Ready meals ‘healthier’ than TV chefs’ recipes: Newcastle Uni

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ready meals, Nutrition

Fat'll do nicely: recipes from four TV chefs, including Nigella Lawson, contained more fat and saturated fat than supermarket ready meals
Fat'll do nicely: recipes from four TV chefs, including Nigella Lawson, contained more fat and saturated fat than supermarket ready meals
Supermarket ready meals are healthier than the recipes of some TV chefs, according to researchers at Newcastle University.

The researchers revealed that some ready meals from Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco contained fewer calories and less fat, saturated fat and sugar but more salt than recipes from leading celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Lorraine Pascale and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Their study​, published in the British Medical Journal​, concluded: “Recipes devised by popular television chefs contained significantly more energy, protein, fat, and saturated fat and less fibre per portion than ready meals.

“Most cookery books do not provide nutritional information on recipes, which could help to inform consumers.”

‘Less healthy’

The meals featured in the chef’s books were, on average, less healthy and “more likely to achieve red traffic light labels”, ​said the researchers.

The study compared 100 main meals from best-selling cookery books with 100 own-label supermarket ready meals, selected at random. The meals’ calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content were then compared with nutritional guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Professor Martin White, from Newcastle University’s Institute of Health and Society, said neither the ready meals nor the celebrity recipes met national or international guidelines for a balanced diet.

But the TV chefs’ recipes would be more likely to merit the red traffic light warning symbol under the Food Standards Agency criteria.

Traffic light warning system

The researchers recommended the traffic light warning scheme should be applied to TV chefs. The red, amber and green symbols should be applied to celebrity chefs’ recipes, TV programmes, cook books and websites.

Also, they noted that while a 9pm TV watershed has been recommended for the advertising of unhealthy food, nothing similar has been suggested for TV chefs.

A spokesman for Jamie Oliver told the BBC: “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.”

The researchers said they hoped the celebrity chefs would respond to the research by re-examining the nutritional value of their recipes.

White said food manufacturers had reformulated their ready meals after criticism of their nutritional values. “The advent of beter nutritional labelling and things like traffic lights has drawn attention to the content of ready-prepared food,”​ he said.

But only 4% of the ready meals studied were below the WHO salt threshold.


Brought to book – celebrity cookbooks reviewed

  • Jamie Oliver ‒ 30 Minute Meals and the Ministry of Food
  • Nigella Lawson ‒ Kitchen
  • Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ‒ River Cottage Everday
  • Lorraine Pascale – Baking Made Easy

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Listeria Management & Drainage: 5 Essential Steps

Listeria Management & Drainage: 5 Essential Steps

Aco Building Drainage | 26-Apr-2019 | Technical / White Paper

Listeria is widely recognised as a universal problem for food and drink manufacturers. To ensure effective listeria management and control, food and drink...

Hygienic design boosts quality and safety

Hygienic design boosts quality and safety

Minebea Intec | 16-Aug-2018 | Technical / White Paper

Avoiding food contamination and increasing product safety are key objectives of all food producers. It is critical to prevent any type of contamination...

Related suppliers

1 comment

More misguided research

Posted by Mike Pusey,

Once again there has been a failure to recognise that there are really NO unhealthy foods – only unhealthy diets. Almost any food is healthy when consumed within a balanced diet; it is the total intake of the food groups which is important. Even olive oil, which is held to be healthy receives the red light. On the other hand, some foods which get the green light have almost zero nutritional value, eg lettuce has zero carbs, fat or protein and minimal fibre and vitamins/minerals but gets the thumbs up from the traffic light scheme. I say think again – it is not only the public that need educating!

Report abuse

Follow us


View more