Well here’s something that’s not so shocking: the recipes found in celebrity chef cookbooks can often be higher in fat, calories,and protein per serving than many packaged foods.

A study with these findings was recently published in the British Medical Journal. One hundred recipes from celebrity chefs' cookbooks were compared to 100 ready meals — or TV dinners as we call them here in America. The researchers took the top five cookbooks from Amazon’s U.K. site at the time of the study. These are the cookbooks they used:
  • "Jamie's 30-Minute Meals" by Jamie Oliver
  • "Baking Made Easy" by Lorraine Pascale
  • "Jamie's Ministry of Food" by Jamie Oliver
  • "Kitchen" by Nigella Lawson
  • "River Cottage Everyday" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
The randomly chosen recipes from those cookbooks were compared to ready-made meals from the following brands.
  • Asda
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Tesco
Researchers then compared their findings to nutritional guidelines form the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). Here are some of the findings in the published research:
  • No recipe or ready meal fully complied with the WHO recommendations.
  • 18 percent of the ready meals complied with the recommended proportions of energy derived from carbohydrate than the recipes compared to 6 percent of the recipes.
  • 83 percent of the ready meals complied with recommended proportion of sugar compared to 81 percent of the recipes.
  • 56 percent of the ready meals complied with the recommended fiber density compared to 14 percent of the recipes.
  • 36 percent of the recipes complied with the recommended amount of sodium compared to 4 percent of the ready meals.
So what does this mean? Does it mean that we can stop cooking from scratch and buy everything pre-packaged because it’s better? Of course not. First of all, when you cook from scratch, you can control the quality of the ingredients. You can use fresh, organic, and non-GMO ingredients to make sure that you’re not putting chemical pesticides and fertilizers and other unknowns into your body.

You can also be choosy about the recipes that you make. All of the cookbooks chosen for the study were celebrity cookbooks. There are plenty of cookbooks out there that focus on healthy foods, cookbooks like "Quinoa Cuisine" and "Your Organic Kitchen."

People who choose to cook from ingredients instead of heating up packaged foods are generally pretty informed about the healthiness of the ingredients they’re using. They should be able to look at a recipe that’s loaded with cheese or sugar or bread and realize the end product will be high in fat, sugar or carbohydrates. The key is to make recipes like that only once in a while and make recipes that are healthier on a regular basis.

So, don’t throw out your cookbooks and your recipes and stock your freezer full of Stouffers. Be smart about what you cook, and when you choose to make a recipe for something like lasagna that’s high in fat and carbohydrates, do it only once in a while and be careful about all the other foods you eat that day.

Related story on MNN: Cookbooks from the stars

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Are celebrity chef recipes healthy?
celebrity chef recipes can be less healthy than packaged foods