TV Chef Recipes Are Unhealthier Than Supermarket Ready Meals
December 18, 2012

TV Chef Recipes Are Unhealthier Than Supermarket Ready Meals

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Just in time for Christmas a special issue of the British Medical Journal has published a series of articles associated with the holidays, including a classic tale of why Rudolph´s nose is red. Another popular holiday tradition, eating, has also been covered in the journal, published at today.

On the subject of food, researchers from NHS Tees and Newcastle University have taken a look at recipes created by popular TV chefs and showed how their meals contain significantly more energy, protein, fat and saturated fat and less fiber per portion than meals readily available at your local supermarket.

The authors of the new study suggest recipes derived from these chefs, as well as those found in cook books, should include nutritional information for consumers. They also suggest consideration be given to regulation of recipes demonstrated by TV chefs similar to that limiting advertising of foods classified as high in fat, sugar, and sodium.

The researchers warn that obesity is a burgeoning problem, with as much as 70 percent of adults becoming overweight in the US and the UK by 2020, adding to an already high rate of disease and cancer due to bigger waistlines. Previous studies have suggested that both supermarket ready meals and TV chef recipes influence many peoples´ diets, but none have comprehensively examined the nutritional content of either.

So the NHS and Newcastle team took it upon themselves to do what others hadn´t. The team analyzed the nutritional content of both recipes from TV chefs and that of supermarket ready meals. They then compared the content with dietary guidelines posted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA).

One hundred recipes were randomly picked from five bestselling cook books published by UK television chefs and another hundred from supermarket ready meals found in UK grocery chains.

The team selected recipes from cook books published by Jamie Oliver, Lorraine Pascale, Nigella Lawson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Supermarket ready meals came from Asda, Sainsbury´s and Tesco. The authors calculated nutritional content from the raw ingredients in both the chef recipes and ready-made meals.

What they found was that none of the meals, chef-made or ready-made, complied with WHO guidelines. Both types were high in protein, fat and salt, and low in carbs; both were in the recommended range for sugar.

However, the chef recipes were less healthy all around than the ready meals, as they contained significantly more energy, protein, fat and saturated fat than the ready meals; as well, the ready meals contained more fiber than the chef recipes.

As for salt, only 4 percent of the ready meals meet WHO guidelines, despite a strong stance by the health body to curb sodium intake. And while the chef recipes were more likely to comply with sodium recommendations, the authors did not assess salt content in the study.

This study shows that neither recipes created by popular television chefs nor ready meals produced by three leading UK supermarket chains meet national or international nutritional standards for a balanced diet,” the authors said. However, the chef recipes “seemed to be less healthy than the ready meals on several metrics.”

The authors note that the best nutritional benefit “is likely to be derived from home cooking of nutritionally balanced recipes primarily using raw ingredients, rather than relying on ready meals or recipes by television chefs.”

“Further reformulation of ready meals in line with international nutritional guidelines, and collaboration with television chefs to improve the nutritional quality of their recipes, may also help consumers to achieve a balanced diet,” the researchers conclude.