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New study confirms that eating healthy does indeed cost more (editeon.com)
32 points by sakuntala 1293 days ago | hide | past | web | 42 comments | favorite

Also note that the study is comparing the price per 200 cals. As a result, this means it only provides evidence that it costs more to eat healthier at a fixed bodyweight.

As the study itself says:

Healthier diets defined based on fibre or fat content will, by definition, have fewer calories, so they will naturally cost more per calorie. Yet, such diets will not necessarily cost more per serving or per meal. In the setting of a global obesity pandemic, assessing price differences per calorie may make little sense when a healthier diet also leads to reductions in total calorie consumption.


For example, producing skinless chicken and leaner meats requires more work at the processing plant.

I don't think meat stripped of fat is any healthier compared to eating meat as it is in the animal, and also organs, and maybe even some bone marrow on top. Liver, for example, is quite packed with certain vitamins, especially A, also iron, and is often cheap as it's considered some "lesser" kind of meat.

Or fish - some types of it are dirt cheap (may depend on your location, of course). Yes, salmon may be tastier, but are blander types of fish any less healthy?

I guess the study may have compared "healthy" in the mainstream, advertised sort of way - skinless fatless chicken, lean meat, tuna fillets, fat free everything etc.

> eating meat as it is in the animal,

Meat produced from american food animal lines is very fatty compared to what is in the wild. Turkeys for instance, can't really walk their breasts are so big, and cannot mate: http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=11929

"Fat as it's in the animal" is quite unnatural compared to wild animals, or even animals that can feed normally (aka, grass, as opposed to penned and force fed corn).

Meat is a manufactured product here. Control your fat intake yourself as you would with any other manufactured product

Fat has more calories per pound than lean protein, that's all. In this context, "fewer calories per ounce = healthier."

Well, since we are trying to eat healthily, it just means that we'll have to eat less fat (by mass), compared to lean meat, to consume the same amount of calories. Which also means that we will need to buy less meat, which will save money, which was our initial goal. Win-win!

Corn is subsidized.

It's not that "eating healthy" is "more expensive" necessarily in real terms.

A big factor is the fact that our government uses the threat of violence to extract money from people, and then uses it to pay people to make less healthy food cheaper.

Can you show a calculation which shows what the effect is on the pricing of healthy v. unhealthy food?

Considering that in the US health insurance costs are potentially 12 dollars an hour!!Healthy eating looks like an excellent long term investment. http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/05/do-...

Healthy eating is not as much of an economic issue as articles like this would suggest. Don't get me wrong if they taxed bad foods it wouldn't be a terrible idea, and not inappropriate now that we collectively pay for peoples' bad choices with healthcare.

Considering the avg diet, many people will be able to consume less. I did this personally in an attempt to live on a minimal budget. If healthy eating costs .47 more per 200 cals, and $1.50 more, just cut 600 cals out of your diet. The avg cal consumption is 2600-3000 in that range. Unless your an athlete or serious physical activity, its more than most people need.

I know this can be done. I went on 1700-1800 cals a day for four months (some days less, and still around that range) and feel great. Cut my food budget about in half. Changed grocery stores, you can actually live on very little money when you cut out the crap you don't need.

I went on 1700-1800 cals a day for four months


Semi-Starvation Period (24 weeks): During the 6-month semi-starvation period, each subject’s dietary intake was cut to approximately 1,560 calories per day.

a 24-week starvation phase, during which the caloric intake of each subject was drastically reduced—causing each participant to lose an average of 25% of their pre-starvation body weight

So, I'm guessing here - either your weight is way smaller than an average adult, or you have way slower metabolic rate compared to an average adult, or you miscalculated your calorie intake?

Maintenance for a physically active adult male is 2500+ kcal. Not for athletes, not for people doing hard training, for an average adult who does some basic exercise to stay healthy.

I realize 1700 may be somewhat low, and I was slowly losing weight. It may be low however, many people are consuming too much the obesity rates prove that. They don't prove that people can't afford to eat healthy. They prove people are consuming more than burning.

I'm for taxing the bad instead of subsidizing the good however.. But we can't ignore the personal responsibility aspect and these studies while useful also give ammunition to the excuse makers and excuse making is a tremendous impediment to solving important social problems.

"For example, producing skinless chicken and leaner meats requires more work at the processing plant."

So buying healthier pre-prepared food is more expensive than buying less healthy pre-prepared food. I wonder if they compare with food prepared healthily at home, or produced healthily at home.

Reminds me, it's time to plant a handful of beans.

The problem you run into there is lack of prep time. The obesity epidemic largely impacts poorer people. The poorer you are, the less time you have to yourself, moreso if you have a family. It starts making sense from a time standpoint to just hit the nearest drive through instead of buying ingredients and actually cooking.

One aspect of the problem is this idea that seems to have crept in, that it's necessary to eat elaborately cooked meals all the time. Making a couple of cheese sandwiches actually takes a lot less time than hitting the nearest drive-through, as well as being both healthier and cheaper.

