The greatest price differences were seen in meats and proteins, in which healthy versions of the foods cost about 30 cents more per serving, and 47 cents more per 200 calories, on average, than less healthy versions.
Healthy diets, like the Mediterranean diet, cost $1.48 more per day, or $1.54 more per 2,000 calories, than less healthy diets. When the researchers considered only studies conducted in the United States, the results were similar: healthy diets cost $1.49 more per day, and $1.79 more per 2,000 calories.
The study is open in its entirety (linked above) and I encourage you to read through it.
The researchers looked at six food groups and compared the cost of unhealthy and healthy food in each group. On average, they found that it costs less than $2 a day to eat a healthier diet such as the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and 100 percent whole grains.
Healthy Food Costs Do Add Up
At first I thought, “Well, $1.79 a day isn’t that much,” but then I realized that would be a yearly increase of $653 a year for one person and almost $6,000 a year more for a family of nine like I feed. I’m sure this study cannot be absolutely accurate for every area of the country but it’s a good starting place.
From what I could tell of the study they were not looking at organic versus non-organic foods. Instead they were comparing processed foods to healthier options such as 100 percent fruit juice to sugar-filled juice, etc. If they had made organic foods a component of their study I feel sure the difference would have been even higher.
Is the cost of eating a healthy diet worth the sacrifice you may have to make in other areas? For us it is. But honestly, I’m not sure that it costs us more to eat healthier food (excluding organic) than it would if I were buying a lot of processed junk.
Homemade Saves Money
Case in point. If I make oatmeal for seven of us, it costs me about $3 including the oats, fruit, and honey for sweetening. Two small boxes of sugar-filled cereal would cost me about $5. Two boxes may seem like a lot, but when you are feeding five boys – it’s not much at all. 🙂 That’s just one meal. If I were to feed all five school-aged kids Lunchables which cost about $1.49 each, that’s $7.45 for one lunch. I can easily feed all five boys a well-balanced lunch for less than $5.
The light and fluffy pancakes I make with freshly ground whole wheat flour cost less than the cereal as well, and everyone stays full until lunch time. Making my own bread for sandwiches saves money as does buying in bulk.
But the biggest ways I save money on food is by not going out to eat, not buying prepackaged meals that cost a fortune per serving, and cooking almost everything from scratch, including soups like cream of mushroom soup.
Healthy Eating Goes Beyond Money
The cost of eating a healthier diet could be offset by a reduction in health problems, according to the study. I think this makes a lot of sense. If you eat a healthier diet and avoid having to be treated for diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. you save money on medications and doctor visits. I don’t know how your health insurance is, but even with “good” insurance, it costs us quite a bit for prescriptions and doctor visits.
Healthy eating may cost more on the front end, but over time, those extra dollars a day can save you and your family money in reduced medical costs. It’s worth it to me to make sacrifices in other areas to do my best to feed my family and myself the healthiest diet I can afford. For us, it’s not always organic, but it is almost always wholesome foods that I make myself.
What do you think? Does the extra cost pay itself back later in better health and do you sacrifice in other areas to make better food choices? Diane