We’ve heard it time and time again that one of the main reasons people struggle with eating healthy is because it’s so expensive. And a new review of international research has found that a healthy diet really does cost more.
The study, led by Mayuree Rao of the Harvard School of Public Health and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and published in the journal BMJ Open, looked at 27 studies from 10 countries and included market surveys that compared prices at various stores as well as dietary surveys with as many as 78,000 participants.
The study found that eating a healthy diet costs on average $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets that were consumed. While that $1.50 may not seem like much, that is a per person cost which means that a family of four would have to spend $6 more per day or $42 more per week or $2,184 more per year to eat a healthy diet. That is no small change for the average family, and it may very well be worth it.
Rao told Reuters, "On the other hand, $1.50 is about the price of a cup of coffee – just a drop in the bucket when you consider the billions of dollars spent every year on diet-related chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. When you look at the long-term health impact, the extra $1.50 is a good investment."
While the research makes it clear that eating healthy does come at a price, what it doesn’t do is provide any next steps as to how to get less expensive healthy food on the table of more households. It’s cheaper to get refined and processed foods into homes to prevent hunger and provide some nourishment.
The question that must now be answered is how the food system can be altered to make healthy eating more affordable for people of all income levels. Yes, people can grow their own food and shop at farmer’s markets, but the issue still needs to be addressed on the mass market level.