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You Can Eat Healthy and Cheap

Good healthy foods can cost less than junk food, says USDA report.

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Cost is often cited as a reason for people not eating healthy, but a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that which foods are “expensive” depends upon how you do the math.

Previous research has calculated the cost of food based upon calories. This resulted in junk food appearing more expensive than fruits and vegetables. For example, if a banana and a donut cost the same, but the donut has twice the calories, then you get more bang—calories—for your buck with the donut.

Eating a single banana, though, will probably leave you feeling more full than a donut. This, say the researchers, is why they also estimated “expensiveness” using two other measures.

In addition to calculating price per calories, researchers analyzed over 4,000 foods using price per edible gram, and price per average portion. The second method better matches how we fill our plates—by servings not calories.

When using price per serving, protein foods and foods high in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium are more expensive than fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains. It’s actually cheaper to eat healthy than to fill up on junk food.

This is good news for the millions of Americans who don’t eat enough servings of fruits and vegetables each day. It is especially beneficial for people with limited financial means.

Cost isn’t the only barrier to eating healthy, though. Many people live in areas where healthy food isn’t readily available. Motivation is also a factor in maintaining a healthy diet. Unfortunately, the new report doesn’t help with late-night donut cravings.

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