Eating healthy may cost $1.50 more per day or $550 a year: study

Salsas and other items are seen in the International food aisle of a grocery store.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

TORONTO – How much more does a healthy diet cost a family? A new study suggests that if you’re filling your shopping cart with fresh produce and protein, you may be spending $550 more per person each year.

After reviewing 27 studies from 10 different countries, Harvard School of Public Health researchers say that consumers stocking up on healthy food – fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish, for example – are paying premium prices – to the tune of $1.50 more per day compared to people who eat more processed food.

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That may not sound like a lot but, but by the end of the year, the difference is about $550 per person or $2,200 for a family of four.

“This research provides the most complete picture to-date on true cost differences of healthy diets,” Dariush Mozaffarian, the study’s senior author, said.

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“This would represent a real burden for some families, and we need policies to help offset these costs. On the other hand, 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,” he said.

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In the study, the researchers looked at different items and their price per serving and per 200 calories to come up with their numbers.

Mozaffarian’s full study was published Thursday night in the British Medical Journal Open. Read the full study here.

Other researchers chiming in on the findings say that it’s not just the prices that scare some families away from healthier food. They may not have access to bigger grocery stores, or they can’t afford transportation to get them closer to better options. They could also be strapped for time to prepare fresh food because of long work days or juggling several jobs.

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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offered Health Day grocery staples that are nutrient-rich, budget-friendly foods, though. They include:

–          Beans are packed with fibre, protein, iron and zinc. Canned beans are about 13 cents per quarter-cup and dried beans cost about 9 cents per ounce

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–          Bananas for vitamin B6, fibre, potassium and vitamin C. Dobbins notes that bananas are only 36 cents each, making for a nutritious and cheap snack

–          Peanut butter because one tablespoon has 95 calories, 4 grams of protein and 8 grams of unsaturated fats. Two tablespoons are only 27 cents

–          Canned tuna is a good source for protein, omega-3 fats and B vitamins, but go for the tuna packed in water instead of oil. Tuna is only 27 cents per ounce

Take a look at the full list here.

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