navigating calorie labelling on menus

If you enjoy eating out or having a take away, you may have noticed that your menu is now showing calorific values alongside your favourite dishes. The Government made an announcement earlier this month that all restaurants, cafes and takeaways that have more than 250 staff must display calories on their menus or food labels. The law was passed in a bid to “cut childhood obesity” and while it may have come from a good place, we fear it will do more harm than good.

Anyone who is living with an eating disorder, has a difficult relationship with food or struggles with body image could find this decision a challenging one to negotiate. But that doesn’t need to be the case. Using our lived experience as a team, we have compiled a list of things you can do so you don’t have to avoid going out or ordering in your favourite Chinese.

navigating calorie labelling on menus
Navigating Calorie Labelling on Menus.

Tips for navigating calorie labelling on menus

  1. If you are visiting a restaurant that displays calories, call ahead and ask if they can give you a menu without this information.
  2. As this law only applies to those eateries with more than 250 staff, try heading to independently owned cafes, restaurants and takeaways. 
  3. Trust in yourself that you know what’s best for your body and look to the nutritional education you may have received as part of your recovery. 
  4. Plan in advance – but ensure you set yourself boundaries so that you do not over plan as this can cause further distress. 
  5. Set a limit on how long you will spend looking at the menu. 
  6. Have a general idea of what you’d eat while there – pizza, pasta, etc.
  7. Consider ordering the same as the person you are going with. 
  8. Allow those feelings to rise and share them as they come and go with the person you are with if you feel able to trust them. 

As a mental health charity, we work directly with people who have eating disorders and we know first-hand how damaging seeing calorific information can be to someone in recovery – leading to relapse in some cases.

For those who find themselves struggling, whether it is food-related or not, please know you are not alone. We have a team of people who are here to support you, all of whom have lived experience of mental ill-health. Reach out to us here to get help.

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The Grass is Never Greener - Guest Blog Written by Naomi Hefter

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