/ Food & Drink, Health

Are celebrity chefs feeding our fat habit?

A chef offering a chocolate cake

Hundreds of celebrity chef recipes have been found to contain high levels of saturated fat. Are the chefs to blame for unhealthy eating, or should we take more responsibility for the food we cook?

A recent study tested 900 recipes from 26 celebrity chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson. Most of the recipes were found to fall short of the government’s healthy eating guidelines.

Most chefs also offered at least one recipe that contained more saturated fat in a portion than you should eat in a whole day.

I can’t decide if I’m shocked or not.

On their cookery shows, many celebrity chefs are so free with their glugs of oil and cream, not to mention shavings of parmesan or handfuls of cheese. I’ve watched them add salt during cooking and then again at the end when seasoning.

So it follows that when they write a recipe for you to use at home, they follow the same principles.

Home-baked bad habits

You might only eat at a fancy restaurant once in a while, but you cook at home every day. So while it might be fine to exceed your guideline daily amount of fat, saturated fat or salt every now and again, when you do it repeatedly it starts to have a real detrimental effect on your health.

And I think there’s the belief that if you’re preparing and cooking your food from scratch, it must be healthy.

When I do use celebrity chef recipes at home, I’m always surprised at how much stock, oil, and butter you’re told to use. And I get a real shock when I bake a cake and see the butter and sugar piling up.

Swapping out sugar and saturated fat

While I haven’t made any amendments to cake recipes yet, I’ve been thinking about substituting the sugar for one of the alternatives on the supermarket shelves like Splenda or Truvia. Have you tried sugar alternatives and can you taste the difference?

I do reduce certain ingredients in other recipes. When I make a risotto I don’t use butter to soften the onions, and I don’t use as much oil as recommended. And I never make up stock according to instructions – instead I use about half the stock and more water. If I make a cheese sauce I use the strongest flavoured cheese I have, so that I don’t need to use as much to add some flavour.

Do you have any tips for making indulgent recipes a bit healthier?


Funny that, I yelled at one of those competitive cooking programmes the other day when the chef judging complained that the competitor was not seasoning his food. Let the eater add salt if he wants to. Let there be salt and pepper on the table. You can’t take it out.

I’m so fed up with being served meals in restaurants that are too salty. I hate roast dinners that are spoilt by being covered in over salty gravy. I think we should make a point of complaining – after all there is salt and pepper always on the table. I noticed that the saltiness of the outlaws’ delivered “meals on wheels” food had increased the other day and had to bin a pie that because we’d all gone out to eat I had to bring home. It was just inedible. So often you rely on the unsalted vegetables to ameliorate the saltiness of the rest. So when someone salts the vegetables as well…. I’d prefer to add my own salt if and when I really want it.

It is a little more difficult to find but you can buy a reduced salt vegetable bouillon powder. I also do not follow stock to water ratios but add more water. Chicken gravy made with the juices from the roast chicken is far superior as is the soup made from the home made stock (no or minimum salt). It is worth making and freezing all the way through summer for use in winter soups.

Cakes and those sort of things are special and should be occasional treats – not everyday eating and taste nicer that way. I find many of them far too sweet as I’m used to eating unsweetened fruit. If you do not reduce your sweet tooth now then you are very likely to have a problem later – don’t just substitute sweetener. For me absolute luxury is a freshly made fatless sponge cake filled with whipped double cream and fresh summer raspberries with a dusting of icing sugar. It is a summer special treat. If I ate it all the time it wouldn’t be.

I make custard for my diabetic outlaws using powdered custard, semi-skimmed milk and sweetener granules. I have never used the amount of sugar in the instructions. Custard like cream is so often needed to dilute the oversweetness of a bought pie. If you make your own you can reduce the sugar of course.

Always use the strongest cheese when making cheese sauce and don’t add salt (it’s in the cheese). A little bit of dried mustard powder mixed with water is good added to this. I also use a lot of freshly ground pepper. Don’t add salt with other ingredients which are salty eg ham.

I’d love to hear more about which herbs are useful instead of salt.

As I have to feed a dairy free, diet-controlled diabetic whose food also has to be low fat and low salt, I would like to see more cooking programmes for people with food problems.

I cringe each time I see a Celebrity Chef adding salt to a recipe. No longer a pinch of salt but a handful of salt. The only food I add salt to at home is eggs, I can’t think of anything else that is seasoned with salt. I use lots of herbs and spices but so do the chefs, so why do they use so much salt.

Anna says:
6 May 2013

They certainly are – only watched one or two Nigella programmes, couldn’t sit and see her advocating those sugar and fat loaded snacks at bedtime. More recipes for type 1 and 2 diabetics please.

Can we just remember that we watch these programs for entertainment, not as domestic science lessons for diabetics or those who detest salt.

Few people follow the recipes, they haven’t the time or energy let alone a cupboard full of fancy ingredients to follow these recipes day-in day-out. Far more people feed their fat habit eating cheap factory produced freezer to microwave to fat fryer food in high street chain pubs than ever do cooking a fancy meal at home or in a birthday splurge in a decent restaurant.

Entertainment? Yes I suppose they have to be since we haven’t had domestic science lessons in schools for several generations. It will be a complete novelty for a lot of people to see how something is made from scratch let alone eat a home-made meal.

So let’s inspire people to cook for themselves by giving them the confidence to know what can be added as a LITTLE bit of this and that and where it is and isn’t important to stick to the recipe. Let’s see more chefs who tell you about the feel when you stir and knead something and talk about dropping consistencies and ratios and show them and write about them rather than simply exact measurements – links to videos are good. Let’s see more experimentation in the kitchen for beginners – the other extreme to Heston!

Those meals which you are so quick to condemn are the sort that many who have carers will be condemned to eat at home. Those or sandwiches and soup. The ability of the youngsters who often have to create a meal and do whatever else is necessary for someone in 15min is very limited. What goes around comes around.