The Meal Matters Most

What Makes Healthy Food Healthy: From a Stress Perspective

Are pre-packaged foods healthier than Celebrity recipes?


Photo credit Scandic hotels

Health experts from Britian’s Coventry University have concluded that celebrity recipes from the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson were less healthy than the pre-made, pre-packaged, calorie-counted single servings of the stuff you throw in the microwave.

Researchers examined 904 recipes from 26 chefs and found that 87 percent are not in accordance with the British government’s healthy eating guidelines, Reuters reports, using large amounts of saturated fatty acids, salt and sugar. Only 13 percent of the celebrity chef-approved recipes used nutritional ingredients that fall under the nation’s Food Standards Agency recommendations. Some experts estimate that by 2020, about 70% of adults in the U.K. and U.S. will be overweight, while England’s obesity rate has risen to 24.8% of adults, ages 16 and over, and 16.3% of children, ages 2 to 15, according to data from 2011. 

However, this is the danger in assuming we can reduce our problems of obesity to a single cause like calories or fat. When in reality these issues are a complex interaction of genes, foods and the environment creating an impairment in our ability to regulate stress (see article “The Cause of Obestiy Re-conceptualized“).  It’s a mistake to qualify “healthy” foods as those low in calories, fat and sugar. Rather unhealthy foods are those that have sugar and fat in concentrated quantities in isolation of their natural form found in real foods with “buffers” (to fat and sugar) from like polyphenols, flavinoids and fiber.  Sugar-fat-salt combinations are our densest calorie sources and it is this combination we seek most strongly for resources (energy to do work). So attempting to eliminate this combination completely is like eliminating love. And when you can’t find love you don’t tend to live without it all alone and miserable, but rather you end up sneaking out to back alleys looking for it, which is intense for a moment, but never quite satisfies (sound like the addictive appeal of  junk food to anyone?).

I’m of the opinion we owe these chefs a debt of gratitude for these gifts of recipes with fat and sugar AND WHOLE FOODS that give us assurances of real love from time-to-time (see my article “Does Daphne Oz owe Bearnaise sauce an apology“). Sure we can’t have love all the time, some days we need to go into sustain mode with some, still wonderful, plain and simple foods, but the recipes of deliciousness need to be part of the rotation and in proper porportion.

I realize the health experts are doing their best following the rules of what is called linear science that brought us to the conclusion that calories are the cause of obesity. However, calories are rather innocent bystanders being maligned because we aren’t using them properly, nor giving them the proper tools and materials to get their job done, Rock on Jamie!

So we have to ask the question if obesity is caused by stress, which can be better regulated with whole foods and getting some dense calories from time-to-time, instead of just ‘counting calories and eliminating fat’, then are celebrity chefs exasperating the obesity epidemic or is it our overly simplified advice from health experts?  Can celebrity chefs be the one’s saving the planet? Seems that way to me.

Author: Lori Hogenkamp

Lori's passion is for food, the brain, science and stress shifting perspectives .

2 thoughts on “Are pre-packaged foods healthier than Celebrity recipes?

  1. Well said, couldn’t agree more! Have you seen Michael Pollan’s latest book “Cooked”? Of course, I saw him on Stephen Colbert, but I think he too would agree.

    Also, I’m a huge Jamie Oliver fan, so anything negative said about him, I take as a personal affront, LOL!

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