healthy meal.

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Replace Potatoes with Cauliflower

Mashed potatoes are a super delicious comfort food, but by mashing up cauliflower instead of potatoes, you'll significantly lower the amount of calories in the dish.

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Replace Butter with Almond Butter

Instead of lathering butter on to a bagel or toast, try almond butter. The nut butter boasts healthy fats and will keep you satisfied for longer.

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Replace Creamy Soups with Clear Broths

Soup can make for a great, healthy dish, but the calories can add up if the broth is filled with milk or cream. Go for chicken or vegetable broth-based soups, or better yet, make your own at home!

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Replace Milk with Almond Milk

Based on calories alone, almond milk has fewer calories than skim milk.

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Replace Beef with Mushrooms

Mushroom burgers are all the rage in the food world and make for tasty burgers. If you're not willing to give up beef entirely, shake up your burger recipe by adding mushroom, which will help to cut down on fat, but add nutritional value.

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Replace White Bread with Whole Wheat Bread

By using whole wheat bread in sandwiches or for toast you'll be enjoying more fiber and than you would by eating white bread. According to SparkPeople, whole wheat bread still has fewer calories than white bread too.

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Replace Rice with Quinoa

Rice always makes for a great side dish, but quinoa is not only more versatile, but a whole lot healthier. Quinoa contains protein, vitamins and nutrients, and it even has fewer calories than brown rice with 185 in a cup compared to 195.

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Replace Mayo with Avocado

The heart-healthy fats in avocados actually make it the perfect spread for toast or a tasty addition to egg salad. In terms for nutritional value, avocados beat mayo by a landslide.

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Replace Ketchup with Mustard

Unfortunately, ketchup actually contains a lot of sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup has four grams of sugar and 20 calories even though this doesn't sound like much, it can quickly add up. On the other hand mustard has no sugar and three calories per tablespoon.

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However, not everyone is convinced. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum said the new guidelines are a "panic measure" to get the public to understand they are eating too much.

"Portion sizes are getting bigger and people are mindlessly eating them just because they are there," he said. "The idea is sound because we are eating too much, but my feeling is the thresholds are too low."

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank, told the Daily Mail that the original calorie guidelines have been established for decades, and there is nothing wrong with them.

"Public Health England's latest calorie guidelines are not based on evidence and are essentially a lie designed to manipulate people into eating less," he said. "This nanny-state agency makes it up as it goes along."

Related: Order this, not that

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15 of the healthiest fast-food menu items
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15 of the healthiest fast-food menu items

Chipotle — Chicken Burrito Bowl with brown rice & pinto beans, no cheese or sour cream: 500 calories

Chipotle has lots of fresh, healthier options. In general, nix the cheese and sour cream (an occasional dollop of guac is fine, since it's packed with healthy fats), and go for deconstructed alternatives to their burritos, like this one, which has:

500 calories — not too low, not too high 

42 g of protein — a hefty amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

13.5 g of fat — a little on the high side

57 g of carbs — roughly one-third of your recommended daily allowance

805 mg of sodium — a little less than half your recommended daily allowance

Starbucks — Spinach and Feta Wrap: 290 calories

While the yummy pastries at Starbucks are sure to catch your eye mid-afternoon, sugary muffins and scones can leave you hangry. Their hot breakfast items, like this wrap, are likely a healthier, more filling meal, with:

290 calories — pretty low as far as lunch goes; pair with a high-protein side like plain Greek yogurt

19 g of protein — a pretty good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

10 g of fat — not too low, not too high

33 g of carbs — pretty high; replace sugary or carb-heavy snacks with protein-rich ones

830 mg of sodium — just under half your daily allowance

In-N-Out — Cheeseburger with onion, ketchup, and mustard, no spread: 480 calories

You don't have to turn to the secret menu (we're lookin' at you, Protein-Style fans) to get a lighter option at In-N-Out. Swap the special sauce for some ketchup and mustard to slash some fat and calories, and opt for a regular burger instead of a Double-Double.

480 calories — not too high, not too low

22 g of protein — a good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

27 g of fat — on the high side (a little less than half your daily allowance)

41 g of carbs — roughly 14% of your recommended daily allowance

1080 mg of sodium — close to half your recommended daily allowance

Chick-fil-A — Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap: 340 calories

The "home of the original chicken sandwich" spiced up its menu last year, adding a smattering of healthy fare like this option, which has: 

350 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go; you might want to pair this with a yogurt, a small salad, or some fresh fruit

37 g of protein — a hefty amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

14 g of fat — not too low, not too high

29 g of carbs — on the low side

960 mg of sodium — about half your recommended daily allowance

Wendy's — Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad, full size: 480 calories

Not all of Wendy's salads are healthy (the Spicy Caesar Chicken Salad, for example, packs 790 calories and 43 grams of fat), but a couple are winners in most areas, including this "Mediterranean" chicken salad. The drawback to this salad, however, is that it's very high in sodium.

