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Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price

by Andrea Carlson and Elizabeth Frazão

Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-96) 50 pp, May 2012

Cover image for eib96 Most Americans consume diets that do not meet Federal dietary recommendations. A common explanation is that healthier foods are more expensive than less healthy foods. To investigate this assumption, the authors compare prices of healthy and less healthy foods using three different price metrics: the price of food energy ($/calorie), the price of edible weight ($/100 edible grams), and the price of an average portion ($/average portion). They also calculate the cost of meeting the recommendations for each food group. For all metrics except the price of food energy, the authors find that healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods (defined for this study as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations).

Keywords: food prices, price metrics, NHANES, price of healthy foods

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Last updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012

For more information contact: Andrea Carlson and Elizabeth Frazão