Celebrity TV Chefs’ Recipes ‘Less Healthy’ Than Ready Meals, Says Study: Chefs Bite Back

Recipes by top TV chefs Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Lorraine Pascale have been slammed as “less healthy” than ready made meals, and critics say their shows should be aired after a 9 pm watershed, a study says.

Researchers from the UK’s Newcastle University and Teeside National Health Service (NHS) published the results of their findings in theBritish Medical Journal, and, if you thought the top chefs in the land have your best interests “at heart,” think again.

The research, conducted in December 2010, was based on the top five TV chef recipe books on Amazon.com.

Martin White, professor of public health at Newcastle University, says the study revealed that — out of 100 randomly selected recipes in cookery books including River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, 30 Minute Meals and Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, and Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale — none “met national or international guidelines for a balanced diet,” The Guardian reports.

The paper goes on to say, “when it comes to saturated fat, fiber and calories, TV chefs are doing us no favors. The healthier option is the one you heat up in the microwave.”

According to London’s Evening Standard, the study found that “neither the ready meals or the recipes complied with all of the nutritional recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

The nutritional content of 100 randomly selected recipes from five chefs’ books were compared to 100 ready made meals from Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco. As the Daily Telegraph writes, the study found:

“On average, the celebrity chefs’ meals contained 605 calories, while the supermarket meals contained only 494 … 50 per cent more fat — 27.1 gram per serving — compared to 17.1 gram, and about half the fiber, 3.3 gram rather than 6.5 gram.”

Jamie Oliver Recipes Comes Under Fire In New Study

The study’s authors state:

“Meals based on television chef recipes were less healthy than ready meals.

“Significantly fewer were within the recommended ranges for fiber density and percentage of energy derived from carbohydrate and fat, and per portion they contained significantly more energy, protein, fat, and saturated fat and significantly less fiber.

“The recipes were also more likely to achieve red traffic light labels according to the criteria of the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). Despite reported efforts from industry to reduce the salt content of meals, only 4% of the ready meals met the WHO recommendation.”

Some of the chefs have now responded in public statements.

Jamie Oliver’s representative said:

“We welcome any research which raises debate on these issues and in fact Jamie’s most recent book, 15 Minute Meals, does contain calorie content and nutritional information per serving for every dish. We will soon also be re-launching the Jamie Oliver website with nutritional information on the recipes. However, 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.”

A spokeswoman for Lorraine Pascale said:

“Some of the recipes in Lorraine’s book are healthy, some not quite so much so. There are plenty of salads, soups and light meals as well as the richer dishes. Her books and shows to date haven’t been about healthy eating, they are about cooking. However, funnily enough, the topic of her next series and book specifically addresses healthy eating.”

Considering that the London’s Evening Standard notes that “UK residents spend £2.5 billion every year ($4.05 billion) on ready meals, which are often portrayed as being unhealthy,” while recipes created by TV chefs are “sometimes promoted as being healthy,” many British health-conscious householders who are influenced by these TV chefs may now be in for a rude awakening.