Limit consumption of 'fast foods' and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars.1

Limiting these foods helps control calorie intake and maintain a healthy weight.

Eating too many high-calorie foods, particularly processed foods that are high in fat, starches or sugar, can cause us to be overweight or obese. Eating a 'Western type' diet (a diet that contains high amounts of sugars, meat and fat) also increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese, which in turn is a cause of 12 common cancers.

What are high-calorie foods?

High-calorie foods (also known as calorie-dense or energy-dense foods) include things like:

  • Chocolate and sweets
  • Crisps
  • Biscuits
  • Cake
  • Ice cream
  • Fast food, like burgers, fried chicken or fries
  • Pastries

Even small portions of these foods contain lots of calories and they are often low in the vital nutrients your body needs.

Tips for cutting down on high-calorie foods and drinks

  • Reshape your plate

Reshaping your plate to include more wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and pulses will keep you feeling fuller for longer on fewer calories, which can help you to maintain a healthy weight, reducing your cancer risk.

  • Watch out for processed foods

In general, the healthiest foods are those that haven’t been processed. This means that they haven’t had extra sugar or fat added to them and the fibre is more likely to still be intact. Instead of eating processed foods, try to base your meals on vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and fruit.

  • Read food labels

As a guide, high-calorie foods contain more than about 225 calories (kcal) per 100g. These foods should be eaten sparingly. Some high-calorie foods are valuable sources of nutrients so can be eaten in small amounts. These include oily fish, nuts, seeds, cheese and avocados.

  • Trim off the fat

When eating meat, trim off the fat. Or better still, opt for skinless poultry (chicken or turkey) or white fish.

Our Real Recipes website contains healthy meal ideas based on our Cancer Prevention Recommendations to help people reduce their cancer risk.


1. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report. Recommendations and public health and policy implications. 2018.