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  • Diane Johnson RNutr

Adults Calorie Intake

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

February 2019


A third of adults in the UK underestimate how many calories they consume.

The recommended calorie intake for women is 2000kcals per day, and men, 2500kcals. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey conduct surveys regularly, on various aspects of nutrition and diet. It is notoriously difficult to survey due to participants forgetting or not recording what they eat, but research tools are used to minimise skewing the results.

Both men and women are thought to consume, on average, a 1000kcals per day above the recommended total daily intake.

Public Health England recommends 400kcals for breakfast and 600kcals each for lunch and dinner. This enables snacks and drinks to be consumed while not tipping the recommended intake of calories per day.

Eating out is one of the most challenging areas to address for the consumer as the calorie value is often not available on the menu. This, however, seems to be changing as caterers become more aware of diners need for increased information on what is on the menu. Some hotels in a recent survey were found to be providing well over a thousand calories for breakfast and more if diners are selecting from buffet service with no restrictions on portions.

Beverages need to be taken into account as well the most problematic from a calorie counting is soft sugary drinks and alcohol. This includes fruit juices which although may not have sugar added, are naturally sugary.

It is a good idea if you’re concerned about your calorie intake to check out the portion sizes you are using (see below). You may be surprised at how much more you’re consuming than is recommended to stay within recommended guidelines.

Number of Portions

  • Fruit and vegetables: 5+ portions per day

  • Starchy carbohydrates: 3-4 portions per day

  • Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins: 2-3 portions per day

  • Dairy and alternatives: 2-3 portions per day


British Nutrition Foundation Recommended Portion Sizes 2019

  • 2 handfuls of dried pasta shapes or rice (75g)

  • A bunch of spaghetti the size of a £1 coin, measured using your finger and thumb (75g)

  • the amount of cooked pasta or rice that would fit in two hands cupped together (180g)

  • A baked potato about the size of your fist (220g)

  • About 3 handfuls of breakfast cereal (40g)

  • A piece of grilled chicken breast about half the size of your hand (120g)

  • A piece of cheddar cheese about the size of two thumbs together (30g)

  • About 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (20g)

  • About 3 teaspoons of soft cheese (30g)


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