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Is Eating Healthy More Expensive? The Answer May Surprise You.

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Is Eating Healthy More Expensive? The Answer May Surprise You.

Do you find yourself thinking it’s hard to eat healthy because healthy foods are more expensive than junk food? We have all heard this statement before, but is it really founded in truth? A study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that this might not be the case. The question is, what made us believe that this was the truth?

The idea likely originated from previous studies that measured the cost of food per calorie, however this is not the only way to measure food cost. For a more balanced assessment, the USDA’s study compared the prices of healthy and less healthy foods using three price metrics: the price per calorie, per edible gram and per average portion.

Their comparison showed that regardless of the metric used, it is not possible to conclude that healthy foods are more expensive than less healthy foods. Much depends on the specific foods compared.

In particular, they found that foods low in calories for a given weight tend to have a higher price when the price is measured per calorie. Vegetables and fruits without added fat or sugar are low in calories and, by this metric, tend to be a very expensive way to purchase food energy. However, when measured on the basis of edible weight or average portion size, vegetables and fruit are among the least expensive foods.

Given that roughly half of the Americans consume too many calories, measuring a food’s value by the calorie does not necessarily make the most sense. A common misconception is that the alternative to junk food is organic fruits and vegetables or grass fed beef. While these are healthy foods, there are options that are healthy while also being less expensive, such as frozen and canned vegetables, wholegrains, eggs and low-fat dairy.

Here are a few tips for eating healthy food on a budget:

  1. Plan Ahead: Before you head to the grocery store, plan your meals for the week. Include meals like stews, casseroles or stir-fries, which stretch expensive items into more portions. Check to see what foods you already have and make a list of what you need to buy. Read more on how to navigate the grocery store.
  2. Get the Best Price: Check the local newspaper, look online and watch for advertisements in store for sales and coupons. Ask about a loyalty card for extra savings at stores where you shop. Look for specials or sales on meat and seafood—often the most expensive items on your list.
  3. Buy in Bulk: It is almost always cheaper to buy foods in bulk. Smart choices are family packs of chicken, steak or fish and larger bags of potatoes and frozen vegetables.
  4. Buy in season: Buying fruits and vegetables in season can lower the cost and add to the freshness! If you are not going to use them all right away, buy some that needs to ripen.

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Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.