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Healthy eating costs $1.50 more per day

It only takes a quick trip to McDonalds to see that healthy eating costs more. Consider, you can buy a small burger for under $1.00. What if you want to eat a healthier food option? The costs can be close to $5.00. What if you want to get the whole family a salad? Get ready for a food bill that is five times as much as what it would have cost you if you’d all eaten a burger.

But here’s the rub. We know eating great, nutritional foods is one of the best ways to reduce obesity and trim the waistline. Unfortunately, following a healthy diet on a tight budget can be difficult. Until now, however, many just speculated that buying healthier food and healthy eating really costs more. Now we know it does. According to new research from the Harvard School of Public Health published this month in the British Medical Journal we now have a dollar amount on the actual costs for healthy eating.

According to the lead researcher, Mayuree Rao, "Conventional wisdom has been that healthier foods cost more, but it's never been clear if that's actually true or exactly how much more healthier foods might cost. We found that the healthiest diets cost about $1.50 more per day, and that's less than we might have expected."

What did the researchers review?

According to a story published by CNN, Rao and the research team reviewed previous studies which were done after 2000. The studies compared foods from 10 countries, including the healthy and unhealthy versions of foods. The costs for all the foods were then converted to international dollars and adjusted for inflation. Researchers also developed a method for calculating the price per serving, the costs for three meals per day with an average 2,000 calories per day.

As expected certain food groups costs more in general. For instance, meats cost more than grains or fruit and vegetables, but the healthier versions also cost more per serving than the unhealthy versions. While Grains, dairy and other snacks had a lower overall price and a lower price differential between unhealthy and healthy versions.

What were the results of the healthy eating study?

Researchers concluded on average it costs approximately $1.50 per day to eat the healthiest diet-one filled with fruits, vegetables and lean meats. If a person chooses instead to eat processed foods they can save $1.50.

The researchers noted, however, they were limited by data which was collected for the prior studies and there was some discrepancy between the definitions of a "healthy" diet in each study.

What does this healthy eating study mean for you?

It costs more to eat a healthy diet. In fact, $1.50 per day adds up to approximately $550 per year per person. For some families this is a substantial amount of money. Researchers point out that unfortunately cost has become a barrier for healthy eating.

But researchers also note that in the long run when you factor in the costs of not eating healthy- obesity, diabetes, heart disease- a $1.50 per day is really just a drop in the bucket and well worth the costs.
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