Research from the University of Birmingham has shown that 93% of dinner meal deals exceed the UK Government’s suggested calorie limit for dinner of 600 calories per person.

The UK Government launched its ‘One You’ campaign back in 2016, to try and help tackle the obesity epidemic and make the public more aware of their health and diet. One of the key messages in this campaign was the 400-600-600 guidance. Recommending that adults consume 400 calories for breakfast, and 600 each for lunch and dinner, with two 200-calorie snacks.

A study of dinner meal deals across three national supermarket and grocery store chains, composed of 85 combinable items, has found that 93% of dinner meal deals exceed the government’s recommended dinner calorie limit of 600 kcal for adults. The study has been published in a book chapter featured in Responsible Marketing for Well-being and Society.

Dr Sheena Leek, senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Birmingham who led the study said: “We are a very time-poor nation, and for those of us working long hours reaching for a dine-in or dinner meal deal can be an easy and cheap way to get a filling and hopefully tasty dinner or provide an economical alternative to a date night.

“But what is healthy for our wallets is not necessarily healthy for our bodies, and our study has found that these dinner meal deal combinations, more often than not, exceed the UK government guidance of dinner calorie content.”

The research shows that the number of dinner meal deals exceeding the 600 kcal limit varied wildly from shop to shop. At one store only 60.3% of dinner meal deal combinations exceeded the limit compared to nearly all (99.7%) at another.

The most calorific dinner deal reached 1526 kcal, which is 254% of the One You recommendation. The lowest meal deal had a calorie count of just 187 kcal, 31% of the suggested amount.

The average ‘main’ made up 51.2% of the guidance amount but ranged from 39.6%-78.3% across different shops. The calorie content of side dishes was all about the same (32.3%-33.2%) Desserts were also similar at 50.4%-54.2% and then drinks ranged from 13.9%-14.3%.

Dr Leek concluded: “The biggest difference in calorie content was caused by the inclusion of desserts and drinks. The dinner deals that had the smallest number of calories only included a main and side dish. But even then, our study shows that if you are depending on these deals for your dinner, the vast majority of them make it extremely difficult to stick to the 600 kcal suggestion.”