Health isn’t something people want to be skimping on, yet many claim that a healthy diet is not compatible with their budget. Indeed, when asked about it, most Americans say the reason they don’t eat as healthy as they should is money. But is eating well really that expensive?
What is healthy food exactly?
This article takes the definition of healthy food most studies on the topic use. The consensus seems to be that a healthy diet mostly includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, and fish. Some consider lean meats such as chicken and turkey breast to also belong in this category.
On the other hand, food that is bad for your health is heavily processed and often relies on meat that is high in unhealthy fat and the bad kind of cholesterol.
How much does it cost?
According to data from a Harvard study on food prices, switching to a healthier diet on average adds $45 more per month per person. The average American four-person family would end up paying an extra $2,160 per year for just that small lifestyle change. While it may seem like a lot at first, this is only about $1.50 per day for one person.
Why is it more expensive?
You’d think that if something is good for you, the market would incentivize you to buy more of it. However, that’s not how any industry works. Producers, farmers included, always want to maximize profit and minimize costs. When it comes to food, they achieve this desired efficiency through the use of GMO and pesticides.
If a farmer wants to provide you with “safer” food, which is free of GMO and heavy chemicals, they have to resort to other methods. They, in turn, make the production of fruit, vegetables, and animal products slower and more expensive. In fact, it is so inefficient that of all the arable land in the United States, just 1% is reserved for organic farming.
Moreover, organic food usually doesn’t contain any preservatives. This means suppliers have to work extra hard to deliver it as fresh as possible. The final price of healthy food reflects these additional expenses.
In countries like Norway, Sweden, and Finland, there are programs offered by both private enterprises and government entities subsidizing organic food – e.g. forbrukslån offered to Norwegian citizens since August of 2018 by Sambla AS. This is done in an attempt to promote a healthier culture and for the overall societal equity – a macroeconomic objective often disregarded in the Western world.
Is it cheaper in the long term?
In a way, yes. Eating healthy doesn’t get cheaper in terms of the price of food products going down. Though this may also be a real possibility soon since healthy eating is becoming popular. More consumer demand in a market motivates suppliers to offer more units at more competitive prices. So if more people switch to eating healthier foods, this will eventually make them cheaper.
Nevertheless, eating food that is better for you, even if it costs more, can cause you to spend less on other things. Medical expenses are one major example. Highly processed food is closely associated with higher occurrences of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and other scary conditions. Thus you can think of eating healthier as a form of preventative care. Plus, healthy food contains most of the vitamins and minerals you need, so you’ll also save money on supplements.
Think of it this way: switching to a healthier diet doesn’t mean you’d spend extra money each month. Instead, it’s an investment into your health – one that can save you thousands of dollars on medical care further down the line.