I'm not so sure about that.. I'd think that a dollar burger and a dollar chicken sandwich is more nutritionally balanced than a cheese sandwich, preservatives and fat be damned.

There's also the staples, rice and beans and whatnot, but that's boring as heck. Fast food also wins on tastiness.. and since we're not robots, that's vitally important.

Your second paragraph is the answer to the first. The issue isn't nutritional balance - a good multivitamin pill costs ten cents per day if that's what you're worried about. The issue is that fast food is designed to exploit security flaws in your motivation system. That's one of the reasons Americans in particular are suffering so badly from the obesity epidemic despite food being available in effectively unlimited quantity in every developed country. Doubtless given another few thousand years, evolution would patch some of the security flaws, but that doesn't do you any good right now. All you can do as an individual to protect yourself is stay away from fast food.

In theory you could cook once weekly, and freeze everything.

If optimized it could take only a few hours,and could be a shared family activity.

But it's still work, and being a working poor is exhausting so i understand them preferring to rest.

I live in a very small apartment and only have a very small freezer inside of my fridge. I suspect that many poor people may not have enough space for a big freezer, not enough money to get a decent efficient one and/or not enough money to pay for the electricity.

I suspect home cooking healthy food would be better.

The human power needed to replicate processed food is greater than simple preparation of healthy food.

Cheapest I could come up with:

1/4 onion +

1 can of kidney beans +

3 cups of cooked rice +

1/2 tomato

1/2 lime

Salt, Pepper, Paprica for taste.

1/2 pint of non-fat yoghurt (18oz / 450g)

1 fist full of mixed nuts.

1 apple

1 orange

1 banana

That should cover protein, calcium, vitamin and carb needs for a fairly good diet.

I thought this was a recipe until I got to the yoghurt, but I suppose it could work somehow...

Sorry I forgot to add enough pluses:

1/4 onion +

1 can of kidney beans +

1/2 tomato +

1/2 lime +

Salt, Pepper, Paprica for taste +

3 cups of cooked rice on the side or mixed in.

Thats one recipe.

The rest of the items can be their own recipe, or eaten separately =)

You could make it two recipes, with the yoghurt, nuts and fruit forming a dessert.

Define eating healthy.

Carrots, lettuce, spinach and water are ridiculously cheap.

If it's over-priced, branded, luxury convenience product in tiny quantities, then it's obviously going to cost more.

The other cheap way to eat: freegan.

Try getting your daily 2000 kcals from carrots, lettuce, spinach and water. Compare that cost to getting a few items from McDonald's dollar menu.

I'll do the math for you: One pound of carrots has roughly 190 calories. So you'd need to eat at least 10 pounds of carrots to get average your daily energy requirement. How much is a pound of carrots? $0.99? A McDonald's Bacon Cheddar McChicken has 480 calories for $1. So you'd only have to buy four of them.


65c. Not so different.

And carrots+beans+rice are less vomit-inducing than McDonalds burgers in bulk.

Use potatoes. 10lb bags are like 3.99. Rice, beans, corn, what'd do you think people in third world countries survive on? My grandma used it spent Saturday morning making ten loaves of bread for the week, very cheap to do.

> Carrots, lettuce, spinach and water

That's not a healthy diet.


I am pretty sure that long term this is not going to be viewed as healthy.

Never in human history was food this dirt cheap, at least in Western countries. We spend maybe 5-15% of our salaries on food - on average. So, there is leeway. Buy an iphone kess, spend less on computer games and other useless crap, grow a bit yourselves, and everyone can eat as healthy as tey want. It is a shame that any peasant in Western Siberia eats more healthy food than the average American.

I don't know why this is still disputable, and seems to be such a contentious issue.

It seems like everybody who does dispute healthy food costing more is

a) basing this on their own experience as a single mid 20's male b) not taking into account the cost of time c) fancies themselves as a cook

Considering that most families in Europe and America are two income ones, considering that retailers such as Tesco openly subsidise unhealthy food and make up the loss on fresh food, and considering that you can buy 1000 calories of pizza for less than €1, it just seems obvious to me that fresh food is far more expensive. Bad food may cost you more in the long term, but if you go to a chain retailer right now, you'll get far more calories into you if you buy shit food.

Restrictions on X means it will cost more. Thanks for the heads up.

But in reality, not much more.

Or more importantly, long term less.

Exactly: basing a purchasing decision on any point, other than cost, is more expensive.

Actually, eating healthy is a lot less expensive than eating unhealthy because eating healthy involves eating less food in general.

As someone who "eats healthy" and maintains a healthy body weight (through a combo of eating the right amounts + exercise), I couldn't disagree more. I eat less of my salmon, yes, but I'm still paying $4 per meal when I eat wild caught salmon versus $0.50 for that pre-cooked-chicken-from-a-bag.

The article states that the unhealthy food costs less per calorie amount. So assuming that the average person naturally eats ~2000 calories a day, whether healthy or unhealthy, the healthy food costs more.

May be the study completely missed the 'after effects' aspect from the calculations

Poor people: "...duh?"

eat, or eating, healthILy


healthy eating

of course, but more than what?

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