Six chips are an 'ideal portion', says Harvard professor

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Counting chips: French fries have been dubbed a 'starch bomb' by a US professor of nutrition
Counting chips: French fries have been dubbed a 'starch bomb' by a US professor of nutrition

Related tags: Chips

Six fries are an ideal portion, according to a Harvard professor who dubbed the food a “starch bomb”. The Morning Advertiser asked UK industry experts if portions served by pubs here were too large.

US nutritionists agreed portions sold in the US were higher than in other countries, in an article published by The New York Times​.

Portions across the pond

“There aren’t a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of French fries,” Dr Eric Rimm told the US newspaper.

Dr Rimm, a professor of nutrition and medicine at the prestigious North American university, has researched the health implications of different foods for more than two decades.

“I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries,” he said.

He added: “It’s too bad in this country you’ll pry them from my cold dead hand.”

The number of fries in a portion matters more than other factors like what cooking oil was used, according to Lindsay Moyer, a nutritionist from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Facts ‘n’ stats

What are pub portions currently like?

UK pubs’ average portion sizes range between 180g-240g per person, according to McCain data​.

There are 546 calories in a portion of chips served at Greene King’s Flaming Grill sites.

A bowl of chips at a JD Wetherspoon pub is 955 calories, though a lighter-choices menu recommends swapping them for a side salad.

All Bar One offer a 'Trio of Fries' dish which totals 1,180 calories and includes paprika fries, Parmesan fries, and cajun sweet potato fries.

UK Government action

In the UK, Public Health England said it was consulting with businesses to finalise the proposed caps for individual product categories under the calorie reduction programme​.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive for UKHospitality, said the results of a 2017 study mentioned by the NYT​ were “far from conclusive”.

The study found individuals who ate fried potatoes two to three times a week were at a higher risk of mortality compared with those who ate non-fried potatoes.

Nicholls added: “It should be noted that venues in the UK have been hard at work reformulating menus and reducing calories and salt in their meals, and studies on consumption habits in the US don’t necessarily tally with out-of-home eating habits in the UK.”

Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, told The Morning Advertiser​ there was a “huge difference” between the nutritional profiles of french fries and thick-cut chips.

“French fries have around twice the fat content of a thicker chip, so they are worse for you but actually more filling,” he explained.

"One of the biggest issues is poorly managed oil," Crook said. The Federation runs training academies on how to develop good oil management techniques in an endeavour to reduce fat content and transfers.

20% reduction

PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “We are challenging the whole of the food industry to reduce 20% of calories in everyday foods, such as chips – this can be achieved by offering smaller portions or by helping consumers choose healthier options.

“We have seen engagement from the eating out-of-home sector, including pubs, and we will publish guidelines in mid-2019 to help them achieve this.”

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