Recipes from celebrity chefs are unhealthier than supermarket ready meals, a study has suggested.
The meals in cookbooks from TV chefs Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Lorraine Pascale contain less salt but more calories, fat, saturated fats and sugar than those of microwave ready meals, researchers from Newcastle University found.
Their study, published in the British Medical Journal, compared dishes from five cookbooks to those from major supermarkets Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco. It took 100 main meals from top selling cookbooks and 100 own-brand supermarket ready meals and compared them to nutritional guidelines set by the World Health Organisation.
While neither met national or international guidelines for a balanced diet, the researchers said: "The recipes [from TV chefs] seemed to be less healthy than the ready meals on several metrics."
Per portion the recipes were less healthy and "more likely to achieve red traffic light labels," the researchers said.
However, they added that the study was not about "bashing" chefs as many campaigned to tackle obesity. "We did not set out to bash the chefs. That wasn't at all our intention," said Professor Martin White from Newcastle University.
"If you look at the TV chefs as a whole, there are a number of them who are vociferous champions for sustainable food and healthy eating. They are a passionate lot who do care about the healthy content of our diet."
White hoped the chefs would take the findings on board and respond by putting nutritional information alongside their recipes in cookbooks to allow consumers to make more informed choices about the nutritional content of their meals.
A spokesman for Jamie Oliver said: "We welcome any research which raises debate on these issues. 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."
By Kerstin Kühn
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