Cost comparison between healthy and unhealthy foods
Source: USDA website and report summary
It is a common cultural perception that healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods. In order to investigate this claim, the USDA Economic Research Service conducted a study on the costs of different types of food. In order for foods to be classified as healthy they had to contain a minimum amount of at least one of the major food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods), and could only contain moderate amounts of saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.
Researchers measured “cost” three ways: the price per calorie, the price per edible gram, and the price per average portion. Regarding price per calorie, they found that low calorie foods cost more than less healthy foods high in saturated fat and added sugar. When considering the cost of food based on edible weight or average portion size, the researchers found that grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy foods are less expensive than most protein foods and foods high in saturated fat, sugar, and sodium.
Generally, it is less expensive to meet grain, dairy, and fruit serving recommendations than those for vegetable or protein food recommendations.