The controversial new claims making some January dieters think twice while rifling through their recipe books…
Hands up who’s made a New Year’s resolution for 2013? And how many of these involve dieting? Thought so. Post-Christmas, most of us are left looking a teeny bit like St. Nick himself around the middle, and inevitably channel that magical New-Year motivation into an ambitious weight-loss regime that almost certainly won’t last past the 14th. Thoughts turn to the preparation of healthy, wholesome meals; cue romantic notions of home-cooking using recipes from the brand new bestseller.
But for those who, this January, plan to turn over a new leaf without the gloomy results of previous ill-fated years, there is something you should know. Apparently, our favourite celeb chefs may not be the first port of call when it comes to your New Year crackdown.
I’m sure no-one is under the illusion that the secret to shedding the pounds is to be found amongst the rich and comforting pages of Nigella’s latest collection – her very name has become synonymous with indulgence after all. But I was surprised to learn that even the pretty, perfect-bound offerings of school kids’ champion Jamie Oliver, and ‘real food’ campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall may be equally as diet-destructive, according to recent research.
Last month, The Guardian reported the findings of a nutritional investigation conducted by NHS Tees and Newcastle University for the British Medical Journal, into 100 recipes taken from Amazon’s five top-selling cookbooks of December 2010. These titles included 30-Minute Meals and Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, and River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Within their pages, researchers found dishes containing, on average, more calories, fat, saturated fat and protein, and less in the way of fibre than the supermarket own-brand ready meals they were compared with. Gasp.
This is not to say that microwave meals are the way forward for dieters – far from it. None of the shop-bought dishes that were tested entirely met with World Health Organisation meal guidelines (set for the avoidance of diet-related diseases). There’s no doubt that a healthy, well-rounded meal is usually the result of a home-cooking session, rather than a revolving plate announcing readiness with a ‘ping’. Just be mindful of which recipes you follow. Or maybe just make sure you don’t pile your plate high, as Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall has suggested in response to the criticism in the press. In a recent post on The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog, he remarks that portion control is a sizable factor – you get a lot less in a ready meal box than you’d dish up from your own cookery pot, hence more calories.
A fair point well made in my opinion (sometimes these scientific studies do seem to gloss over the details), and whenever I tip a microwave meal (hey, sometimes I’m tired) onto a full-sized plate, I often find a little saucer would have been sufficient. Hugh also reminds us that a good diet is about balance and variety as well as moderation. Ever the dutiful chef though, he hasn’t blasted the study, accepting the findings as food for thought and taking the news as ‘fair warning’. What a good egg. Furthermore, Jamie Oliver’s new book, 15-Minute Meals, contains helpful nutritional information, and apparently the recipes on his website are soon to be equally as informative.
In all fairness, none of these books masquerade as diet-friendly non-fiction in any way, and there’s nothing wrong with a treat now and then, so don’t go ditching your latest literature just yet.