TV Chef Recipes Less Healthy than TV Dinners!

TV Chef Recipes Less Healthy than TV Dinners

Written by Alex Reid
Posted December 26, 2012

Does anyone else find themselves watching the Food Network for hours on end while Paula Deen and Ina Garten whip up mouthwatering dishes? The meals made on televised cooking shows look so delectable we often forget everything about nutritional content. Afterall, everything is homemade, how bad could it be? If a UK study comparing the nutrition of famous TV chef recipes to packaged dinners found in grocery stores is any indication, it could be pretty bad indeed.

The study, published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal, analyzed the nutritional content of television chef recipes with store brand pre-made dinners. Previous studies have suggested that the recipes of television chefs and pre-made meals influence many peoples' diets, but this is the first to take a comprehensive look at the nutritional value of the meals in question.

The UK study, made up of researchers based at NHS Tees and Newcastle University, included recipes 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. The store brand boxed meals came from the British supermarket chains Asda, Sainsbury's, and Tesco.

The researchers randomly selected 100 main meal recipes from the books and 100 store brand meals and anlyzed the ingredients to determine nutritional content. The results showed that none of the recipes or meals complied fully with WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines. Surprisingly, the famous chefs' recipes contained significantly more calories, fat, and saturated fat, and less fiber per serving than the store brand ready-made meals. The ready-made meals did, however, contain much more salt than the recipes, though additional salt used for seasoning was not accounted for.

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,” the authors stated. “The recipes seemed to be less healthy than the ready meals on several metrics.” 

Obesity rates have been rising steadily over the past few decades and it is estimated that by the year 2020, 70 percent of adults in the United Kingdom and the United States will be overweight, boosting rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Health experts agree that as a society we must make major changes to our diet and lifestyle if we hope to reverse this trend. If celebrity chefs began to focus on the nutritional content of their recipes, it would certainly be a step in the right direction in influencing the public to make healthier choices.

The authors concluded that: “Further reformulation of ready meals in line with international nutritional guidelines, and collaboration with television chefs to improve the nutritional quality of their recipes, may also help consumers to achieve a balanced diet.”

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