There’s been a proper hoo-ha in the UK recently about whether the recipes of TV chefs are less healthy than supermarket ready meals. Headlines like ‘Do TV Chefs Make You Fat?’ and ‘Ready Meals Are Healthier’ have been all over the place.
It all stems from recent research into a random sample of TV chefs’ recipes and supermarket ready meals. The recipes sometimes contain higher levels of saturated fat, more calories, less fibre etc than the ready meals – you get the picture. Here’s a link to the research (snappily titled ‘Nutritional content of supermarket ready meals and recipes by television chefs in the United Kingdom: cross sectional study’) if you want the stat-tastic facts.
As we well know, all research is partial and, when reported, decontextualised – we can’t blame the media for telling the story the way it suits them. The research itself and the reporting of it needs taking with a pinch of salt though. For one thing, a recipe from Nigella Lawson might not be perfectly balanced but it’s only one of the things a person will eat in a day. Sensible eaters will consume a range of different foods.
Secondly, the research states clearly, but none of the reports do, that the ready meals don’t cut the mustard either. The researchers didn’t actually assess ready meals, but relied on the labelling, which is permitted by UK law to vary by 20% from the true macronutrient values (a full 20%!??!)
Plus the research didn’t take account of artificial colourings, flavourings, colourings or stabilisers, which are commonly added to ready meals but rarely found in recipes. In short, the bigger picture of what adds up a healthy diet was distinctly distorted.
Not that we’re letting TV chefs off the hook. There’s a definite sense that some recipes are created more for their wow factor than for their nutritional benefits. In addition, TV chefs rarely offer tips on how to use their dishes as part of a healthy diet.
That said, we don’t think TV chefs make people fat. We – you, me and everyone else – make ourselves fat if we eat too much and don’t move around enough. It’s a pretty basic equation, based on simple cause and effect.*
We don’t do calorie counting at Veggie Runners; we worry that it’s easy to get hung up on calories at the expense of other nutritional benefits. We do give information on what our dishes are good for (high carb, protein-packed, key vitamins etc – the things runners need to know) but we think you’re smart enough to know where these foods fit into your lifestyle and overall diet.
One thing we do is give tips on staying fit and healthy, which is more than any of the TV chefs ever do! We have no objection to foodies; we like those guys with their fancy recipes and their fabulous kitchens. Fit foodies are where it’s at though. Come and join us 😉
*There are, of course, rare conditions that defy this principle but they are just that – rare.