Does Healthy Food Cost More Than Junk Food?

Does following a healthy diet mean dishing out more dough? Not necessarily. A new study published by the USDA revealed that junk food is not cheaper than healthy food.
apple on money

Does following a healthy diet mean dishing out more dough? Not necessarily. A new study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that healthy food isn’t any more expensive than junk food.

The Studies

With more than one-third of U.S. adults being overweight and a push from the Obama administration to fight rising obesity levels, this new study sheds light on budgetary concerns when it comes to healthy eating.

Previous studies were highly criticized for comparing the cost of food per calorie. These studies found that pastries and chips and cheaper than fruit and veggies. The newest study conducted by the Agricultural Department compared cost of foods by weight or portion size which reveals that grains, veggies, fruit and dairy foods are less costly than most meats or foods high in added sugar, salt, or artery-clogging saturated fat. The study found that carrots, banana, lettuce and pinto beans were all cheaper per portion than soda, ice cream, ground beef or French fries.

The Issues

Using the cost per weight or portion also makes more sense. When you compare foods per calories, there is no consideration taken for the quality of the calories or its satiety value (meaning, how full you will feel after eating the food). You may devour an unsatisfying donut for 300 calories but feel very satisfied after a 95-calorie apple. Furthermore, if you’re eating that 300 calorie donut you’re not getting nearly as many nutrients. Higher calorie and fatty foods have also been associated with a higher long-term healthcare costs from chronic diseases like obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Shopping on a Budget

Knowing simple shopping tricks can also keep your food costs down. Use these tips on your next trip to the market:

  • Buy seasonal produce -- out of season fruits and veggies cost more.
  • Plan your meals and choose recipes based on the supermarket circular, seasonal produce and healthy foods that are on sale.
  • Look for coupons in print or online of healthier options. Remember to check the manufacturer’s website for coupons and special deals.
  • Write out a shopping list of what you need to cook healthy meals and snacks to avoid spending more on impulse buys when you're at the store.
  • Instead of buying food that comes in single containers like apple sauce, nuts, raisins, yogurt and whole wheat pretzels, buy them in bulk or in larger-sized packages. When you get home, divide them into single-serve containers.
  • Pre-cut fruits and veggies tend to be pricier. Buy them whole and prep them at home.
  • Go meatless on Mondays or any other day of the week. Meatless options like fruits, veggies, grains and legumes were found to be cheaper.
  • When you do opt for meat, calculate how much meat you really need based on 4-5 ounces per serving.
  • Some foods that cost a pretty penny at the market, are easy (and cheaper) to make at home such as salad dressings and tomato sauce.
TELL US: How do you purchase healthy food on a budget?

Next Up

Star in Training

The Next Food Network Star winner Aarti Sequeira takes us through the making of her new show, Aarti Party.

Is There Anything More Sacred Than a Diet Coke Break?

A whole community on TikTok is deeply invested in optimizing their Diet Coke experiences. Here’s what they say you need for the perfect "crispy" drink.

8 Reasons You Take Nachos More Seriously Than Probably Anyone

The big game is upon us, and while not all of us may speak the language of touchdowns and fumbles and interceptions, we can all agree on one thing (besides the commercials): nachos.

You May Accidentally Be Having More Caffeine Than You Realize

While it’s simple to keep track of the number of caffeinated drinks you have in a day, the stimulant has been making its way into more foods.

9 "Healthy" Foods to Skip

The word “healthy” can get tricky. Lots of foods get labeled good-for-you or may seem low-cal, but they're anything but. Here are 9 of the biggest offenders.

What Is Controlled Environment Agriculture? And Does It Yield More Nutritious Produce?

You may have seen greens grown indoors — sometimes vertically, and without soil. How do they compare to their traditionally grown counterparts?

Does Protein Impact Heart Health?

Get to the heart of eating high-protein foods.

Does Peanut Butter Go Bad?

Peanut butter is a staple for sandwiches, sweet treats, and snacking, but does it expire? Here are the facts.

Does Olive Oil Go Bad?

An olive oil expert and producer weighs in.