Processed ready meals may be more nutritious than TV chefs’ recipes

December 20, 2012

A study published in the British Medical Journal comparing the nutrient contents of supermarkets’ own-brand ready meals with recipes from four TV chefs found that the celebrity chefs’ recipes were unhealthier in terms of energy, fat, and fiber content. Their recipes all have higher fat, saturated fat, and calorie contents per serving than the supermarket processed meals.

The study used data on 100 ready meals from Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco as well as 100 recipes taken from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food and his 30 Minute Meals, Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday, and Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy. The researchers found that neither set of meals met national or international recommendations for a balanced diet. However, the chefs’ recipes would be more likely to receive the red “traffic light” warning symbols used under Food Standards Agency (FSA) criteria.

In fact, the chefs’ recipes contained a median of 605 kcals per portion—22% more than the ready meals studied. Sugar content was also 22% higher than in ready meals, while the recipes’ fat and saturated fat content were shown to be 58% and 35% higher, respectively. In addition, the chefs’ meals typically contained only half (51%) the fiber of the supermarket options. The one redeeming feature was the sodium content in the chefs’ meal, which was found to be 18% lower than that of the ready meals.