New Calorie Guidelines (and how to make them work...)

Our new calorie guidelines, here to help us get healthier as a nation but how easy is it? 

What are the new suggested targets for calorie intake at mealtimes?

Breakfast 400
Lunch 600
Dinner 600
Total through meals 1600

Plus a few extras through snacks and drinks throughout the day means that the overall daily intake will be around 1800-2000kcal.

Why the new guidelines?

Well, most of us (including those with plenty of food knowledge like me) underestimate their food intake! Most people have an awareness of healthy eating now and can make good food choices but sadly this isn’t enough because we tend to trip up in three major areas:

- Snacking
- Portions
- Fluid intake

More on these later.

Some have argued that the guidelines are too low and whilst it is probably true that for some people, following these calorie targets would result in fairly rapid weight loss, for many it will have the desired effect of slowly decreasing or even just maintaining body weight. 


Because again chances are we will continue to underestimate, just from a different starting point, and we won’t stick to the guidelines every day. If you are one of those who finds that your new calorie target is causing you to rapidly lose weight then simply slow this weight loss down by eating a little more until you have achieved your target body weight. Then it is the fun and games of finding your "maintenance intake".  That is to say the amount of calories that you as an individual need to consume on a daily basis to maintain your body weight and good health. This is always a bit of trial and error so be patient!

If nothing else, these new suggested guidelines might just help to raise awareness and get individuals to really consider how many calories they are eating.  Whether you focus in on snacks first or start to look at your portion size, remember that this isn’t about radically changing your diet, just tweaking it to bring calories down whilst getting in as much great food as possible.

So, what does a day sticking to the above calorie guidelines actually look like?


Breakfast is likely to surprise you, not by how little but by how much you can eat!
- Bowl of porridge made with milk and topped with a chopped banana, 5 almonds and 1 tsp of honey plus a cup of tea
- 2 x poached eggs on 1 slice of lightly buttered wholegrain toast plus a mug of milky tea
- ½ mashed avocado on 1 slice of wholegrain toast plus a regular latte
- Bacon sandwich with 2 x medium slices of wholemeal bread with 2 grilled rashers of bacon plus 1 small orange juice
- Large bowl of muesli (75g) with milk plus a cup of tea.

These are all big sustaining breakfasts that will keep you going easily all morning, or at least until mid morning.


This can be an easy one to work out if you buy lunch out. Check out the label and look for kcal per serving / portion. One word of warning though…make sure that your portion is the same as that stated on the packet!
Often you will be able to get a pre-packed sandwich for 400-500kcal and you can then add in a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts or olives or a hard boiled egg to boost protein. This will take you up to your 600kcal.
If you are making your own lunch why not try a large wrap (180kcal) and stuff this with a hardboiled sliced egg (80kcal) or cold ham/chicken (170kcal for a small fillet) or cut a 30g block of cheese (125kcal) and grate this over the wrap before filling it with plenty of green salad and extras like tomatoes, radishes, spring onions and even some fresh herbs and chilli to add some zing.
As above, add in some fruit or even some chopped veggie crudités and some hummous (100kcal for a heaped tbsp) or a natural yoghurt with some fruit / seeds sprinkled over (150kcal).


This is where most of us trip up and largely due to portion size! 
The most important tip is to have a go at weighing out your food. Don’t worry, you won’t need to do this for long – just a week or so to get your most commonly eaten foods on the scales. Weigh out a portion of pasta – aiming for 65g dry pasta will equate to 230kcal.  Many of us pour out far larger portions than this! Adding in 1 average grilled pork sausage (160kcal) plus some homemade tomato and onion pasta sauce (~50kcal) will mean that this is already 440kcal. Having a yoghurt and a piece of fruit for pudding means that you have reached the 600kcal target. 
Id recommend that you do similar for rice and couscous and potatoes and for cuts of meat and fish. Our concept of what constitutes a normal portion has become somewhat distorted over the past decade so we could all do with pressing the reset button on food portions and looking again and how much we are eating. 

Having reached your 1600kcal with the 3 meals, the theory is then that you have a little flexibility to add in some extras either through snacks or drinks to top up the calories to around the 2000kcal mark. Again, this won’t take long... if you were to have 2 pieces of fruit in the afternoon and a large glass of wine with your meal in the evening – you have easily reached 2000. 

Watch out for...

Alcohol – wine, beer, spirits... are all high in calories so do refresh your calorie knowledge on your favourite tipple and work out how much leeway you have in your menu to allow for the odd glass.
Snacks – a biscuit here and a slice of cake there, it all adds up and can seriously mess up your calorie targets! Do you have an unhelpful cake culture in your office? Change it and bring in fruit.
Portions – Weigh Measure Weigh... it is worth it until you have a visual equivalent such as a favourite cup that you know equates to your portion of rice or pasta or muesli. This will make life easier and will really help you keep the calories down.

So give this a go and see how you get on.  Let us know what you find most difficult and why.

Good luck!

Faith x