What? You mean ‘healthy food costs MORE, right’? I’ve heard this comment for years from doctors and educators and most recently, in a news item about the rising incidence of obesity in Mexico, which has purportedly passed the United States in the percentage of the adult population in the obesity zones.
What’s the reason? A Mexican health official stated that healthier foods cost more than the high fat, high refined sugars found in lots of restaurants and groceries. The same reason has been cited for U.S. populations – ‘Oh, healthier foods cost too much.’ But is that true?
Four years ago, I made a presentation to a group of hospital physicians in which I analyzed more than 50 food items from fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, breads and cereals and some desserts. I repeated the mini-inventory just the other day by going to a well-known nationwide food chain.
Results? Healthy food wins by a mile … ‘Green Zone’ foods grow above the ground [all fruits and veggies], meats without fat [birds and fish without their skins [fats are on the outside in birds and fish, but red meat animals grow fat on the inside], and nonfat dairy [milk, cheese and yogurt].
Now, let’s look at the costs of Green Zone/healthy foods. Lettuce, tomatoes, apples, pears, oranges and bananas ranged from $.42/lb. to $1.47/lb. Nonfat milk costs about $.48/lb. Whole milk costs about the same but is 49% fat by energy content, so the real price of the healthy milk protein and other nutrients is about double that of nonfat milk. Water – even bottled – is about 13 cents per pound and sodas come in at around 50-80 cents per pound.
What about meats. Chicken [95% protein/5% fat] was $4.59/lb. total or $4.83/lb. for the healthy protein. ‘Lean’ ground round is a great example of how confusing – and misleading – food labeling is. The packaging on this ground round says “7% fat” but when you make the calculation of the fat calories to total calories per serving, the real fat content was 42%. The price per pound of this ground round was $4.26, but remember, 42% of it is fat – saturated fat. The real cost of the healthy protein in this food was $7.34/lb.
Healthy foods cost LESS, not more.