480 calories — on the low side

43 g of protein — a hefty amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

16 g of fat — on the higher side, but not a deal-breaker

42 g of carbs — pretty high and about a third comes from sugar

1200 mg of sodium — more than half your daily allowance

Shake Shack — Single Hamburger or Chicken Dog: 360 or 300 calories

While they're known for their towering Shack Stacks and crispy fries, this chain has lighter options too. Notably, their vegetarian 'Shroom Burger isn't one of them. The hamburger (without cheese) has:

360 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go; you might want to pair this with a yogurt, a small salad, or some fresh fruit

26 g of protein — a good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

17 g of fat — on the higher side, but not a deal-breaker

25 g of carbs — pretty low

460 mg of sodium — pretty low

The Chicken Dog has:

300 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go

26 g of protein — a good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

11 g of fat —not too high, not too low

32 g of carbs — not too high, not too low

970 mg of sodium — a little under half your daily allowance

McDonald's — Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 380 calories

While I wasn't very impressed by the taste of the Artisan Grilled Chicken, it's definitely one of the healthier choices at McDonald's, since the meat is grilled rather than fried. Here's how the sandwich stacks up:

380 calories — pretty low for a lunch items go; you might want to pair this with a yogurt, a small salad, or some fresh fruit

37 g of protein — a hefty amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

7 g of fat — not too low, not too high

44 g of carbs — roughly 14% of your daily allowance

1100 mg of sodium — about half your daily allowance

Taco Bell — Chicken Burrito Supreme, "Fresco Style": 340 calories

No longer solely the land of Chalupas and Crunchwrap Supremes, Taco Bell has expanded its healthier offerings with the "Fresco" menu, which essentially swaps the sour cream and cheese in popular items for salsa. Here's how the Fresco Burrito with chicken shapes up: 

340 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go; you might want to pair this with a yogurt, a small salad, or some fresh fruit

19 g of protein — a pretty good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

8 g of fat — not too low, not too high

49 g of carbs — roughly 16% of your recommended daily allowance

1060 mg of sodium — close to half your recommended daily allowance 

Panera — Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken: 340 calories

Panera has plenty of yummy nutritious items, at least for lunch. The only bone we have to pick with this salad is that, because of the dressing and fruit, it contains a hefty amount of sugar at 20 grams. Otherwise, here's how it stacks up:

430 calories — not too high, not too low

25 g of protein — a hefty amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

13 g of fat — a moderate amount

31 g of carbs — a moderate amount

280 mg of sodium — low, especially compared to the other items on this list

McDonald's — Egg McMuffin: 300 calories

The fruit and yogurt parfait isn't the only healthy morning item that McDonald's offers. Avoiding the meat is an easy way to lighten up their traditional all-day breakfast fare. An Egg McMuffin has:

300 calories — on the lower side if you're eating it for lunch

18 g of protein — a hefty amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

12 g of fat — on the higher side, but not a deal-breaker

30 g of carbs — fairly low

730 mg of sodium — about a third of your recommended daily allowanc

Dunkin' Donuts — Egg White Flatbread: 280 calories

For a chain that specializes in deep-fried dough, Dunkin' Donuts has quite a few healthy breakfast options, like their Egg White Flatbread, which has:

330 calories — pretty low as far as lunch goes; pair with a side salad, some fruit, or a yogurt

18 g of protein — a good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

14 g of fat — not too high, not too low

33 g of carbs — roughly 11% of your recommended daily allowance

570 mg of sodium — about a quarter of your daily allowance

Papa John's — Garden Fresh Pizza, two medium slices: 400 calories

One of the least healthy things about most pizza-chain fare is the high sodium content, which some research suggests may be bad for your heart. If you're a pizza fan, keep an eye your salt intake the rest of the day after you've indulged in a few slices. The Garden Fresh pie has:

400 calories — on the lower side

16 g of protein — a pretty good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

14 g of fat — not too low, not too high

54 g of carbs — pretty high; replace sugary or carb-heavy snacks with protein-rich ones in your other meals

960 mg of sodium — just under half your daily allowance

Pizza Hut — Garden Party Thin Crust Pizza, two medium slices: 460 calories

As part of its recent attempt to overhaul its brand, Pizza Hut began offering several options with more fresh veggies and popular toppings like Sriracha. But like other pizza chains, most offerings are high in sodium and carbs. The Garden Party pizza has:

460 calories — not too high, not too low

18 g of protein — a pretty good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

18 g of fat — on the higher side, but not a deal-breaker

60 g of carbs — pretty high; watch your other snacks

900 mg of sodium — a little under half your daily allowance

Burger King — BK Veggie Burger, no mayo: 310 calories

Many vegetarians were excited when Burger King announced its veggie option. Overall at this restaurant, you should follow same rules we highlighted for ordering at McDonald's: Avoid mayo and fried options and go for sandwiches instead of meal packages. Here's the BK Veggie lowdown:

310 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go; you might want to pair this with a yogurt, a small salad, or some fresh fruit

22 g of protein — a hefty amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

7 g of fat — not too low, not too high

42 g of carbs — roughly 14% of your daily allowance

990 mg of sodium — close to half your daily allowance

Subway — 6-inch Turkey Breast Sub, no cheese, add avocado: 340 calories

"Eating fresh" is pretty easy at this chain, where you can get lean meats or just fresh veggies on whole-wheat bread with a variety of low-calorie, low-fat dressings. Turkey and avocado, my personal favorite, has:

340 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go; you might want to pair this with a yogurt, a small salad, or some fresh fruit

18 g of protein — a pretty good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up

9 g of fat — not too low, not too high

49 g of carbs — roughly 16% of your daily allowance

670 mg of sodium — not bad; much lower than competing items at Chipotle or Taco Bel

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