Cheap Options For a Healthy Diet

Patient Expert

I keep hearing people bemoan the cost of a healthy diet. But how much does it really cost to eat nutritious?

Researchers out of Harvard School of Public Health analyzed 27 existing studies from 10 high-income nations. Their analysis included the differences in prices per serving and per 200 calories for specific types of foods, as well as prices per day and per 2,000 calories.

“People often say that healthier foods are more expensive, and that such costs strongly limit better diet habits,” said lead author Mayuree Rao, a junior research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH. “But, until now, the scientific evidence for this idea has not been systematically evaluated, nor have the actual differences in cost been characterized.”

Cheap and healthy food options

If you search carefully, you can find that foods can be inexpensive and nutrition. That’s especially true if you’re willing to cook these foods yourselves.

Interested? Here are some examples as well as the current prices for each item at a major Texas grocery chain:

  • Bananas – This fruit is currently selling for 48 cents a pound.
  • Beans – There’s a wide variety on the market, including canned and dried versions. Black beans are currently 59 cents a can while kidney beans are 69 cents a can. A 16-ounce bag of dried baby lima beans is $1.06 while a 16-ounce bag of black beans is $1.08.
  • Lentils – A 16-ounce bag is 86 cents.
  • Cabbage – Fresh red cabbage is 78 cents a pound while fresh green cabbage is 42 cents a pound. Fresh Napa cabbage is 98 cents a pound.
  • Canned salmon – A packet of skinless and boneless pink salmon is $1.18.
  • Carrots – One pound of fresh bagged carrots is 78 cents.
  • Green tea – A 24-count box of green tea bags is $1.68.
  • Black tea – A 25-count box of black tea bags is $1.00.
  • Oatmeal – A box of instant original oatmeal with 12 packets is $1.58.
  • Peanut butter – A 18-ounce jar of creamy peanut butter is $2.37.
  • Sweet potatoes – Fresh sweet potatoes are 78 cents a pound.

Obviously, some other healthy groceries are more expensive – and these foods can be more expensive when you add in labor costs when going to a restaurant. However, just making these few substitutions in place of processed foods – whether donuts or the boxed macaroni and cheese – or other purchases (such as cigarettes or alcohol) -- and then cooking them at home can make a big difference in your overall health.  From my vantage point, eating a healthier diet is one that is achievable, if you’re willing to make these choices and spend a bit of time in the kitchen.

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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2013). Eating Healthy vs. Unhealthy Diet Costs About $1.50 More Per Day.

Kirchheimer, S. (2015). Supercheap Superfoods. AARP Bulletin.