NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Healthy Food No More Costly than Junk Food

May 25, 2012

In a society awake to the problems of obesity, the argument has been put forth that eating a healthy diet is expensive, and therefore people have a hard time financially maintaining a healthy diet.  However, a new government study of some 4,000 food items ranked by price based on calories, weight and portion size found that this is not the case, says USA Today.

In fact, carrots, onions, pinto beans, lettuce, mashed potatoes, bananas and orange juice are all less expensive per portion than soft drinks, ice cream, chocolate candy, French fries, sweet rolls and deep-fat fried chicken patties, the report says.

  • When considering portion size, the ranking from least to most expensive is: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruit, protein and less healthy foods (those with high concentrations of sugar or fat).
  • Protein and less healthy foods are very close in cost.
  • Grains, such as bread, oatmeal, pasta and rice, are the cheapest foods no matter how you measure by portion, weight or calories.
  • Proteins such as meat, chicken and fish are the most expensive food by portion size, but these are balanced out by low-cost proteins such as beans and eggs.
  • When looking at price per portion, fruits and vegetables are lower in price overall than unhealthy foods.

Adam Drewnowski, director of the Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington and lead author of a 2010 study that showed calorie-for-calorie junk food is more cost-effective than eating healthy, says he stands by his findings that a healthier diet generally costs more.

Source: Nanci Hellmich, "Healthy Food No More Costly than Junk Food, Government Finds," USA Today, May 19, 2012.

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