A recent study in England found that recipes prepared from celebrity chefs’ cookbooks were less healthy than “ready meals” prepared by major supermarkets. I doubt that this comes as a huge surprise to many. Did anyone really think that celebrity chef meals were bastions of health?
There are a few problems that jump out at me immediately. One, I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare meals that are not the same. That is, if they’re making comparisons they should be comparing lasagna to lasagna, spinach salad to spinach salad, and so forth. I’m assuming that the types of meals available from the grocery stores differ tremendously from the types of meals featured in the cookbooks. Two, you have control over what goes in your meal if you’re preparing it at home. You can make modifications, substitutions, and omissions to improve the nutrition of the dish you’re cooking. If you purchase a ready meal from a grocery store you have no control over what’s going into it. You’re also far more likely to eat the entire thing, whereas when preparing your own meal you can have a smaller portion and fill-up on a healthy side salad. Three, this study only looked at recipes from celebrity chef cookbooks. There are a wealth of non-celeb cookbooks full of healthy recipes. We also can’t be certain that the criteria used to measure a meal’s healthfulness was truly the best criteria. It seems to emphasis the presence/absence of “unhealthy” nutrients but doesn’t look at the presence/absence of healthy nutrients.
Were these researchers funded by the supermarkets? I think that this study sends an unfortunate message to people. It suggests that buying a ready meal may be a healthier option than preparing a meal at home. I am still a staunch advocate of home cooking as the healthiest option for everyone.