USDA reports Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price
By Andrea Carlson and Elizabeth Frazão
For a balanced assessment, this study compared the prices of healthy and less healthy foods using three price metrics: the price per calorie, per edible gram, and per average portion. The authors also calculate the daily cost of meeting the food group recommendations on the ChooseMyPlate.gov website.
Healthy foods were defined as those recommended to receive healthy nutrition. Less healthy foods were defined for this study as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations.
For all metrics except the price of food energy, the authors found that healthy foods cost less than foods that are considered to be less healthy.
• Foods low in calories for a given weight appear to have a higher price when the price is measured per calorie. For example, vegetables and fruits, which are low in calories, tend to be a relatively expensive way to purchase food energy.
• Conversely, less healthy foods (called “moderation foods” in this report)—especially those high in saturated fat and added sugar—tend to be high in calories and to have a low price per calorie.
• When measured on the basis of edible weight or average portion size, grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy foods are less expensive than most protein foods and foods high in saturated fat, added sugars, and/or sodium.