Pricey, pre-cut avocados and $8 water bottles garnished with asparagus have made headlines recently, seemingly reinforcing the belief that healthy foods are way pricier – and more excessive – than your processed substitutes.
A new study from the U.K., however, suggests that these prices aren’t high, and that, pound-for-pound, you’re getting better value out of the good stuff.
Researchers from U.K.-based Institute of Economic Affairs compared the costs of groceries pound-for-pound, finding tons of fruits, veggies, and carbs can be had at less than $3.29 per kilogram. Contrast to less healthy foods, like frozen meals, chocolate, chips, and bacon, the food costs actually go up to $4.93 per kilogram.
“Starchy carbohydrates, rice and potatoes, plus vegetables, really are very cheap,” author Christopher Snowden told CTV News Channel. “It has really been the peasant diet for hundreds of years around the world.”
Past research regarding ‘food efficiency’ analyzed products by a cost-per-calorie formula, when the more accurate approach would be comparing typical servings of food by weight or portion size.
Therefore, the long-standing theory that impoverished families or individuals don’t have the funds to eat healthy, doesn’t add up, says Snowden. Other factors that impact these groups, like time at home, could be the cause, he suggested.
“The reason I think people are not eating as much fruit and veg as they should has little to do with prices,” he said. “It’s down to not having the right cooking skills, (and) not having the right time.”
An exception to the rule
The study, Cheap as Chips: Is a healthy diet affordable?, does have an exception to the rule: meat & fish.
While white meat is significantly cheaper than red meat, processed alternatives were usually cheaper than fresh fillets. Leaner, healthier cuts tended to be cheaper than the fattier ones, too.
But for the most part, unhealthy dieting is often the result of consumers shopping with their tongue, rather than their wallets.
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“It seems that U.K. consumers are prepared to pay more for taste and convenience,” he wrote in his report. “Neither price nor nutritional quality are necessarily considered paramount by food shoppers.”