farmers market

Would you pay $1.48 per day to eat healthy? According to a new study published in BMJ by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian from the Harvard School of Public Health, $1.48 is the premium that a healthy diet costs over an unhealthy one.

Anyone who has shopped at “Whole Paycheck” or visited the produce aisle of their local supermarket knows that healthy, organic food is often priced higher than its less-healthy counterparts. The study looked at cost comparisons for six major food groups: meats/protein, dairy, grains, fats/oils, snacks/sweets and soda/juice. Adding up to $10.36 per week or $540.20 per year, this study confirms the theory that eating healthy foods can be more expensive than eating junk – but not by much.

A healthy diet reduces the risk of chronic ailments like cancer, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. At $1.48 per day, eating healthy is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to maintain your current and future health. So why do so many people continue to choose a diet packed with unhealthy fats, sugar, processed foods and other such items? The study offered some explanations:

  • Cost. For a family of four, the healthy food premium adds up to $2160.80 per year. Those living in poverty may not be able to afford the up-front costs of a healthy diet, and are forced to choose to save a dollar today despite the fact that it will cost them more in the long run.
  • Time. Processed foods often take less time to prepare than whole foods for busy adults. If you work three jobs to pay your bills, you may not have the time to cook homemade meals three times a day.
  • Cultural Acceptability. Eating healthy in places like California is easy and expected – but ask for a low-fat vegetarian entrée in rural Texas and you may be met with a confused look. Different cultures value different things, and healthy eating is not a priority for some.
  • Availability. Healthy foods like fresh produce or organic meats are simply not easily accessible in certain urban areas. In lower income neighborhoods, you’re much more likely to find a fast food joint before a farmers market.

Cost is the most pertinent of these three issues for most people. While $1.48 per day is far less than most people spend on health insurance and chump change compared to the cost of a chronic disease, the benefits of eating healthy are sometimes not immediately apparent. This leads people to believe that their money is better spent elsewhere.

How can you eat healthy when money is tight? Don’t use your lack of finances as an excuse to eat junk. Try the following tips and save on your grocery bill without giving up the green life:

  • Purchase vegetables and fruits when they are in season; stock up and freeze for later
  • When produce is too expensive, opt for frozen, which can be even more nutritious than fresh
  • Cut up your own fruits and vegetables instead of buying pre-cut (you’ll reduce packaging too)
  • Buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself instead of purchasing individual pieces or tenders
  • Shop the sales – Whole Food’s organic line of groceries is often cheaper than you think
  • Frequent your local farmers market, get to know your vendors and ask for deals on bulk purchases
  • Team up with friends and split big bags of oranges, potatoes, onions and other produce items
  • Buy groceries in bulk when you can, like oatmeal, flour and other grains

Resources:

http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/12/e004277.full?sid=f40b344f-ef24-4a2d-9c09-59516f35fefc 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/05/249072685/what-separates-a-healthy-and-unhealthy-diet-just-1-50-per-day

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