BRITAIN has been ordered to go on a diet by top health officials who say that some children are eating the equivalent of an extra meal a day in calories.

Public Health England (PHE) warned that obesity is becoming "the norm" as it challenged the food industry to cut a fifth of calories from popular family foods over the next six years.

However, one of Dorset’s leading weight-loss experts questioned whether the organisation’s three-in-one message - cut down on kids’ calories, only eat 400 calorie breakfasts and two other 600 calorie meals and that the calorie content of popular foods such as pizza and hummus must be reduced, was too much.

Valerie Ingham, a Slimming World consultant in Poole for the past 15 years, said that while it was good to encourage healthy eating, the approach had to be right.

“We don’t get that many 11-15 year olds coming along, normally they come with their parents who are already members of Slimming World,” she said. “We don’t suggest they follow a plan as such but they are educated into making what we call ‘good swaps’ so that they learn to make good choices themselves and I think that approach is best.”

Her words came as PHE’s chief executive Duncan Selbie called on restaurants, retailers and manufacturers to slash the amount of calories in foods by 20% by 2024.

"The simple truth is on average we need to eat less,” he said. “Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it's why so many are overweight or obese. Industry can help families by finding innovative ways to lower the calories in the food we all enjoy."

Valerie Ingham agreed that some children were obese. “It is a worrying situation with children as you can see that more are overweight and so that’s why I think the government is on the right track, even if it’s given out so many messages in one day. In the end, it’s all about moderation – you can have pizza so long as it’s not always piled with cheese, and at Slimming World we allow for wine and chocolate, things like that, rather than tell people they can’t have this and the can’t have that.”

Award-winning Dorset-based nutritionist and consultant, Barbara Cox, believes the key to losing weight is ‘not as simple as eat less and exercise more.’

“There are many factors involved, including mindset, hormones, age, oxidative stress, current diet beliefs, support from peers and family, sleep patterns, stress, metabolism and more,” she said.

“The yo-yo effect of not addressing obesity as a whole and tailoring solutions to individuals could lead people to start a new path of weight loss and expect will-power to see them through. Yet will-power only lasts until you hit a road block of issues mentioned above and then it falls and they are left feeling discouraged and disgruntled they cannot lose weight.”

She believes that people have become used to ‘free advice that doesn’t work’ and believes that for lasting results, ‘true professional help’ should be sought.