Restaurant Menu with Cutlery on Blue Wooden Table

10 Aug 2020

Will calorie counts on menus effect those with eating disorders?

The UK government recently announced a new plan to tackle obesity. The strategies include:

  • Removing adverts before 9pm for foods high in fat, sugar and salt
  • Ending of supermarket deals on unhealthy food
  • Calorie counts to be displayed on menus

With approximately 63% of adults in England being overweight or living with obesity (*), this is an important objective to improve the health of the nation. However, concerns have been raised about the damage calorie counting can cause. Those with, or recovering from, eating disorders can already find dining out distressing and calorie counts on menus can heighten this.


What are eating disorders? (**)

An eating disorder is when there is an unhealthy attitude towards food, which can effect both your mental and physical health.

There are different types of eating disorders, the most common including:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder

Studies have found that the use of calorie labels on menus was associated with unhealthy weight control behaviours and weight related concerns in women and men (***).

Eating Disorder Hope (****) is an organisation that offers information and resources to promote ending disordered eating behaviours. They have listed a number of ways to help combat disordered eating related to calorie counts on menus.

  • View calorie counts on online menus to plan beforehand – this allows you to view meal options in your own home and make decisions without time constraints or pressure from people around you
  • Spend mealtime with supportive people that you feel comfortable with
  • Wellness strategies – techniques like keeping journals, social support and positive affirmations can be used to manage negative emotions surrounding eating out

At The Eaves, we have counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists who are experienced in supporting those struggling with eating problems. If you are looking for help regarding disordered eating, please contact the referrals team on 01483 917000 who would be happy to help source a suitable therapist for you.





(***) Haynos, A.F. and Roberto, C.A. (2017). The effects of restaurant menu calorie labeling on hypothetical meal choices of females with disordered eating. Int J Eat Disord, 50(3), 275-283. doi:10.1002/eat.22675