The British Nutrition Foundation has launched a ‘quality calorie’ campaign, but will this halt the obesity crisis?
In a bid to battle the obesity crisis, the British Nutrition Foundation has launched a ‘quality calorie’ campaign, to make us think more about the types of foods we eat. The British Nutrition Foundation Quality Calorie (QC) concept is designed to encourage the British public to be more mindful of what we eat as well as how much.
The website states they want us to: ‘not just look at the number of calories we consume, but also the quality of our diet to help us on the path to get enough of the nutrients that we need (including vitamins, minerals and fibre) and limit the amount of those that are of concern (free sugars, salt and saturated fat).’
The move comes after Public Health England announced plans earlier this year to tackle calorie intake, arguing that consuming excess calories is the root cause of obesity.
But will ‘quality calorie’ counting halt the obesity crisis? Netdoctor spoke to health and exercise coach Bernadette Dancy, BSc, MSc, PhD. A Qualified Personal Trainer and Exercise Referral Specialist with 15 years’ experience lecturing in Health and Exercise Science.
If we want people to change their nutritional behaviours, they need to understand nutrition better.
‘It’s great to see the message moving towards quality of food rather than simply focusing on the total amount of energy a food source provides, ie calories,’ says Dancy. ‘However, in my opinion there is still room for improving and simplifying the message that the public get. If we want people to change their nutritional behaviours, they need to understand nutrition better
Which health guidance is right?
With so much advice and information on nutrition and weight loss available, it can be confusing. ‘In my experience, the majority of the public are overwhelmed with constantly changing advice and guidance,’ says Dancy. ‘It’s great to see the message that calorie counting isn’t particularly helpful for ‘health’, because it fails to encourage consumption of nutrient dense foods, instead placing the focus on energy gained.
I believe it would be better to educate people about macros – carbs, protein and fat.
‘Based on my experience coaching people on how to be more healthy, I believe it would be better to educate people about macronutrients (macros – carbohydrate, protein and fat) and how to cook meals that have a more balanced amount of these. If we did this, people wouldn’t need to count calories, as the energy AND nutrients obtained from their meals would inevitably be at a suitable level.’
How does calorie counting work?
From sandwiches to hot dinners, everything seems to come with calorie content these days. But what does it really mean? ‘Calorie is a scientific term used to describe the amount of ‘energy’ a food provides,’ explains Dancy. ‘For this reason, it is an important thing to consider. However, knowing the calorie make-up of something tells us nothing about the nutritious value it holds.
Counting calories is not a very effective way to eat healthily or necessarily lose weight.
‘A 14-inch pizza from a fast food restaurant can contain up to 2000 calories (which most likely exceeds the daily recommended number of calories an average female may require depending on her level of activity) but will only provide a fraction of nutrients such as protein, good fats, fibre and low glycaemic carbohydrates she may need to keep her healthy and maintain her current weight. Counting calories is not a very effective way to eat healthily or necessarily lose weight.’
Dancy proposes a more tailored approach: ‘Instead, I would recommend everyone learns more about the amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre they require to maintain and lose weight,’ she says.‘These numbers will vary according to existing height, weight, gender and level of physical activity, so it would be advisable to seek out a certified dietician, nutritionist or personal trainer who can calculate these correctly for you.’