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Trattner Christoph, Elsweiler David, Howard Simon

Estimating the Healthiness of Internet recipes: Implications for Recommender Systems and Meal Planning

British Medical Journal (BMJ) , Frontiers in Public Health, 2016

One government response to increasing incidence of lifestyle related illnesses, such as obesity, has been to encourage people to cook for themselves. The healthiness of home cooking will, nevertheless, depend on what people cook and how they cook it. In this article one common source of cooking inspiration - Internet-sourced recipes - is investigated in depth. The energy and macronutrient content of 5237 main meal recipes from the food website are compared with those of 100 main meal recipes from five bestselling cookery books from popular celebrity chefs and 100 ready meals from the three leading UK supermarkets. The comparison is made using nutritional guidelines published by the World Health Organisation and the UK Food Standards Agency. The main conclusions drawn from our analyses are that Internet recipes sourced from are less healthy than TV-chef recipes and ready meals from leading UK supermarkets. Only 6 out of 5237 Internet recipes fully complied with the WHO recommendations. Internet recipes were more likely to meet the WHO guidelines for protein than both other classes of meal (10.88% v 7% (TV), p<0.01; 10.86% v 9% (ready), p<0.01). However, the Internet recipes were less likely to meet the criteria for fat (14.28% v 24% (TV) v 37% (ready); p<0.01), saturated fat (25.05% v 33% (TV) v 34% (ready); p<0.01) and fibre (compared to ready meals 16.50% v 56%; p<0.01). More Internet recipes met the criteria for sodium density than ready meals (19.63% v 4%; p<0.01), but fewer than the TV-chef meals (19.32% v 36%; p<0.01). For sugar, no differences between Internet recipes and TV-chef recipes were observed (81.1% v 81% (TV); p=0.86), although Internet recipes were less likely to meet the sugar criteria than ready meals (81.1% v 83 % (ready); p<0.01). Repeating the analyses for each year of available data shows that the results are very stable over time.
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