HFG dietitian Zoe Wilson looks at how celebrity chefs are serving up a load of unhealthy food messages and says, it’s time they stepped up to the plate!
Chefs may well be the celebrities du jour. But, with many of us struggling with our health and our weight, are they helping or hindering? A recent study published in the British Medical Journal, has shouted a resounding ‘no’. It found supermarket-ready meals (not exactly known for their healthiness) may actually be better than many of the meals in celebrity chefs’ cook books.
The researchers randomly selected 100 main meal recipes from five bestselling cook books by TV chefs including Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of The River Cottage and not one recipe was deemed to be a healthy choice – their levels of salt, sugar and kilojoules all busting out beyond the recommended amounts for a healthy meal.
In Australia we’re swallowing many of the same unhealthy food messages. Researchers at Flinders University last year analysed the recipes featured in Australian Masterchef magazine and on their website and found more than half were too high in fat and/or salt.
Of course, TV shows like Masterchef not only show us what to cook, but play a part in our attitude towards food, too. So while it’s become common to jest about George Calombaris’ love affair with butter, a study of primary school children watching Masterchef by the same researchers at Flinders University, found that the show “may inadvertently be delivering important nutritional messages to children and their families.” So it’s troubling if they’re not the right messages.
It’s time they stepped up to the plate in the nutrition stakes. In fact, our favourite TV chefs are in the perfect position to popularise a healthy, more balanced diet.
Consider this George, Nigella and Marco: adding butter and salt are not the only ways to flavour a dish. There are infinitely more ways to create delicious, healthy food. Maybe what we should be demanding is Jamie Oliver doing a splash of balsamic instead of such a large drizzle of oil, Gary and George adding a handful of herbs instead of a scoop of salt and Nigella licking a spoon coated in yoghurt rather than chocolate pudding mixture! Food for thought?