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The High Price of Eating Well

Eating a healthy diet reduces the risk for obesity, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Yet many Americans don’t follow healthy eating recommendations. This may be in part because healthy choices often come with a higher price tag.

Higher Costs Equal Worse Choices

According to a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, healthier perishable foods, such as dairy products, frozen vegetables, and fresh orange juice, cost nearly twice as much on average as less healthy packaged options, such as sweets, soda, and salty snacks.

Furthermore, the study found that the odds of eating a healthy diet decreased as the price gap between healthy and unhealthy food choices widened. For every 14 percent increase in the price ratio between healthy and unhealthy foods, participants were 24 percent less likely to eat a healthy diet.

Surprisingly, those whose diets were most affected by this price ratio were the middle class, not people in lower-income brackets. Researchers speculate this may be because healthy foods are simply too expensive for many low-income families to afford.

Tips to Eat Well for Less 

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to eat a healthy diet without spending a fortune. Try these tips:

  • Look for lower-cost healthy options such as sweet potatoes, peanut butter, canned beans, canned salmon or tuna, brown rice, oats, dark-green leafy vegetables, green peppers, carrots, apples, bananas, and frozen fruits and vegetables.

  • Skip “convenience” foods such as bagged salads, shredded cheese, and prepared poultry or fish. You pay less for foods when you do some of the work.