Healthy food is less expensive than junk food, study finds

Though it’s widely believed that healthy food is more expensive than junk food, a new government analysis shows that does not have to be the case.

“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,” reports Nanci Hellmich for USA Today.

“We have all heard that eating a healthy diet is expensive, and people have used that as an excuse for not eating a healthy diet . . . but healthy foods do not necessarily cost more than less healthy foods,” said Andrea Carlson, an economist and co-author of the report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Economic Research Service. “The price of potato chips is nearly twice as expensive as the price of carrots by portion size.”

Carlson and colleague Elizabeth Frazão analyzed national pricing data on more than 4,000 foods and ranked them according to price based on calories, weight and portion size. The foods were placed in five food groups: grains, dairy, protein, fruit and vegetables. Another category was added for unhealthy items, which did not fall into any of the other calories or were high in sugar, sodium and/or saturated fat such as cookies, desserts, granola bars and many cereals. They found:

• Given portion size, the ranking from least expensive to most expensive is: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruit, protein and less healthy foods. Protein and less healthy foods cost nearly the same.

• Meat, chicken and fish are the most expensive sources of protein but there are low-cost options like eggs and beans.

• Fruit and vegetables are lower in cost overall than unhealthy foods.

• Grains, such as bread, oatmeal, pasta and rice, are the cheapest foods no matter how the portion is measured. (Read more)

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