Eating the healthiest diets – filled with fruits, vegetables, lean meant and fiber – on average costs about $550 more a year than the least healthy, according to a recent analysis of research published in BMJ Open.
For the analysis, researchers analyzed 27 relevant studies from 10 high-income countries, including the United States, New Zealand and Spain. They looked at different eating patterns and categories of food, then calculated the costs both per day and for every 200 calories.
On average, people who followed healthier diets spent about $1.50 more a day, whether based on serving size or price per calorie. Dietary patterns included the Mediterranean, diets filled with fruits and vegetables, and the government dietary recommendations (the Healthy Eating Index).
In general, the healthier diets were filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and nuts.
Healthier food categories were also slightly more for a couple of the six food categories the authors used. For example, the healthiest meat and protein choices cost 29 cents more per serving than the least healthy, with the largest price difference found in chicken and the smallest for peanut butter. Whole grains and other healthy grains cost 3 cents more a serving than the least healthy grains.
As the authors point out, there are several limitations to the findings. For example, definitions of healthfulness varied for each study, which may not apply to everyone. For chicken, healthfulness was skinless and boneless.
If healthy foods do cost more, policy and other incentives may help reduce these costs, the authors write. Eating a diet with plenty of fiber, fruits, vegetables and other healthful foods plays a role in cancer risk and weight. A healthy diet and a healthy weight could prevent approximately 120,000 US cancers each year.
Source: Rao M, Afshin A, Singh G, Mozaffarian D. “Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysishttp://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/12/e004277.full#F3.” BMJ Open. 2013 Dec 5;3(12):e004277.