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One in three fast food meals contain more than double the calories recommended for a meal, according to a new report from Nesta.

Analysis of out-of-home dining by the nudge charity found common meals from fast food outlets had an average calorie content of 1,121. Almost one third contained at least 1,300 kcals, far in excess of the recommended 600 per meal.

Pizzas had the highest calorie content on average, the report shows. Some contained almost all the recommended daily calorie allowance of 2,000 to 2,500.

Nesta also scrutinised restaurants, cafés and sandwich counters. It found sandwiches and wraps from retailers, including supermarkets, were purchased most often, thereby being responsible for the highest proportion of calories from OOH food at 11%. For comparison, pizza contributed 7%.

Across the sector, a fifth of meals contained at least 1,300 kcals, while three-fifths exceeded the recommended level of 600 kcals, according to the charity.

It reported that about 60% of Brits purchased OOH meals at least once a week, and around seven million people used OOH an average of once a day. On average, people living with excess weight purchased a greater proportion of calories from fast food outlets than people with a healthy weight.

The current calorie count of OOH meals “could be making a real contribution to rising obesity rates, which have doubled since the early 1990s and is now one of the top causes of ill health in Britain,” said Lauren Bowes Byatt, deputy director of Nesta’s health team. “We need action if we are to turn the tide and improve the nation’s health.

“Many current regulations designed to make food and drink healthier have focused on retailers or manufacturers, and don’t apply to the food we purchase on the go.”

British consumers needed to see “new policies targeted at the out-of-home sector that make a meaningful difference to the excess calories we consume”, she added. “Our work suggests this is possible without reducing the joy we take from food.”

It comes as Nesta is working with Asda to improve the health of its products – after the charity called in February for supermarkets to face fines if they failed to comply with a system of mandatory healthy food targets.