Nutritionists say there are five main food groups— whole grains, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy, and fat and sugar. A healthy meal consists of three of the five food groups— whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and protein.
When it comes to food, being healthy is often expensive, and prices between healthy and unhealthy foods are dramatically different.
The price of a simple turkey sandwich at Whole Foods costs between ten and fifteen dollars while the price of a sandwich at McDonalds is between two and five dollars. The gap between the two prices makes the decision of a low-income family significantly one-sided because some families can’t afford to spend their money on a healthy meal when an unhealthy meal could easily be three times cheaper.
Harvard’s School of Public Health published a study declaring that eating healthy food costs about $550 more than eating junk food per year. Per day, this is about $1.50 more. Others such as Nicholas Jones from Cambridge University claim that the difference is exponentially greater; eating healthy foods cost $15.30 a day, double the cost of unhealthy food at $7.48 a day. A study by Cambridge University explained how the average price of a day’s worth of healthy foods such as salmon, yoghurts, and tomatoes costs about $8.15 while eating unhealthy foods such as pizza, beef, burgers, and doughnuts cost an average $2.72.
But this increasing gap hasn’t been going on in the past— the increase of prices of healthy foods has risen $2.00 from 2004. While the prices of unhealthy foods have not significantly changed, healthy food certainly has, leaving unhealthy foods far behind.
Caloric intake is another factor in the health debate and the price difference is present here as well. Across the board, low calorie meals cost much more than medium or high calorie meals. Overall, low-income families may struggle to keep up with this price differential as wages may be insufficient to cover the cost of eating low-calorie or healthier foods.
Healthy foods are becoming more and more expensive in grocery stores. Such foods are becoming “luxury goods,” as Adam Drewnowski, the head author of a food price study at Washington University claims. The price of healthy foods is rapidly increasing to the point where people may only be able to eat vegetables on occasion rather than on a daily basis. Although the price of junk food has increased as well of the years, the growth is significantly smaller than healthy foods.
This price differential affects families everywhere across the world. People are forced to choose between saving more money and eating unhealthy food or having less money to spend and preserving a healthy diet. The price difference between healthy and unhealthy foods presents a tricky situation as many try to grapple with keeping health and wealth in balance. Low-income families are particularly vulnerable to eating unhealthily as they are faced with this skewed food industry.
Photo by Miranda Simes.