People should be told to limit their time in front of the TV and cut out sugary drinks to stave off obesity, health officials have said.
New NHS guidance states that following a healthy diet and being active is important for everyone, not just for those who are overweight or obese.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has issued new draft guidance saying that even people of a normal weight should be urged to avoid sugar sweetened drinks including fizzy drinks, sports drinks, squashes and any other hot or cold drinks that contain added sugar.
“The general rule for maintaining a healthy weight is that energy intake through food and drink should not exceed energy output from daily activity”
They should also be told to reduce television viewing time by having “TV-free days” or setting themselves a limit to watch television for no more than two hours a day.
In the new draft guideline, which has been written to help adults and children maintain a healthy weight or prevent further weight gain if they are already overweight, NICE suggests that people should keep an eye on their weight by regularly using the bathroom scales or using apps that track food intake or physical activity.
It also makes dietary and lifestyle suggestions to help people keep off excess weight.
People should be told to walk or cycle to school or work and to be more active during leisure time. They should also reduce their intake of calorific foods including biscuits, sweets and chocolate, full-fat cheeses and fried foods and switch to fruit and vegetables instead.
“Even people who are a healthy weight should review their diet and lifestyle”
In addition, they should “follow the principles” of a Mediterranean diet which is predominantly based on vegetables, fruits, beans, pulses, wholegrains and fish and uses olive oil instead of other fats.
“Obesity rates have nearly doubled over the last 10 years and continue to be a huge concern for local authorities and the health service in England,” said Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE.
“NICE has already published a range of guidelines to help prevent and manage obesity, but this draft update focuses on the changes individuals can make that might help them reduce their risk of being overweight and obesity. Following a healthier diet and being more physically active is important for everyone, not just if you are already overweight or obese.
“The general rule for maintaining a healthy weight is that energy intake through food and drink should not exceed energy output from daily activity,” said Professor Kelly. “We all know we should probably take the stairs rather than the lift, cut down on TV time, eat more healthily and drink less alcohol. But it can be difficult to know the most useful changes that we can make in terms of our weight.
“This updated guideline makes a number of recommendations which aim to ensure that the advice people are given about maintaining a healthy weight is more specific and based on real evidence,” he added.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Even people who are a healthy weight should review their diet and lifestyle as eating a balanced diet, being regularly active, drinking alcohol within the lower level guidelines and not smoking helps to protect your health and wellbeing.
“Making sustained changes – like walking or cycling to work instead of taking the bus or driving and swapping sugary foods and drinks to those with no added sugar – can make an enormous difference to a person’s health.”