Calories on menus: how could this affect children?

In a move to combat obesity, the Government announced new rules this week for large hospitality businesses (that employ over 250 people) to include information on calories on their menus.

To encourage consumers to make more informed decisions about what they eat and drink, the restaurants and cafes that are affected by the rules will need to display the number of calories in non-prepacked food and drinks.

One of the focuses of the legislation is to decrease the number of children that are overweight when they leave primary school, which is currently 40 per cent.

Despite this aim to improve the overall health of individuals in society, the wider ramifications could see a decline in self-esteem, especially in the younger generation.

With young people already feeling societal pressures to look a certain way, from the constant influence of the media, this calorie counting measure could have a detrimental impact on children’s mental health.

Across the UK, approximately 1.25 to 3.4 million people are affected by an eating disorder, with individuals usually developing the disorder during adolescence, according to Priory Group.

From these figures, it seems evident that young people are vulnerable to developing eating disorders and this measure could fuel concerns relating to calorie consumption.

Tom Quinn, Director of External Affairs at Beat, commented on the legislation:

“We know from the people we support that including calories on menus can contribute to harmful eating disorder thoughts and behaviours worsening.

“For instance, it can increase a fixation on restricting calories for those with anorexia or bulimia, or increase feelings of guilt for those with binge-eating disorder.”

Find out more information on the legislation here.

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