If you want to eat healthy, then you have to spend more money. This is according to a research concluded by HSPH
(Harvard School of Public Health). Although there have been other similar researches; so far this is the most comprehensive. The research also determined that the exact cost difference between the healthiest and the least healthy diet is $1.50 per day, which is around $550 per year on average. According to lead author Mayuree Rao, most people tend to complain about the bigger budget burden associated with healthier foods with it limiting the possibility of picking up better dietary habits. Rao further emphasized how the research has not only provided and evaluated evidence to back up this idea, but also an actual cost difference has been arrived at for the first time.
Facts about the research
- The research was a meta-analysis meaning the researchers used the results of previous and already existing studies; they were 27 in this case.
- The research was based on ten developed and high-income countries.
- The difference in pricing was evaluated based on the price per serving, per 200 calories (which is the recommended average daily calorie intake for a fully grown adult), and price per 200 calories for some types of foods.
- The researchers compared the pricing between the healthy and unhealthy foods in each food category e.g. the price of healthy proteins vs the price of unhealthy proteins.
Unsurprisingly, proteins and meats had the largest difference in pricing; with the healthier foods costing $0.29 more per serving when compared to the less healthy food options. In the grains and snacks/sweets category there was also a significant difference in the cost, standing at $0.03 and $0.12 respectively. There was no price difference, however, between less healthy and healthier juices and soda. The authors cautioned that the $1.50 difference is based on the difference between a very healthy diet – which includes a lot of vegetables, fruits, and fish – and a diet that mostly includes processed meat, grains, and other food products. These are two extremes and the actual difference in our daily consumption might turn out to be far much less. This research has just dispelled some common misconceptions fuelled by other studies
that argued that unhealthy foods are actually more expensive than healthy foods
. According to research
by the Department of Agriculture, this argument is very true, but this is mostly because of their different approach to the pricing calculations. Unlike most studies, this department did not use the popular price per calorie method, but the price per size/weight method. It is still debatable whether this method is better than the popular price per calorie method. With the researchers blaming the government policies for the lower unhealthy-food prices, it seems as though the situation is not going to change any time soon. Current food policies are more focused on producing high volume and inexpensive food commodities, which are the unhealthy processed foods. The policies can be adjusted to support healthier food production in order to increase their availability and lower the prices to promote healthier diets among the citizens. It might seem cheaper and even more convenient for families to consume unhealthy foods especially thelow income and food insecure
. In reality the price difference should favour healthy diets because of thehidden costs
that are associated with the unhealthy diets. We all know that unhealthy diets are definitely bad for our health and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the study's senior author, further emphasized this during a press release, "this price difference is very small in comparison to the economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases, which would be dramatically reduced by healthy diets." Considering that the annual healthcare costs on obesity related cases are $118 billion, then that extra $1.50 does not seem like too much of an added burden.