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Healthy Food Is More Expensive

Updated on April 9, 2012

The premise of this article is that buying healthy food is more expensive than buying less healthy food. It is also the position of this article that the extra cost of healthy food is well worth it. If you look at it from a long-term perspective, spending more on healthy food now will be less expensive that the health cost later from eating unhealthy foods.

Of course, the price of foods varies from country to country and from location to location within that country. So you are encourage to compare the prices in your area to see if indeed whether healthy food are more expensive.

However, one has to know what food items to compare. Otherwise the comparison will not be accurate if what one consideres "healthy" is not actually healthy. In fact, many so called "healthy" food with "low-fat" advertisement labeling is in fact unhealthy.

For example, the so called "healthy" frozen dinner is inexpensive. But it is not healthy. Since it is not easy to know what is healthy due to conflicting health report, here we will provide a list of truly healthy versus unhealthy food items for you to compare prices on.

Wild Salmon
Farmed Salmon
Wild salmon is heathier due to higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acid since they eat algea instead of fish feed.
White Rice
Quinoa is a healthy whole grain with more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals than white rice. White rice is not a whole grain since its outer nutritious bran stripped
Kale is a cancer fighting cruciferous and leafy green vegetable magnesium and B vitamins. Potato is a less healthy vegetable that has a higher glycemic index that raises blood glucose levels.
Fruit bars
Blueberries are fresh fruit. Fruit bars are processed foods.
Ripe Avocado
It is not uncommon to find that one healthy avocado is more expensive than one hamburger within the same area.
Omega-3 Eggs
Conventional Eggs
Omega-3 eggs are produced by chickens feed a diet rich in omega-3.
Organic Vegetables and fruits
Non-organic vegetables and fruits
Organics have less pesticide and decreases the body toxic load.
Is healthy food more expensive?
Is healthy food more expensive?

Some Price Comparison between healthy and unhealthy foods

The US Department of Agriculture had done similar comparisons. It found that price vary geographically and in some cases healthy food were more expensive, and in other cases healthy food were less expensive. It says ...

"looking at relative prices between two food groups cannot, in itself, be used to draw any firm conclusion about the link between healthy food prices and consumption trends."

However, some salient points in the report is that ...

  • Healthy whole grains were more expensive than less healthy refined grains. This is equivalent to the quinoa versus white rice comparison.
  • Healthy dark leafy green vegetables more expensive in all markets than less healthy starchy vegetables. This is equivalent to the kale versus potato comparison.

Healthy Foods are High Nutrient and Low Calorie Foods

Healthy foods have a high nutrient to calorie ratio -- meaning they are low in calories, but still high in nutrients. Low in calories means that you have to eat more of it in order to get your daily caloric intake. That means you have to buy more of it resulting in higher cost.

Cutting out processed carbohydrates such as bread and pasta is one of the healthy steps to take. If you try that and eat mostly vegetables, you will find that you have to eat more vegetables than you are used to. A plate of fresh vegetables will not keep you as full as a plate of unhealthy pasta. So you typically will have to eat more food when you cut out the unhealthy carbs.

The food bill will add up -- probably more than the bill when you were on with pasta. But note that although you are eating more vegetables, you will not gain weight as much as when you are on carbohydrates. In fact, eating processed carbohydrates and sugar is the fastest way to gain weight.

High Calorie Junk Food keep people full for less money

When under the constraint of a limited income, it is easier to keep full on high calorie junk food than on healthy vegetables, fruits, fish, and lean meats.

New York Times blog says ...

"it’s easier for low-income people to sustain themselves on junk food rather than fruits and vegetables"

ABCNews reports that ...

"when the researchers checked prices at numerous stores around the Seattle area, they found that the good, healthy foods had soared in price over a two-year period, jumping by nearly 20 percent compared to a 5 percent increase in the overall food price inflation. And during that same period, high-calorie foods had remained about the same price, and in some cases had actually dropped."

Reuters reference a study that looked at foods containing the healthful mineral potassium and reports that ...

"Eating healthier food can add almost 10 percent to the average American's food bill"


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    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      @jaswinder, you are right that the long-term cost saving in health cost is well worth the extra money it cost to buy quality healthy food now.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      @chefsref Wow, such a feat to grow own quinoa. I love quinoa. It is a great rice replacement.

    • jaswinder64 profile image

      jaswinder64 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada.

      I know healthy food is more expensive, but in long run its not. When you eat junk food, even though that is also very expensive, you become sick with that and spend more money to become healthy. Now the cost is same, so its better to eat healthy food. The way you explained this article with detailed information and picture, l like it. Very good hub.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 5 years ago from Citra Florida

      Hey Blissful

      The answer is obvious, grow your own. Not much help for a city dweller but for anyone with a backyard it's worth the expense and labor. I started gardening last year and my grocery bill has been cut in half while I eat a wider variety of vegetables without toxic chemicals.

      I'm even trying to grow my own quinoa which is supposed to be impossible in Florida due to the heat.

      Voted up and useful