Myth: Healthy Food Is More Expensive Than Unhealthy Food

Food

 

By Charlie Middleton in The Conversation.

 

The idea that healthy food costs more than junk food is something I hear a lot. Students tell me they’d like to eat better but can’t afford to. There is a strong belief that cooking from scratch costs a fortune, and with takeaway meals priced as low as £1, they have little incentive to change their behaviour.

The past decade has seen increased media attention on healthy diets, and stories about the cost of healthy eating are also on the rise, all of which influence public perception. Some studies comparing the price per calorie of foods suggest less healthy foods are often cheaper, but they don’t tell the whole story. The metrics used to measure cost are important.

Consider the example of two pots of chocolate dessert, one regular and one with less fat. Using the price-per-calorie measure, the lower-fat dessert appears more expensive than the regular pot, because it contains fewer calories. But studies comparing the price per unit weight of food from the same food group suggest healthy options are often cheaper – for example, 200g of chickpeas versus 200g of bacon. The latter is a more meaningful measure because most people buying food think about the quantity they are buying rather than how many calories they are getting for their money.

 

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