Maybe It Doesn’t Cost a Lot to Eat Healthier After All!

dietI’m sure a lot of you will have heard somebody complain that ‘healthy food is too expensive’ and this is the mantra they stick with as they load their shopping basket up with junk food such as ready meals.

Some say they would happily eat more fruit and vegetables if the prices weren’t ‘so expensive’. However, is this mind-set true? Or, are they just incorrect assumptions by those who simply choose convenience over their health?

According to a new report, and on the contrary to popular belief, healthy and nutritious food is on the whole, actually cheaper than junk food.

A report released by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) looked at data extracted from two leading supermarkets (Tesco and Asda) for price comparisons of 78 common food and drink products, and discovered that the healthier options are generally cheaper than less healthy alternatives.

When compared by edible weight, the cheapest ready meals, pizzas, burgers and breakfast cereals cost over £2 per kilogram, but typical fruit and vegetables cost less than that amount, the study found. This method was used as opposed to the ‘flawed’ cost-per-calorie methodology.

The IEA reported that the £1 cost of a cheeseburger could get you a kilo of sweet potatoes, two kilos of carrots, two and a half kilos of pasta, 10 apples or seven bananas, adding that the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could cost as little as 30p.

‘Ultimately price is not the main driver of unhealthy food consumption’, the reported stated, which would seem to suggest that consumers were willing to fork out more for taste and convenience.

The IEA added the ‘popular belief’ of obesity and poor nutrition being primarily driven by economic deprivation was ‘untenable’, and that the use of taxes and subsidies to incentivise better nutrition was not likely to be a success.

The report highlighted the following:

  • Obesity has increased rapidly at a time when incomes have risen and food prices have fallen.
  • Obesity rates are higher in rich countries than in poor countries.
  • People fail to buy more fruit and vegetables when they become richer.
  • There is a high rate of obesity among people on middle and high incomes.
  • The correlation between deprivation and obesity is only seen among women.
  • Obesity rates among men are highest among middle income earners.

Chris Snowdon, the report’s author and head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “A diet of muesli, rice, white meat, fruit and vegetables is much cheaper than a diet of Coco Pops, ready meals, red meat, sugary drinks and fast food.

“A wide range of healthy alternatives are available at the same price as the less healthy options.

“The idea that poor nutrition is caused by the high cost of healthy food is simply wrong. People are prepared to pay a premium for taste and convenience.

“A nutritious diet that meets government recommendations is more affordable than ever.

“Given the relatively high cost of junk food, it is unlikely that taxing unhealthy food or subsidising healthy food would change people’s eating habits. Instead, it would transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.”

Public Health England chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “Many people think eating healthier is expensive, but this belief may be costing them more while potentially damaging their health.

“Tackling obesity cannot be left to the individual alone. This is why we’re working with the food and drink industry to reduce the sugar in every day foods.”

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