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Does Healthy Eating Equate to Expensive?

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Apr 19, 2022

Does Healthy Eating Equate to Expensive?

Is healthy eating expensive? It is perhaps a misconception that to eat healthy means to spend more. This perception remains strong worldwide because, fair or not, the diets that people associate with healthy eating too often imply paying more than what people would spend otherwise on a standard, “unhealthy” diet.

Why Is Healthy Eating Expensive? Misconceptions About Healthy Food and Price

A study conducted in 2012 found that healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods (defined for that study as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations).

Meanwhile, a study from 2016 showed that willpower more than perception of the price of healthy food stood in the way of individuals consuming more fruits and vegetables.

Perceiving healthy foods as too expensive was insignificant in the regression analysis despite being the second most commonly reported perceived barrier by women, and third most common perceived barriers to healthy eating for men.

Is Healthy Eating Expensive? Do Healthier Foods Really Cost More?

Is healthy eating expensive? “People generally believe that ‘healthy’ equals ‘expensive,’” notes Kelly Haws, PhD, associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University. “But that’s often not the case. One part of the problem is that we may confuse “healthy” with other labels that do increase costs, like “organic” or “gluten-free.”

In addition, Haws says that people often associate healthy foods with health-food stores, with their beautiful displays and higher prices. The reality though is that you can get healthy whole foods at any grocery store. Some people might not even bother trying to eat healthy anymore because they assume that a diet of cheap and unhealthy food is their only option.

Still, people can follow a nutritious diet without having to worry about those labels unless you’re dealing with a diagnosed medical condition. According to registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Alissa Rumsey, the key is to eat more whole foods and fewer processed ones.

Healthy Eating Cost-Cutting Tips

There are some ways to eat healthy while not breaking the bank. Here are a few tips we can share:

1. Stick to seasonal produce

Since seasonal fruits and vegetables are fresher, more flavorful, and more affordable than food produced out of season, finding out which are available near you pays off with your wallet as well.

2. Buy generic

Like medicine, choosing generic brands instead of name brands saves you money without sacrificing quality or nutritional value.

3. Practice meal planning

Try creating a weekly meal plan, preparing a shopping list, and picking a specific time to prepare your meals for the week.

This can save both time and money even if you need to find recipes with a similar set of ingredients to rotate within a week. You not only streamline your shopping list but you add diversity to your diet by enjoying ingredients in new ways than before.

4. Cook at home

This might be the biggest no-brainer but also one of the most effective ways to eat healthy on a budget. Whether dining out at a restaurant or delivery fees, service charges, and tips for delivery, the cost of dining out can quickly catch you by surprise.

By preparing your own food, you have complete control of what you’re putting on your plate as well as how healthy your ingredients can be.

5. Eat more plant-based proteins

These include beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu, and you might be surprised to find that they are cheaper than animal proteins like meat, fish, and poultry. There’s no need to be a full-fledged vegan but these foods are indeed rich in protein, fiber, and a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals.

6. Compare your options and pay attention to portion size

Although a bag of chips will cost less than a bag of apples, think about how many snacks you can get out of that.

7. Buy frozen

For fruits and vegetables that are not in season, buy them frozen because they may actually have more nutrients than “fresh” produce shipped from far away.

Key Takeaways

Is healthy eating expensive? While there has been a persistent belief that eating healthy means spending more, research has proven that this is not necessarily the case. Choosing healthier food does not have to cripple your wallet and will actually prove beneficial to your overall health and wellness in the long run. No amount of money can answer that kind of value.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Chris Icamen

Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Apr 19, 2022

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