6716 Angela Day TV meals - mince pizza. Angela Day Kitchen, Lifestyle Gardens, Randpark Ridge, Johannesburg. 300309 - Picture: Jennifer Bruce

London - If you feel guilty about eating a ready meal while watching TV chefs making something from scratch, don’t worry – your food’s probably healthier than theirs.

Researchers say shows from the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson should carry health warnings or even be pushed after the watershed, as the chefs’ recipes contain hundreds more calories than TV dinners.

The claim comes after NHS Tees and Newcastle University examined the top five books by TV chefs on Amazon in December 2010: River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food and 30-Minute Meals and Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale.

After selecting 100 random recipes from them, they then compared the nutritional content with 100 own-brand ready meals from Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

The chefs’ offerings were ‘less healthy’ than ready meals and contained “significantly more” fat, saturated fat and protein and less fibre per portion, the study found.

On average, the celebrity recipes contained 2,530 calories per portion, compared with 2,067 in the ready meals.

None of the meals from either group met all of the World Health Organisation’s nutritional recommendations for a balanced healthy meal.

Professor Martin White, whose study was published on the BMJ website, said: “Children are subject to a 9pm watershed that restricts advertising of foods classified as high in fat, salt and sugar, and perhaps we should be thinking of similar restrictions.

“There is certainly a case for providing nutritional information at the bottom of the screen and possibly traffic light warnings, as well as more information in cookbooks.”

The UK still spends £2.5-billion a year on ready meals, despite their unhealty reputation. - Daily Mail