It is commonly said that healthy diets are more costly than unhealthy diets. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) recently set out to answer this question. On December 5, 2013 a study was published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) Open about meta-analysis research of “27 existing studies from 10 high income countries that included price data for individuals food and for healthier vs. less healthy diets. They evaluated the differences in prices per serving and per 200 calories for particular types of foods, and prices per day and per 2,000 calories (the United States Department of Agriculture’s recommended average daily calorie intake for adults) for overall diet patterns. Both prices per serving and per calorie were assessed because prices can vary depending on the unit of comparison.”
What was the conclusion? The healthiest diet costs $1.50 more than the least healthiest diet per day. At first, this number may seem smaller than anticipated. This was the sentiment of the researchers. But for food insecure individuals, $1.50 has implications. It is the difference between nutrient dense, low-calorie foods and processed, enriched foods. This is the first research to represent the true burden of eating healthy. Now we need to encourage meaningful conversations with policy makers about offsetting this burden through effective food assistance programs. The Food Stamp program (SNAP) benefits for example provides $1.40 per person per day for meals.