TV chef dinners 'have more calories than ready meals'

18 December 2012

Ready meals are in fact healthier than the recipes concocted by chefs on popular cooking shows, new research has stated.

Researchers from Newcastle University compared meals found on TV shows – and in the celebrity chef's cookbooks – with ready meal equivalents in supermarkets like Asda, Tesco and Sainsburys and came up with a troubling conclusion.

They noted that celebrity meals, so to speak, contained more sugar, fat, saturated fat and calories than ready meals, although the latter contained more salt. On average, ready meals contained 2,067 calories per portion, while TV meals contained 2,530 calories.

The researchers added that while cooking fresh food is widely considered to be healthier to meals that need to be reheated in the oven or microwave, there is an actual lack of scientific study to back up such an assertion.

Responding to these findings, a spokesperson for Jamie Oliver, who is known for being extremely active in promoting healthy eating –  particularly getting processed foods banned from schools – said that they welcomed any research that raised such issues.

"In fact Jamie’s most recent book, 15 Minute Meals, does contain calorie content and nutritional information per serving for every dish," the spokesperson added.

"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 study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, did a comparison of 100 ready meals from supermarkets and 100 meals found in books by TV chefs. After doing various tests, the team from Newcastle University concluded that on average the latter were "more likely to achieve red traffic light labels".

A spokeswoman for Lorraine Pascale, also responded candidly to the study, saying that some of the recipes in Lorraine’s book are healthy, while others are not " quite so much so".

"There are plenty of salads, soups and light meals as well as the richer dishes," the spokeswoman expanded.  "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."

What researchers and health activists are most keen on seeing changed is how nutritional information is displayed in cookbooks and grocery items. It is not about "bashing TV chefs" the researchers explained, adding that they have done a lot to promote healthy eating.

It is simply about providing consumers with enough information to make informed choices about the food they consume so that they are able to enjoy a balanced and diet.

More is trying to be done in the western world to address high levels of obesity, which are increasing all the time. Being obese leads to other health complications and increases a person's risk of developing life-threatening diseases like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Obesity arises when people consume too many calories, so much so that they are unable to burn off the necessary amount, which is then converted into fat.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.

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