TV chefs cook up more calories than ready meals

Caroline Cassidy

They pride themselves on their fresh ingredients and easy cooking styles, but according to new research many TV chefs are serving up food that is "less healthy" than your average supermarket ready meal.

Celebrity chef's recipes 'less healthy' than ready meals
Celebrity chef's recipes 'less healthy' than ready meals

Researchers at NHS Tees and Newcastle University randomly selected 100 recipes from the top five cookbooks of 2010's celebrity chef crop, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day, Nigella Lawson's Kitchen, both Ministry Of Food and 30-Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, and Lorraine Pascale's Baking Made Easy.

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The scientists then compared the nutritional content with 100 own-brand ready meals from Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's.

And it seems the chef's mouth-watering offerings are to be avoided if you're on a diet. The results showed that on average, the recipes by Jamie et al contained 2,530 calories per portion, compared with 2,067 in the ready meals.

They were also found to contain "significantly more" fat, saturated fat and protein and less fibre per portion.

However, none of the meals, celebrity-made or otherwise, met the World Health Organisation's recommendations for a nutritionally balanced meal.

As a result, Professor Martin White, whose study was published on the BMJ website, suggests TV cooking shows should come with a health warning.

He 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.
Prof. White added: "There's nothing wrong with some of these recipes as an occasional treat but people need to be made aware."

A spokesman for Jamie Oliver told the Daily Mail that the chef's official website would soon be re-launching to include nutritional information on all his recipes, while Lorraine Pascale's rep conceded that some of the recipes in her book Baking Made Easy were healthier than others, but said: "Funnily enough, the topic of her next series and book specifically addresses healthy eating."

What do you think? Should TV cookery shows carry health warnings? Leave your comments below...