Junk Food Not Cheaper Than Healthy FoodPosted on 5/18/2012
It doesn't cost any more to eat healthy food than it does to eat junk food, a government study found, casting doubt on the popular belief that many people can't afford healthful foods.
The study, released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service, found that foods like beans, carrots, milk, and yogurt are actually less expensive than ice cream sandwiches, cinnamon buns, and soda.
One reason that many people assume junk food is more affordable is because many studies that compare the cost of unhealthy foods with healthy ones use cost-per-calorie as a measurement.
By this metric, vegetables and fruit are relatively more expensive ways to consume "food energy" (i.e., calories) because they don't contain many calories, whereas less healthy foods (also called "moderation foods"), which tend to be high in saturated fat and sugar, are a cheaper way to consume a lot of calories.
For their study, the USDA researchers looked at calorie content but also compared the prices of more than 4,000 healthy foods and moderation foods based on price by weight and portion size.
The researchers used dietary recommendations from the federal government's choosemyplate.gov website and identified healthy foods as those that contain at least one of the major food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein) and contain only moderate amounts of saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.
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