Transcript: Eating Healthy on a Budget
Most Americans don’t even meet the watered down Federal dietary recommendations, but is it because healthy foods are more expensive? Are healthy foods really more expensive? It depends on how you measure the price. For over a century the value of food has been measured cost per calorie. If you were a brickmaker in massachusetts in 1894, you may have needed more than 8000 calories a day, so the emphasis was on cheap calories. So while beans and sugar both cost the same back then, 5 cents a pound, sugar beat out beans, for fuel value.
Of course food offers much more than just calories, but they can be excused for their ignorance, since vitamins and minerals hadn’t even been discovered yet. But even to this day, when the cost of foods are related to their nutritive value, the value they’re talking about is cheap calories. And when you rank foods like that, then indeed junk food and meat is cheaper per calorie than fruits and vegetables, but that doesn’t take serving size into account. If you measure foods in cost per serving… or cost per pound… fruits and vegetables are actually cheaper. For all metrics except the price of food calories, the USDA researchers found that healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods.
Here’s a 100 calories of cheese, candy, chicken, chips, bread, oil, fruits and vegetables. Which hundred calories is going to fill you up more? Most importantly, though, which is going to have the most nutrition? Here’s the average nutrient density of fruits, vegetables, refined grains, meats, milk, and empty calorie foods. So while junk food may be 4 times cheaper than vegetables, there’s 20 times less nutrition. For meat, we’d be spending 3 times more to get 16 times less. More money for less nutrition. Conclusion: Educational messages focusing on a complete diet should consider the role of food costs and provide specific recommendations for increasing nutrient-dense foods by replacing some of the meat with lower-cost nutrient-dense foods. Beans and raw vegetables are less expensive, nutrient dense, and may be more satiating, so, for example, incorporating more beans/legumes and less meat may be a cost-effective way to improve diet quality,” not only for low-income populations, I might add, but for everyone.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.
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