One of the many reasons why people don’t eat a healthier diet is because it costs more. I have never really believed this to be true so it was perfect timing when the consumer advocacy magazine, Choice, published an article in their October 2017 edition about the cost of healthy eating.
One of the first points addressed in the article is the perceived cost of healthy eating and how people will choose the more expensive choice between similar products which also have the same generic health claims. A concern raised by the researchers is food marketers could take advantage of charging more for similar products even though the product is just as nutritious as a cheaper product.
Many foods have a ‘healthy halo’ which means they are promoted as healthy foods that are superior to other foods. But a closer look at the food shows they can be highly processed and can be high in the negative nutrients of sugar, fat and salt. The other issue is many fad or cult diets like paleo or keto promote expensive organic vegetables, grass fed meat and coconut oil but are no more healthier for you when compared to their generic equals. Food manufacturers now know they can add ‘paleo’ on the packaging of a food and charge a higher price. So it’s not surprising that people think eating healthier is so expensive, but they fail to see it is only on selected foods.
For an example of how overpriced some healthy halo foods can be check out the below comparison with equally healthy alternatives
|Healthy Halo Food||Cheaper Equally Healthy Alternative|
|Activated Almonds – $8.70 per 100g||Almonds – $2.67 per 100g|
|Coconut water -$3.50 per litre||Tap Water – free|
|Goji Berries – $3.50 per 100g||Blueberries – $2.39 per 100g|
|Himalayan Rock Salt – $0.80 per 100g||Table Salt – $0.18 per 100g|
|Greens Powder – $20.61 per 100g||Baby Spinach – $1.70 per 100g|
Research carried out by Amanda Lee in the BMC Public Health journal found healthy diets consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines are cheaper than Australians current diets. Lee suggest 29% of the food dollar should be spent on fruit and vegetables to achieve the recommended intakes but most only spend 10–15%. Unfortunately, more than half of the food dollar, 53–64%, is being spent on highly processed foods, high in sugar, fat and salt and alcohol.
So why don’t people eat healthier? Besides taste and habitual food intake, Lee states the convenience and time-saving nature of discretionary choices is the main driver. Plus the power of advertising and promotion for unhealthy food choices drives this consumption and makes eating unhealthy easier.
With the greater convenience of food availability and the less people spending time preparing their meals from scratch in the kitchen it’s easy to see why more spending is on pre-prepared meals.
Clare Collins from the Dietitians Association of Australia states in the Choice article research from the United States looked at the relationship between frequency of home cooked dinners and eating out. Results showed cooking at home more frequently was associated with higher diet quality and lower spending on foods overall. Eating out more often was associated with lower diet quality and spending more on food.
So how can you eat healthy and have it not cost you the earth. See my suggestions below:
- Learn how to cook. If you are not much of a Master Chef in the kitchen, consider learning how to cook. This can be through community based programs, cookbooks which have easy to follow recipes or jump online and check out the huge array of websites on cooking; Taste, Live Lighter and Australian Healthy Food Guide are all worth a look.
- Planning your weekly meals and then making up a shopping list is one of the best ways to prepare more meals at home and put you back in control of your meals.
- Buy in bulk staple foods including pasta, rice, potatoes, oats, canned tuna, canned or dried beans and frozen vegetables like peas and corn.
- Every week buy a range of salad vegetables such as cos lettuce, baby spinach, carrots and capsicum, keep them in the crisper in the fridge and make a fresh salad for lunch every day in a sealable container.
- All grain based foods like loaves of bread or rolls can be kept in the freezer until you need them and shopping later in the day is better because they may be reduced to clear.
- Cheaper cuts of meat like heart healthy mince, chicken breast and chuck steak can be stored in the freezer and then thawed for meals.