For most of us, the answer to that question is “probably” even though the popular perception is that healthy eating is much more expensive than the cost of typical, and often unhealthy diets. A new report from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the additional cost to assure prudent nutrition is surprisingly low. The researchers looked into the actual costs of a healthy diet compared to what you would pay for the unhealthy ones so prevalent in our society. They analyzed 27 studies from 10 higher income countries to determine the costs of individual foods and then compared prices for healthier vs. unhealthy diets. The Harvard team calculated the differences in price per serving and per 200 calories for certain foods as well as the cost of 2,000 calorie daily diets, both healthy and unhealthy. They even assessed the costs per calorie of foods in both diets. Bottom line: the cost of pursuing a healthy diet amounts to only $1.50 per day more than the cost of consuming an unhealthy one. Here are some details: healthier choices for meat and other protein foods cost only 29 cents more per serving than the unhealthy ones, the cost of healthy snacks was only 12 cents more and the price differential for fats and oils was only two cents more for healthy products.
My take? This analysis goes a long way towards refuting the myth that healthy eating is much more expensive that the unhealthy western diet, and shows that the cost per person is likely less than that of a designer drink at Starbucks. However, the Harvard team did not include the additional cost per day of an organic diet, which I recommend, or the time requirements of healthy preparation methods. When organically grown fruits and vegetables don't fit your food budget, I suggest avoiding the ones that are most heavily contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals, and stick to those that are least likely to be contaminated. You can get that information at www.ewg.org, the website of the Environmental Working Group. I also suggest comparing the cost of organic fruits and vegetables to other types of food, as the Harvard team did. You may find that the cost per serving is quite reasonable compared to that of some snack foods and some prepared foods. And, they're much better for you.
Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!
Mayuree Rao et al, “Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis”, BMJ Open. 2013 Dec 5;3(12):e004277. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004277.