Ready meals ‘better for you than TV chef’s recipe’: Dishes created by star cooks contain more calories than TV dinners Health warnings should be on cooking programmes, say researchersStudy compared nutritional content of chefs' recipes and ready mealsNo meal met
all of WHO’s recommendations for a
balanced healthy meal
23:54 GMT, 17 December 2012
If you feel guilty about eating a ready meal while watching TV chefs making something from scratch, don’t worry – your food’s probably healthier than theirs.
Researchers say programmes from the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson should carry health warnings or even be shown after the watershed, because the recipes contain hundreds more calories than TV dinners.
The claim comes after NHS Tees and Newcastle University examined the top five books by TV chefs on Amazon in December 2010: River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver’s Ministry Of Food and 30-Minute Meals and Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale.
Good for you: The nutritional value of meals from books by celebrity chefs including Nigella Lawson, left, and Lorraine Pascal, right, were compared to supermarket ready meals
Nutrition: Offerings by chefs including Jamie Oliver were said to be 'less healthy' than the supermarket ready meals
After selecting 100 random recipes from them, they then compared the nutritional content with 100 own-brand ready meals from Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.
The chefs’ offerings were ‘less healthy’ than ready meals and contained ‘significantly more’ fat, saturated fat and protein and less fibre per portion, the study found.
On average, the celebrity recipes contained 2,530 calories per portion, compared with 2,067 in the ready meals.
None of the meals from either group met all of the World Health Organisation’s nutritional recommendations for a balanced healthy meal.
Professor Martin White, whose study was published on the BMJ website, said: ‘Children are subject to a 9pm watershed that restricts advertising of foods classified as high in fat, salt and sugar, and perhaps we should be thinking of similar restrictions.
‘There is certainly a case for providing nutritional information at the bottom of the screen and possibly traffic light warnings, as well as more information in cookbooks.’
Green-fingered: Even Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's meals was included in the study
The UK still spends 2.5billion a year on ready meals, despite their unhealthy reputation.
Prof White said: ‘There’s nothing wrong with some of these recipes as an occasional treat but people need to be made aware’ he added.
A spokesman for Jamie Oliver said ‘We welcome any research which raises debate on these issues and in fact Jamie’s most recent book, 15 Minute Meals, does contain calorie content and nutritional information per serving for every dish.
‘We will soon also be re-launching the Jamie Oliver website with nutritional information on the recipes. However, we would regard the key issue to be food education so that people are aware of which foods are for every day and which are treats to be enjoyed occasionally.’
A spokeswoman for Lorraine Pascale said ‘Some of the recipes in Lorraine’s book are healthy, some not quite so much so.
‘There are plenty of salads, soups and light meals as well as the richer dishes.
‘Her books and shows to date haven’t been about healthy eating, they are about cooking. However, funnily enough, the topic of her next series and book specifically addresses healthy eating.'