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Does Ice Cream Cost More than an Apple?

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Healthy Food Prices
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Source: U. S. Department of Agriculture.

It’s commonly accepted that healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are more expensive than the unhealthy ones. Not so, finds a new government report, at least when the costs are calculated by the average portion and weight.

The report compared the prices of 4,439 healthy and relatively less-healthy foods using three common measures: cost per calorie; cost per weight; and cost per portion. Except for the costs per calorie, the report concluded that healthy foods cost less than their counterparts.

Lettuce ranked as among the most expensive when calculating the cost per calorie, for example. But the vegetable shifted to among the least expensive when measuring the cost for an average portion. For ice cream versus the apple: By calorie, ice cream costs less than each calorie of the fruit. But when measured by what people eat on average, their places reversed.

ERS researchers calculate that fruits ranged from 13 cents to $1.65 per average amount consumed and vegetables from 6 cents to $1.27, while less healthy foods ranged from 2 cents to $3.04.

Source: Carlson, Andrea, and Elizabeth Frazão. Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It depends on How You Measure the Price, EIB-96, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2012.

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