Popular TV chefs use recipes that consist of considerably more protein, energy, fat, and saturated fat, and even have less fiber per portion, than ready meals found at local supermarkets.

The finding came from a study conducted by a team of experts from NHS Tees and Newcastle University and was published in the Christmas issue of British Medical Journal (BMJ).

To better inform consumers, nutritional information on these chefs’ recipes should be provided in their cookery books, the experts recommend. The chefs should also adjust which recipes they explain on television, just as how experts cut down on the advertisement of foods that are considered high in salt, sugar, and fat.

Experts say that approximately 70% of adults in the United States and in the United Kingdom will be overweight by 2020, this means that diabetes, cancer, and heart disease rates will increase as well.

Although prior research has indicated that recipes from chefs on TV as well as ready meals from the grocery store impact the diet of several individuals, there has been no report extensively analyzing the nutritional facts of either.

Therefore, the experts in this study set out to examine how healthy these famous recipes and ready meals were, and then compared both to dietary guidelines by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The experts randomly chose 100 main course recipes from 5 cookery books by UK chefs that were very successful and 100 own brand ready meals from the 3 most common grocery stores in the UK.

The recipes analyzed were taken from Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. The ready meals that were examined were made by Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Asda.

The raw ingredients that were reported in the recipes and ready meals were used to measure the nutritional content.

Results showed that there was not one ready meal or recipe that completely followed the WHO suggestions to avoid diseases relating to diet.

The ready meals and recipes were both inclined to be:

  • low in carbohydrate
  • high in fat, saturated fat, protein, and salt
  • within the suggested range for sugar

The TV recipes were found to be less healthy than ready meals because they contained considerably more protein, fat, energy, and saturated fat as well as notably less fiber per portion than ready meals.

The meals from the famous chefs on TV had a higher probability of receiving “red traffic light” labels (a term used by FSA meaning that they have high amounts of sugar, salt, fat, and saturated fat) than ready meals.

Although manufacturers have reported attempts to lower the amount of salt in their ready meals, just 4% of those meals met the guidelines by the WHO. The recipes had an increased likelihood of meeting the recommendation, however, the team noted that the salt contained in the seasoning was not evaluated.

The authors explained:

“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 recipes seemed to be less healthy than the ready meals on several metrics.”

In order to receive the greatest nutritional benefit, the team believes that the best thing to do may be to home cook using recipes that are nutritionally balanced with raw ingredients, instead of depending on popular tv chefs or ready meals.

The researchers concluded:

“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.”

Written by Sarah Glynn