Office of National Statistics: 1/3 of Brits Underestimate Their Daily Calorific Intake

Just under 4,500 UK adults were surveyed and asked to record their calorie consumption per day.  The average under-reporting error for participants was 32%, a small number of cases over-reported intake.

Differences between Men & Women

Women estimated on average that their calorific intake was 1,570 calories per day.   The true figure of consumption was 823 calories more at 2,393 per day.

Men estimated a daily intake of 2,065 calories. The actual figure was a lot higher at over 1,000 calories extra at per day – 3,119 calories per day!


What is the recommended calorie intake?

It is recommended that on average to maintain weight a woman needs approximately 2,000 calories per day.   A man needs about 2,500 calories.

Public Health England (PHE) chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said under-reporting of calorie intakes “has always been a feature of all diet surveys”.

“Some people forget what they’ve consumed and some change what they record knowing they are part of a survey.

“There’s no way to get rid of under-reporting, but the steps we take to minimise it makes the National Diet and Nutrition Survey the most robust data on the population’s diet.”

Eating & drinking out

When eating and drinking out it can be difficult to track exactly what you eat.  This can be due to differing portion sizes.  Hidden ingredients and lack of nutritional data offered at bars, restaurants, cafes and takeaways are also an issue.


Alcohol can also be underestimated when counting calories.  A large glass of wine can be as much as 228 calories.  This is similar to a MacDonald’s Hamburger which is 250 Calories.  If you have 3 large glasses of wine per week that’s 35,568 calories per year, which is just over 142 Hamburgers!


What does the future hold?

In 2016 26% of adults in the UK were classified as obese which has risen dramatically from less than 3% in the 1970s.

PHE’s advice is to limit the number of calories consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner to 1,600 calories in total per day.  This leaves room for extra drinks and snacks.

To tackle the UK’s obesity epidemic, PHE recently launched a calorie counting / reduction campaign.

According to Dr Tedstone, “treating obesity costs the NHS £6.1 billion a year. Musculoskeletal conditions can be caused by obesity and are the biggest causes of sick leave in England. Sick leave costs the economy £100 billion a year.”



Source:  Data Science Campus – Office National StatisticsPublic Health MattersStatistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet – England,,