Conventional wisdom tells us that homemade meals are healthier than the ready-made fare at supermarkets. Now a new study suggests that it depends on the home cook's recipe: did it come from a TV chef? Chances are it's even worse than the fast, frozen stuff.
Researchers from Newcastle University in the U.K. randomly selected 100 entree recipes from five bestselling cookbooks by Food TV stars like Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson. They also randomly picked 100 supermarket-brand ready meals from the largest UK grocery chains: Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco.
Publishing in the online medical journal BMJ, they found that recipes taken from popular cooking shows had more calories, protein, fat and saturated fat, and less fiber than equivalents available at the grocery store for reheating. What's worse: even though the grocery-ready meals were more healthful than the TV chefs' recipes, they still didn't meet the basic criteria of dietary guidelines established by the World Health Organization and the UK Food Standards Agency.
The chefs' meals missed the mark primarily in high calories, protein, fat, saturated fat, and salt. However, they tended to be within range for sugar and low in carbohydrates. In fact, they were bad enough to qualify for the Food Standards Agency's "red traffic light" label -- a designation given to particularly unhealthy grocery items.
While the study took place in the U.K. with grocery options unfamiliar to Americans, British exports like Jamie Oliver are certainly familiar to U.S. audiences. Earlier this year, Paula Deen caught flack for her decadently unhealthy recipes and has since updated her recipes to reduce their caloric, fat and salt content. But it turns out, she may not be the only TV star peddling in unhealthy fair, unregulated.
Want to make grocery items at home? Here's a list to start with: