Healthy Eating Is Expensive — & Now We Know The Figures



05_005_Ingalls_0039_sized_PhotoIngallsPhotoPhotographed by Ingalls Photo.
It's news to absolutely no one that a Cup Of Noodles costs less than a fresh salad. Many of us coasted through our college years on a steady diet of processed foods, since we were almost always broke. But, we knew it was only temporary, and before long we started saying things like, "I should probably start eating better." And, once we started eating fresh, whole foods, we noticed how expensive it all became — but also how much better we felt. Now, we know just how much more those good-for-us foods cost: A new study concludes that healthy eating averages about $1.50 more per day than unhealthy food — about $550 per year.

A team of researchers publishing in the British Medical Journal reviewed 27 studies in 10 countries and found a drastic difference in pricing based on the quality of food. For meats and proteins, the price for healthier options averaged at about $0.29 per serving, versus $0.03 for less healthy options. Similarly, for snacks/sweets and grains, healthy choices were about $0.12 compared to $0.03 for those that were unhealthy. The authors of the study do note, however, that the estimate of $1.50 per day is based on a very healthy diet of fruits, veggies, and fish compared to a diet full of processed foods, meats, and grains.

Though purchasing low-cost, albeit unhealthy, options may save money on a daily basis, the study's senior author, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, notes that spending $550 more per year on healthy food is a long-term investment. "This price difference is very small in comparison to the economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases, which would be dramatically reduced by healthy diets."

However, healthy eating isn't simply a cost issue. In fact, cost is really only half the problem. Aside from pricing, healthful choices are about having the luxury of time to prepare meals, the education to know which foods are better for you, and the access to fresh produce. In impoverished communities, there isn't exactly a Whole Foods on every block. Plus, those who work more than one job to make ends meet don't necessarily have the time or the culinary education to prepare even the most accessible of Pinterecipes.

To be sure, healthier food ought to be more reasonably priced. And, with the growing popularity of farmers markets and an emphasis on shopping local, access to affordable, fresh produce is becoming a reality for more and more people. And, as Mozaffarian claims, healthy eating is a long-term health plan from which everyone can benefit. (HuffPost)