Researchers found celebrity recipes contain more calories and fat than supermarket ready meals, and less fibre.
Neither dishes by the likes of Jamie, Nigella, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Lorraine Pascale, nor own-brand meals from leading supermarket chains, were healthy, according to a study by Newcastle University researchers.
They looked at the nutrient content of 100 recipes randomly selected from five of the chefs' books - two were by the ubiquitous Jamie - and compared them to 100 pre-made meals from supermarket shelves.
On average, the chefs’ meals contained 605 calories, while the supermarket meals contained only 494.
They contained about 50 per cent more fat - 27.1g per serving, compared to 17.1g - and about half the fibre, 3.3g rather than 6.5g.
The only measure where the chefs’ recipes were healthier was in terms of being less salty, containing 1.65g of salt compared to 2.00g.
So unhealthy were the chefs' meals as a whole that the authors of the study, published online in the British Medical Journal, thought broadcasters should consider only showing them late in the evening.
They wrote: “In the United Kingdom advertisements of foods classified as high in fat, salt, or sugar are prohibited during programming likely to appeal to children, and a 9pm watershed for advertising such foods has been advocated.
“No restrictions apply to the content of programmes with television chefs. For consistency, the nutritional content of all food portrayed on television, including that in programmes with television chefs, should be considered.”
For 15 years Jamie Oliver has striven to convince people of the health benefits of cooking their own food, so it is perhaps surprising that his recipes have received a red warning from experts.
Taken from two of his books - Ministry of Food and 30 Minute Meals - they made up 47 of the 100 celebrity chef recipes.
They included one dish - Cauliflower Macoroni - that contains a whopping 1,100 calories per serving, about half an adult’s daily intake. It also contains 58g of fat, roughly three-quarters of a person’s daily need.
A recipe for braised pork by Nigella Lawson - who has never made a secret her love of rich food - contained 1,340 calories.
Wholesome Hugh tended to have the healthiest of the chefs’ recipes, with many rich in vegetables.
But even his contained a blow-out dish, Gill’s poached lee and Dorset Blue Vinny Tart, coming in at a weighty 1,1178 calories a portion.
The authors wrote: “This study shows that neither recipes created by popular television chefs nor ready meals produced by three leading supermarket chains meet national or international nutritional standards for a balanced diet.”
Martin White, professor of public health at Newcastle University, said he and his team were “a little surprised” to see the television chefs’ recipes were less healthy.
He said: “The Government says that processed ready meals should not be eaten too often and meals should preferably be cooked from scratch.
“So we thought it would be interesting to see what the evidence actually showed.”
It was important that celebrity chefs cooked healthy meals, he said.
“They have become immensely popular over the years. I can’t help but believe that, with millions of viewers, they don’t have some sort of influence over our eating habits.”
Prof White admitted to being “in two minds” about suggesting their programmes being restricted to after the watershed, but said moves had to be made to tackle the obesity epidemic.
Studies showed that restricting advertising of high salt, fat and sugar foods during children’s programmes had proved “ineffective overall”, so perhaps tougher measures were needed, he indicated.
At a minimum the chefs should include nutritional information in their cookery books so readers could decide how healthy they were, he said.
Stephen Adams, Telegraph.co.uk