Eating healthy costs about $1.50 more per day

The bad news is that it costs more to eat healthy. The good news is that it’s not by much, and it could be more than offset by a reduction in the cost of health care.

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers writing in the Dec. 5 issue of the British Medical Journal said they conducted an analysis of 27 existing studies from 10 high-income countries that included price data for individual foods and for healthier versus less-healthy diets.

Healthier diets — for example, those rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts — were compared to those rich in processed foods, meats and refined grains.

Based on consumption of 2,000 calories per day, the USDA recommended daily amount for an average adult, the healthier diets cost about $1.50 more per day.

The researchers suggested that unhealthy diets may cost less because food policies have focused on the production of inexpensive, high-volume commodities, and production, distribution and marketing capabilities that favour sales of highly processed food products.

“While healthier diets did cost more, the difference was smaller than many people might have expected,” Dariush Mozaffarian, the study’s senior author said in a release. “Over the course of a year, $1.50/day more for eating a healthy diet would increase food costs for one person by about $550 per year.

“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.”

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