ONE week today, many households across the region will no doubt be hoping to recreate recipes from Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson to serve the perfect Christmas dinner.
But a new study by Newcastle University has found we might be better off if we swap our cook books from celebrity chefs for supermarket ready meals instead.
The researchers have found that recipes created by popular television chefs contain significantly more saturated fat as well as less fibre per portion than supermarket own brands.
Previous studies suggest that both supermarket ready meals and celebrity chef recipes influence many people’s diets, but no study has comprehensively examined the nutritional content of either.
So, the researchers based at NHS Tees and Newcastle University analysed the nutritional content of both, then compared the meals to dietary guidelines published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Recipes were included from 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, and River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
They compared them to 100 own-brand ready meals from Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Nutritional content was calculated from the raw ingredients stated in the recipes and ready meals.
Meals based on television chef recipes were less healthy than ready meals, as they contained significantly more energy, protein, fat, and saturated fat and significantly less fibre per portion than ready meals.
However, no recipe or ready meal fully complied with the WHO recommendations for the avoidance of diet-related diseases.
Both types of meals tended to be high in protein, fat, saturated fat, and salt, low in carbohydrate, and within the recommended range for sugar. The recipes were also more likely to achieve “red traffic light” labels according to FSA criteria than ready meals.
Despite reported efforts from industry to reduce the salt content of prepared meals, only 4% of the ready meals met the WHO recommendation.
“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,” say the study’s authors.
“The recipes seemed to be less healthy than the ready meals on several metrics.”
They say that maximum nutritional benefit “is likely to be derived from home cooking of nutritionally balanced recipes primarily using raw ingredients”.
In light of the results – published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal – the authors suggest including nutritional information on recipes in cookery books.
A spokesman for Jamie Oliver 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.”
The recipes seemed to be less healthy than the ready meals on several metrics