A study just published in the British Medical Journal compared recipes from Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver to ready-to-go meals from British supermarkets. You will probably guess what came up trumps. As Niki Bezzant, editor of the Healthy Food Guide pointed out when interviewed about this, it would be surprising if anyone was surprised by these results!
It is not that the ready-to-go meals are perfect nutritionally, it is more that the recipes from these celebrity chefs (and most others) are overloaded with fat and kilojoules. While Nigella makes no bones about the fact that her recipes are decadent, Jamie’s passion for the promotion of healthy food could easily have us believing that all his recipes are good for us.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Jamie Oliver is a star – he has done SO MUCH to promote good food around the world and has helped so many people, particularly children. It is the heavy slug of olive oil that pushes many of his recipes into the unhealthy region. People often forget that all fats and oils, regardless of whether they are good for our hearts, deliver the same number of kilojoules per gram and while a little olive oil is definitely good for us, more is not better. While Jamie’s recipes are generally nutrient dense because he uses healthy ingredients, the high oil load pushes up the kilojoules which promotes weight gain. This may be why he appears to struggle with his own weight so much.
When it comes to food preparation, it is far easier to produce tasty, marketable recipes when you can use as much fat, salt and sugar as you like. These are ingredients that add taste without effort and foods we are genetically programmed to seek. It is far more challenging creating recipes with lower fat, sugar and salt; recipes that look after health and weight as well as the tastebuds. It is a clever cook who can do this, yet healthy recipes are often looked down on by those with no desire or ability to create them.
It seems we have forgotten the true function of food, i.e to look after our nutritional and kilojoule needs. Eating instead has become just about taste, often at the expense of our health. As a result we are seeing collateral damage in soaring obesity rates and a massive increase in type 2 diabetes.
I would love to see truly good food promoted by our celebrity chefs – food that is good in every aspect. Food that tastes good, looks good, is affordable as well as being good at looking after our health and well being. This is what I try to do with my recipes – they are created out of a desire to look after my tastebuds and my health at the same time. They work for me, I hope they work for you too!