Aceves-Martins M, Denton P, De Roos B (2023) Public Health Nutrition 1-9 doi:10.1017/S1368980023000034
To examine whether ready meals and equivalent home-cooked meals differ in nutritional quality indicators, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and cost.
We performed a cross-sectional analysis of meal data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) nutrient databank (2018/19). Additional data on nutrient composition, cost and cooking-related GHGE were calculated and compared between fifty-four ready meals and equivalent home-cooked meals.
Ready meals, overall and those that were animal-based, had significantly higher levels of free sugar compared with equivalent home-cooked meals (P < 0·0001 and P < 0·0004, respectively). Animal-based ready meals had significantly higher levels of GHGE (P < 0·001), whereas the cost of ready meals, overall, was significantly higher (P < 0·001), compared with equivalent home-cooked meals. Animal-based meals, whether ready meals or equivalent homemade meals, had significantly higher levels of protein (P < 0·0001), contained significantly more kilocalories (P = 0·001), had significantly higher levels of GHGE (P < 0·0001) and were significantly more expensive (P < 0·0001), compared with plant-based meals. Overall, plant-based meals home-cooked on the gas or electric stove had the lowest GHGE and cost, whereas animal-based oven-cooked ready meals had the highest levels of GHGE and were most expensive.
Ready meals have lower nutritional quality and higher GHGE and are more expensive than equivalent home-cooked meals, especially those meals that are animal-based and prepared in an oven.