Eating a healthy diet will cost you, says a study published online this week in Health Affairs.
Researchers from the University of Washington School of Public Health looked at the impact of following federal dietary guidelines on U.S. wallets. Those guidelines recommend Americans consume more potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium, and get fewer calories from saturated fat and added sugar. They found that just incorporating one of those nutrients — potassium — into your daily diet could add an extra $380 a year to your average food costs.
“We know more than ever about the science of nutrition, and yet we have not yet been able to move the needle on healthful eating,” said lead researcher Pablo Monsivais, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the school’s Department of Epidemiology. The study suggests cost may be a barrier.
The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 adults in Seattle-King County, Wash., about their eating and food spending habits and discovered a strong correlation between the size of a person’s grocery bill and the quality of their diet. Those who saved the most on groceries tended to skimp the most on nutrients, and respondents with the highest food budgets were more likely to meet the federal dietary guidelines.
The updated guidelines — formerly known as the food pyramid and now called My Plate — advocate for the consumption of whole grains and low-fat dairy products along with fruits and vegetables. They also discourage consumers from choosing foods high in sodium, trans fats, added sugars or refined grains.
“Helping Americans incorporate these guidelines into their everyday lives is important to improving the overall health of the American people,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement at the unveiling of the new guidelines earlier this year. These words ring especially true in light of the nation’s worsening obesity epidemic.
The authors of the study provided policy recommendations along with their data, citing nutrition education programs and grocery subsidies as possible ways to promote healthful diets for lower-income Americans.
What’s your reaction? Are the price of bananas a barrier to better health?