We know that we need to shell out additional money if we want to eat healthier food. However, until recently, no one has really assessed this bit of conventional wisdom in a systematic, rigorous process. A group of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health recently analyzed 27 different studies performed in ten developed nations to look at actual market price of foods based on the degree of healthfulness. It turns out, consumers in these country found that they needed to spend an additional $1.50 per day to obtain healthy diet.
The price difference still held true for food prices in the United States. Although, $1.50 per day can be a real financial barrier for many low-income families, this probably much less than many of us have expected. $1.50 is the amount many people spend for a cup of coffee and it’s still trivial compared to cost we need to spend on diabetes and heart disease treatments; not to mention the possibility of lost productivity. But still, this means that we need to spend an additional of $550 each year.
The finding could become an incentive for policymaker and it is necessary to find ways to assist low-income household to close the $1.50 per day gap.
The team also evaluated food costs based on the eating pattern types. As an example, diet rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables, such as Mediterranean diet, compared to diet high in meat and processed food products. They also examined the price difference within certain food categories including dairy, fats, proteins and grains. The biggest difference in price arose when it relates to meats and protein-rich foods. Leaner, healthier cuts were about 29 cents more expensive for each serving.
The finding was revealed recently in the British Medical Journal Open and it couldn’t come at a better time, since there are still negotiations on Capitol Hill about the SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP is a food assistance program and it could help consumers to navigate the stores better while they are on a tight budget. Tips for low-income households include buying canned or frozen vegetables and fruits, when fresh produce is too expensive. Buying a whole chicken is also cheaper than buying wings, breast or other parts separately. They should also examine the price per unit, instead of the total price when comparing two items. With proper education, more families can put healthy diet on the table.