Jamie Oliver ... unhealthy recipes.
Jamie Oliver ... unhealthy recipes.

Darren Gray

THEY produce mouth-watering dishes, are fun to watch on television and write best-selling cookery books. But are the recipes promoted by big-name British television chefs such as Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver healthy or unhealthy?

A new study by British researchers has given the recipes included in best-selling cookery books by British TV chefs an unfavourable after-dinner rating, finding that they were less healthy than "ready meals" sold at major British supermarkets.

The study, published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal, compared 100 main meal recipes from five best-selling cookery books by well-known TV chefs with 100 ready meals sold in Britain's three leading supermarkets.

"Recipes were less healthy than ready meals, containing significantly more energy, protein, fat, and saturated fat, and less fibre per portion than the ready meals," the authors said.

The researchers also found that none of the 100 recipes or 100 ready meals assessed "fully complied with the World Health Organisation 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," a British Medical Journal statement said.

The celebrity chef recipes assessed were in the cookery books 30 Minute Meals and Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale.

Researchers chose these five books from a chart of bestsellers shortly before Christmas 2010. Forty-seven of the recipes were from Jamie Oliver’s books, 25 from Nigella Lawson's book, 21 from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book and seven from Lorraine Pascale’s book.

The researchers said that "collaboration with television chefs" might raise the nutritional quality of their recipes, and help consumers achieve a balanced diet.

‘‘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 researchers said.

The report said it was "possible" that "television chefs influence many peoples' diets, although the type and degree of this influence is unclear."