Healthy Diets Don't Cost Much More Than Unhealthy Ones

Published Online: Monday, March 17, 2014
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Although many Americans may believe that a healthy diet is an expensive one, a recent study found that the cost difference between healthy and unhealthy foods is small.

The review and meta-analysis, published online on December 5, 2013, in BMJ Open, analyzed studies published from 2000 to 2011 on the retail prices of foods and diet patterns to determine the cost of a healthy diet compared with an unhealthy one. Food prices reported in the studies were adjusted for inflation and standardized to the international dollar.

The review included 27 studies conducted in 10 countries. The data indicated that when comparing food-based diet patterns, the healthiest diets only cost approximately $1.48 more per day or $1.54 more per 2000 calories than unhealthy diets. When nutrient-based diet patterns were compared, healthy diets did not cost significantly more per day—an extra $1.56 per 2000 calories.

The biggest price differences were seen between healthy and unhealthy meats and proteins. On average, healthier proteins cost $0.29 more per serving than less healthy alternatives. Cost differences per serving were smaller between healthy and unhealthy grains, dairy, snacks, and fats and were not significant for sodas and juices.

The authors concluded that the study highlights “the challenges and opportunities for reducing financial barriers to healthy eating.”

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