TV Star Chefs Tie TV Dinners

Recipes from popular cooks not necessarily healthier than TV dinners

December 27, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) There's nothing like a home-cooked meal. And cooking like the stars makes it even better, right? Not if health is concerned.

Recipes from Britain's popular cooking shows are often no better nutrition-wise than ready-to-serve TV dinners, according to a recently published study.

Choosing between heating up a dinner and cooking from scratch depends on what the doctors advise patients need on an individual basis, the researchers said.

"Cook healthy meals with fresh vegetables."

Britain has equivalent versions of some of America's most popular cooking shows, such as 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, who also hosts Ministry of Food. Other shows include Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson and River Cottage Everyday.

Researchers, led by Simon Howard, specialty registrar in public health at NHS Choices in the UK, aimed to see how many home-cooked recipes and TV dinners made in the UK followed nutritional guidelines set by the World Health Organization.

The study included 100 main course recipes randomly chosen from five bestselling cookbooks in December 2010, as well as 100 TV dinners made by a few of the most popular supermarkets in the UK, including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury.

They calculated the nutritional content in each meal based on its raw ingredients as stated in the recipes and on the packaging. Soups and meals designated for special occasions or breakfast were left out of the study.

They found that both the recipes and TV dinners were high in fat, protein and salt, as well as low in carbohydrates. Only 4 percent of the ready-meals and none of the recipes completely complied with the WHO's recommendations to avoid diet-related disease.

The recipes contained more calories and servings all around than the ready-meals at 2,530 calories on average compared to 2,067.

Recipes also contained about 38 grams of protein versus 28 grams in the ready-meals, and about 27 grams of fat and 17 grams of fat respectively. The recipes also had less fiber, at about 3 grams on average versus 6.5 in the ready meals.

"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 said in a press release.

"The recipes seemed to be less healthy than the ready meals on several metrics."

Doctors "should take care when advising patients on improvements to their diet," researchers said in their report.

The authors note that the nutritional content of the recipes varied from each individual cookbook, and they did not take salt content in account.

Because they chose the bestselling books during the month of December, the included recipes may have been affected by the holiday season, which may have impacted results as well.

The study, funded by a number of research and health institutions, conceals and foundations in the UK, was published online December 17 in BMJ's Christmas issue. The authors didn't have any conflicts of interest to declare.