We all make excuses for eating junk food whether it’s all too often or a rare indulgence. What counts as moderation is fodder for another story, but if you’re a fan of diving into frozen pizza or fast food on the reg because you think fresh fruits and vegetables are “too expensive,” a new study, and maybe your accountant, will force you to find another excuse.
According to new research from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), healthier foods, namely the fresh fruits and vegetables you have to walk past to get to that Freschetta, are cheaper than processed foods. Like, way, way cheaper than you think.
The research team looked at the prices of nearly 80 different types of food and beverages sold in Asda and Tesco supermarkets in the UK.
When it came to fruits and vegetables, many were less than $3 per pound compared with processed meals, chips, or even bacon, which all clocked in at closer to $4 if measure by pound.
The researchers noted that for the cost of a fast-food cheeseburger, a person could purchase more than two pounds of carrots, ten apples, or two pounds of sweet potatoes, and meet the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day for less than a dollar.
"Given the relatively high cost of junk food, it is unlikely that taxing unhealthy food or subsidizing healthy food would change people's eating habits,"Chris Snowdon, the report's author and head of lifestyle economics at the IEA, said in a statement. "Instead, it would transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.”
And he may be right to some degree. But taxes on sugary beverages, for example, have begun to prove their effectiveness in steering target markets away from the unhealthy drinks and toward water or unsweetened beverages.
The biggest problems still tend to be access, time, and cooking ability. For food deserts, which are still plaguing low-income neighborhoods, the cost savings in moving away from processed foods could have significant value for struggling families.
Previous research has looked at cost-per-calorie instead of the edible weight the IEA focused on. Vice’s Munchies notes that the cost-per-calorie methodology is “inherently biased” against low-calorie foods like fruits or vegetables, making them appear more expensive when that's not the case. “Even if a low-calorie yogurt and a high-calorie yogurt cost the same at a supermarket, the low-calorie yogurt would be reported as more expensive,” Munchies notes.
The IEA research comes just after another recent study found that doubling the RDA for fruits and vegetables from five to ten servings per day may actually be more ideal for human health--and based on the research, incredibly doable for most people.
"The idea that poor nutrition is caused by the high cost of healthy food is simply wrong,” Snowdon noted. “People are prepared to pay a premium for taste and convenience. A nutritious diet that meets Government recommendations is more affordable than ever.”
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