Cost of meeting dietary recommendations differs across food groups

A chart showing the cost of meeting dietary recommendations with median-priced foods.

USDA's website offers recommended types and amounts of foods a person should eat to achieve a healthy diet. A recent ERS report estimated the cost of meeting food group recommendations for an individual consuming 2,000 calories per day. Using a 2004 USDA database of 4,439 foods and their prices, the researchers calculated the cost of the recommendations if median-priced food combinations from each group were consumed. For example, for the fruit recommendation, 5,000 random combinations of whole fruits and 100 percent fruit juices totaling 2 cup equivalents were priced, and the median-priced combination cost $1.02. The vegetable and protein recommendations were the most expensive to meet, grains and dairy the least expensive, and fruit fell in the middle. The large size of the vegetable recommendation (2½ cup equivalents) factors heavily into making the vegetable recommendation the most costly to meet. The data for this chart come from Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price, EIB-96, May 2012.

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