Some may wonder if eating healthy is actually worth spending a little more, while others see the impact – the physical, emotional and monetary costs associated with eating poorly and willingly pay extra for nutrient-rich food.
While eating healthy is a personal choice, the financial result to our society whose food system is built on hyper-processed, nutrient void fare, impacts everyone in rising health care costs – no matter what choice we make.
Recently, the Harvard School of Public Health released results from their comprehensive analysis of data comparing the cost of healthy food diets vs. unhealthy food diets. While a simple trip through your local grocer may reveal that eating healthy does indeed cost more, lead study author, Mayuree Rao said that up until now, the scientific evidence had not been systematically evaluated.
Study researchers looked at 27 existing studies from 10 high-income countries that included price information for individual foods and for healthy vs. unhealthy diets. Differences in prices per serving and per 200 calories of particular foods, as well as prices per day and per 2,000 calories were noted.
The results indicated that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts costs significantly more than a diet comprised mostly of processed foods such as factory-farmed meat and refined grains. On average, it was determined that this difference was $1.50 more per day, $10.50 more per week or $550 more per year.
Why Is Unhealthy Food Cheaper?
Refined food is not really food but rather a compilation of synthetic ingredients, that can be thrown together to resemble food for a fraction of the cost of growing, harvesting, storing and transporting real food. Current food policies support these “inexpensive, high volume” commodities which has driven the refined food industry and its profits.
If a similar system existed for real food production, availability would increase, prices would drop and more people who have access to healthy food.
Affordability – How is it Measured?
While not everyone may be able to spend an extra $550 a year for healthier food, the economic and physical costs of a highly refined diet must be explored. The question should really be changed from who can afford to spent a little more to who can’t afford to spend a little more – if the real price for eating a westernized diet is related at all (and we know it is) to rising rates of obesity, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions, it would seem that everyone should be searching for ways to abandon their current ways of eating and adopt a healthier diet.
For some it may mean eating out less (but not much of that is healthy anyway), buying a few less clothes, going to fewer movies or reevaluating priorities, but with all that we now know about the importance of a whole food diet, it seems like the choice would be easy.
You May Even Save Money
There are many ways to save money and eat healthy. Eating a diet comprised of whole foods provides the body with the nutrients it needs for energy and often leads to eating less. When you eat high quality food, the body does not require as much and you stay full longer.
Here are some tips to eating healthy that will stretch your dollar:
Stop buying packaged goods and shop at local bulk stores using your own containers.
Shop for local and seasonal products – farmers markets, food coops and community gardens offer healthy foods and a reasonable price. In addition eating what is in season will also cost less.
- Grow your own – you don’t have to be a Master Gardener to grow a few veggies or plant some fruit trees in the backyard. Small space and vertical gardens solve the problem for those with little room.
- Plan ahead – being organized is a great way to save money.
- Eat more plant-based meals.
- Use all parts of whole foods – reduce waste.
- Make other changes in your home like switching from expensive cleaning and laundry supplies to making your own and reducing the amount of paper products that you use.
- Make your own condiments – these will be much tastier and cheaper than the processed kind.
Americans spend less per capita on food than any other industrialized country and we have the highest rates of chronic illness – do you think there is a connection?
-The Alternative Daily