With New Year’s 2014 just a week behind us, we know that many people resolved THIS was going to be the year that they would start eating healthier. However, cost tends to be the #1 factor that consistently undermines New Year’s resolutions. But the scientific data for this reason had not been systematically evaluated so it was difficult for us to offer our opinion. Until now. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently performed a meta-analysis of price data on healthy vs. unhealthy foods in 27 existing studies from 10 high-income countries. Their finding? On average, a day’s worth of the most healthy diet patterns costs less than $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones.
So why does this derail so many people then?
After doing the math, $1.50/day would increase food costs per person by $550 annually. If you are a family of husband and wife with two kids, that’s $2200 extra per year. A single mom with two kids? $2200 on a single-income budget. You get the picture— this presents a very real burden for some families. We discovered that meats and protein-based foods had the largest price difference between healthy and unhealthy varieties. Switching to organic, free-range meats daily would quickly add up, and we don’t recommend eating meat daily anyways. Instead, we recommend for your 2014 New Year’s resolution that you go meatless at least 1 (and eventually, 2, 3, or even 4) days a week, and try more meals with economical protein-sources such as beans, nuts and seeds (all found in bulk). This way, you can shift towards a healthier more plant-based eating pattern while also having the highest-quality meat occasionally because you have offset its cost elsewhere. Keep your New Year’s resolution this year, and know you’ve made a change that is just plain smart, for your health and wallet alike.
Orsha Magyar, M.Sc., B.Sc., RHN
Rao M, Afshin A, Singh G, Mozaffarian D, 2013. Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 3(12).