Healthy eating – why so expensive?

Author : teriann

I was excited to try a new vegetarian dish. I thought that I was being responsible by trying healthier options in my diet.  Imagine my surprise when I went to the supermarket and realized that my budget had been doubled. Why are healthy options so expensive?

Supply and demand

Remember when you were in high school and you had to sit through endless lectures on supply and demand?  It’s a fundamental economic principle that when supply exceeds demand for a good or service, prices fall. When demand exceeds supply, prices tend to rise. Simple economics is the main reason healthy food is expensive (supply and demand).

If the country’s population demands much more unhealthy food (red meat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup) than it does healthy (fresh produce, seafood, whole grains) then food manufacturers will supply what is in demand. The result is easily available cheap junk food.

Any doubt about how popular local fast-food restaurants are, is proven when you pass by these restaurants on any given night and the lines are almost around the corner. In contrast, restaurants that offer vegan or whole food options often are less crowded even on weekends.

Cost of food

Another reason that healthier options are expensive is their overall cost to produce organic products. Think about it if you want to buy a bottle of apple flavoured soda then you will pay around $100 however, if you were interested in buying a bag of four apples it would cost approximately $320.00 in some supermarkets.

If you compare these two using the price, the can of soda looks cheaper. Unfortunately, the can of soda has no nutrients. An apple is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Therefore if you look at the price/nutrient ratio, the apple is much cheaper.

Furthermore, because an apple contains a large amount of fiber, it keeps you full for a longer period of time than a bottle of soda. If you look at the price/satiety ratio, the apple wins again. Therefore although a soda costs half as much as an apple, it does not come close to providing you with even half the benefits.

Saving Money

Regardless of the reason, eating healthy foods can cost you to dig into your pockets and that is a problem. So how can you save money while being healthy?

First, buy your fruits and vegetables in season and from the local market. Market vendors are often open to negotiation and since they have less overhead than a supermarket can afford to lower the price.

Another way to save on produce is to buy frozen rather than fresh. While canning adds preservatives, freezing avoids most additives. Frozen products allow you to buy in or out of season produce at much lower prices.

The Bottom Line

So  I have decided is that despite the higher cost, buying healthier food just makes better sense in the long run. After all we might save money buying unhealthy options then spend it paying doctor bills.  Ingredients found in some of our most popular foods (sugar, sodium saturated fat, trans fat) are known to increase your risk for a number of diseases including heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

So what’s your take?  Let me hear from you! Drop me a line!

Teri Ann Renee Paisley

Gleaner online writer

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2 Responses to “Healthy eating – why so expensive?”

  1. RealFood says:

    This article is very misleading. I eat healthy everyday and it actually costs less than how I used to eat when I ate processed foods, dairy products, meat and fast food. Your comparison with the soda versus apples speaks to a particular preference for imported apples. Actually local apples are less than $300 per dozen, but if you are buying imported apples, you will pay the price you quoted. My food bill has been reduced by over 50% especially because I no longer buy meat and dairy products. Furthermore, vegetables like callaloo, pak choy, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes are cheaper than any meat on the market. I also don’t buy rice or flour, instead I eat plantains, breadfruit, yams, coco and I though I pay a little more than the cost of bulk rice (which is not considered healthy) it still less expensive that basmati rice and gluten free pasta. My point is, if you prefer imported fruits or even vegetables, yes, you will pay more to eat healthy. But the great thing about living in Jamaica is that there is a bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables that are available for a fraction of the cost (especially when they are in season) of buying fast foods and processed food and they are much better for you.

  2. teriann says:

    Hey thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my article. The cost of apples quoted were from my local supermarket, but of course shopping in a market will result in lower prices. Unfortunately, not everything that is good for you is cheap. Sodas are cheaper than buying fresh fruits and making your very own healthy drink. It is most definitely worth the cost though, so stay healthy and keep visiting the site!

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