Background: Over-reliance on convenience foods, including ready-meals, has been suggested as one contributor to obesity. Little research has systematically explored the nutritional content of supermarket ready-meals. We described the nutritional content and cost of UK supermarket ready-meals. Methods: We conducted a survey of supermarket own-brand chilled and frozen ready-meals available in branches of ten national supermarket chains in one city in northern England. Data on price, weight and nutritional content of meals in four ranges ('healthier', luxury, economy and standard) and of six types (macaroni cheese, meat lasagne, cottage pie, chicken tikka masala, fish pie, and sweet and sour chicken) were collected. Nutritional content was compared to ranges used to identify low, medium and high fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in nationally recommended front-of-pack labelling. Results: 166 ready-meals were included from 41 stores. Overall, ready-meals were high in saturated fat and salt, and low in sugar. One-fifth of meals were low in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, including two-thirds of 'healthier' meals. Meals that were low for three out of the four front-of-pack nutrients were the cheapest. Conclusions: Supermarket ready-meals do not have a healthful nutritional profile overall. However, a number of healthier meals were available - particularly amongst meals specifically marked as 'healthier'. There was little evidence that healthier meals necessarily cost more. Further effort is required to encourage producers to improve the nutritional profile of the full range of ready-meals, and not just those specifically labelled as 'healthier'.
- Economic cost