An effort to convince families in England that they can eat healthily on a budget is being launched.
Four million recipe leaflets will be mailed to families already signed up to the government’s Change 4 Life public health campaign.
Three supermarket chains have also agreed to offer discounts on products such as fruit, vegetables and fish.
But Labour said ministers do not take public health seriously and the drive is an “advertisement for big business”.
Meanwhile, celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott has helped devise a cookbook promoting healthy dishes, with recipes that can be created for under £5.
He has also been filmed performing cooking tutorials which will be posted on the Change 4 Life website.
Among the meals being promoted are vegetable soup, fish pie and sweet and sour chicken.
Many of the ingredients will be discounted at the three supermarket chains signed up to the campaign – Asda, Co-op and Aldi – although it is not being revealed how big the discounts will be.
“They’re calling this public health but it’s just a glorified advertisement for big business.”
Diane AbbottShadow public health minister
Public health minister Anne Milton said: “The new year is a good time to think about losing weight. The Supermeals campaign will give us all some great ideas for balanced meals on a budget.”
Mr Harriott added: “Sometimes the thought of making meals from scratch can seem a bit daunting, but I have always tried to assure people that cooking at home can be really quick, easy and doesn’t need to break the bank.”
But Labour criticised the move.
Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said: “They’re calling this public health but it’s just a glorified advertisement for big business. This is a government that doesn’t take its responsibility around public health seriously.
“Some areas in inner cities are fresh food deserts so families fall into eating takeaway chicken and chips.”
Dale Rees, a spokesman for the British Dietetic Association, said the initiative was a positive step because the recipes would help those who wanted to cook but did not know the ingredients involved, the steps needed to prepare them or how to cook adhering to a budget.
“Evidence shows that people who eat a diet low in fat, added sugars and salt are less likely to develop chronic diseases in later life. You can protect against heart disease, for example, plus you’re less likely to be obese and have weight-related health problems,” said the dietician.
Referring to the issues raised by Ms Abbott, he said some local shops often carried fresh fruit and vegetables but some groups – people without cars, elderly and disabled people – found it hard to access such produce in inner city “blackspots”.
Such people, he said, could be eligible for deliveries of hot meals, adding: “We need to tackle those blackspots to make sure fresh food is made available for those people. But that shouldn’t stop the promotion of eating healthy food on a budget.”