Is it expensive to eat healthy?

Eating healthy is not always easy. There are people who question whether it is really cheaper than eating ultra-processed products. Even natural foods are thought to be exorbitantly priced for a middle-income population.

Unhealthy diets are recognized as a major risk factor for many diseases. The decrease in the prices of industrialized products, as well as the possible misinformation about a healthy diet, has caused new behaviors in dietary patterns.

The fight to find healthier habits begins with eating. It is not necessary to be guided by a weight loss diet, eating healthy is essential even if we do not have to lose weight. A recent study analyzed the price of the food that children and adolescents consume every day. Is it true that it is cheaper to eat precooked dishes?

Eating healthy has an affordable price

In some cases, there is a perception of healthy eating, in which it is believed that certain foods are healthier, more expensive and, therefore, less accessible. This thinking is a constant stumbling block in promoting healthy diets.

To find out which type of food is cheaper, there are different methods. The most common is based on a rate between the price of food and calories to calculate the price per calorie. Another less common method calculates the price per serving of food by dividing the package price by the number of pieces.

When comparing the healthy pattern with the transitional and unhealthy patterns, it was observed that there were no statistically significant differences between them. The price of healthy eating only represents 16.6% of the total biweekly income of a salaried person. In this study, no differences were observed between the prices of a healthy diet and a less healthy one.

This means that the eating patterns of children and adolescents do not differ in price from one another; therefore, the perception that a healthy diet is more expensive can be demystified. However, more research is needed to investigate the impact of prices on other Mexican diets in different ages and regions. In addition, more research is needed to generate more strategies and public policies that allow families to know the components of a healthy diet and how it can be adapted to their monetary capacities.

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Ultra-processed ones are too cheap

The problem is that the cheapness of energy-dense foods is associated with the use of additives and, in many cases, it is also due to the use of low-quality ingredients. Furthermore, it has been observed that sophisticated and targeted marketing campaigns are used, along with a consequent increase in the ease of access to ultra-processed foods. The combination of all this leads to an increase in the demand for these products and consequently the prices decrease significantly.

Furthermore, the prices of a healthy diet appear to be higher because the components of the less healthy diets are based on poor quality products or contain, for example, corn and soy as main ingredients. This reduces the cost of production. In general, the lowest cost diets are also the ones with the fewest nutrients and the highest calorie content.