Two-thirds unaware of calories needed to maintain a healthy weight

5 January 2015        


Almost two-thirds of people do not know how many calories the average person needs to maintain a healthy weight, according to a new poll we commissioned with Diabetes UK, and Tesco. 

The survey, commissioned to mark the launch of a new partnership between the three organisations that aims to improve the health of the nation, found that:

  • Just 35% of respondents knew the average man needs to consume 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight;
  • Only slightly more, 37%, could pinpoint 2,000 calories as the equivalent for women.
  • Awareness is even lower among older people, with just a quarter of those aged 55 and over knowing this.  (26 per cent knowing it for women, and 23% for men).

The survey also found that many people could not identify the calorie content of popular meal choices and day-to-day food items. 

  • One in three (33%) underestimated the calories in half a pint of semi skimmed milk (136 Kcals)
  • 39% underestimated the calorie content of a meal of chicken tikka masala with rice, one of the most popular UK dishes (800 Kcals)
  • 40% also underestimate the calories in the office workers’ favourite medium latte and blueberry muffin (620 Kcals)

Energy balance – the balance between the number of calories you consume and use - is the cornerstone of weight management. But with 62% of UK adults currently overweight, this confusion over the amount of calories we are eating and our lack of physical activity highlights a need to focus on this basic principle. 

Charity partnership

The British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Tesco are highlighting the results as part of a new three year partnership between the three organisations. They aim to raise £30 million to fund a series of initiatives to help people lead a healthy lifestyle.  

One of the partnership’s first activities will be to offer free health checks for 40,000 people during January at Tesco stores around the UK. 

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation said: “These figures are deeply concerning and highlight our confusion about calories.  Eating too much of any food increases the chances of becoming obese, a risk factor for coronary heart disease, which is the UK’s single biggest killer. 

"We all must pay more notice to what and how much we are eating and drinking to maintain a healthy weight and heart. Half of us aren’t doing enough physical activity and this makes the situation much, much worse. 

“Eating a balanced, healthy diet and doing regular physical activity are really important in reducing  risk of becoming overweight and developing heart disease.”

To get one of the free health checks, go to any Tesco pharmacy during January.