Nutrition in the News: Healthy Eating Can Be Costly

A recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health led researchers to conclude that healthy diets cost $1.50 more per day than unhealthy diets. A seemingly minute difference, but when added up over the course of a year, you’re looking at an extra $550 spent on eating if you choose a heathy diet, per person.

(Continue reading about the study here)

Let’s take a step back here and really think about what this research is telling us. Yes, it can be more expensive to eat the healthiest of meals when compared to the unhealthiest of meals. This isn’t shocking, just compare a can of almonds to a bag of potato chips and it’s easy to see how the difference in cost can add up fast. While it is truly a shame that eating healthier is costlier, think about this:

You go to a fast food restaurant and order a value burger, value fries, and value soda. You’ve now purchased almost 1000 calories for just a few bucks. To make a similar 1000 calorie salad is obviously going to cost more. But we shouldn’t be comparing the cost of a “healthy calorie” to the cost of an “unhealthy calorie”. Instead we should be comparing the cost of satiety, fullness, and how long that feeling of satiety lasts.

I don’t know about you, but I can scarf down a double cheeseburger from Mickey D’s in 5 seconds flat but an hour later and I’m hungry again. On the other hand, if I eat a spinach salad with grilled chicken on it, I won’t be hungry for at least twice as long!

This type of research is important, but I worry that an non-nutrition educated reader might see the headline and think “aha! See! I’m not rich enough to eat healthy!”. They might not think past the immediate difference in price and miss what questions aren’t being answered by the headline: how much of that unhealthy food do you have to consume to stay full, how much of the unhealthy food do you have to consume to meet your micronutrient requirements, how much money will you have to spend on doctors bills in the future when you are having heart surgery due to your clogged arteries from years of eating the “cheap” food.

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