Is it more expensive to eat healthy?


Fact Box

  • GMO stands for “genetically modified organism” and can refer to a plant, animal or any sort of living organism whose genetic makeup has been altered in a laboratory through genetic engineering [1]. 
  • Genetically engineered (GE) foods have had their DNA changed by taking desired traits from plant, animal, and bacterial genes and inserting them into the cells of another plant/animal to make a gene combination that does not occur in nature or through natural crossbreeding methods [2,3].
  • The first genetically modified food was the Flavr Savr tomato, released in 1994 [4]. 
  • In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to establish a national standard for organic food production, since standards had varied from state to state [5].
  • ‘Organic’ is defined as “organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones” [6].
  • In 2012, an estimated $28.4 billion of organic products were sold in the U.S. - over 4% of all food sales that year - and was projected to reach an estimated $35 billion in 2014 [7].

Rida (No)

The argument of whether “healthier” diets cost more is entirely subjective because everyone defines “healthy” differently. The fact is that these days, people get wound up in labels such as “organic” or “non-GMO,” etc. and forget that “healthy” could literally just mean giving up on processed and expensive microwavable meals. You don’t need scientific studies to tell you that if you walk into a grocery store and only buy raw ingredients to cook with, you will spend less than what you would if you purchased pre-cooked meals. If you’re able to ignore deliberate marketing ploys like “non-GMO,” etc. [1], then buying essential ingredients to cook at home IS cheaper than the alternative. The GMO debate has been busted by scientists so often that the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine was able to compile results of over 900 peer-reviewed generals and refute the idea of “non-GMO” being better [2]. Yet, we still use it as a standard for “healthy” food because of genius marketers who hike up prices by propagating that 'healthy' means ostentatious food labels [3].

So, the problem with eating healthy isn’t the actual cost of buying raw materials; it’s our inability to prepare our foods. It’s easy to blame prices when we make up obstacles in our heads, such as “GMOs are bad for you” or “cooking from scratch takes too much time.” Advanced meal preparation and options like slow cookers are an easy way to manage time and save on healthy food costs. So, instead of complaining about expensive “healthy” food, we should rid ourselves of marketing junk and the need for costly prepared meals.

Killian (Yes)

It is a commonly held notion that healthier foods, and therefore a healthier overall diet, are more expensive than cheaper alternatives. A walk around your local supermarket will make this blatantly clear to anyone. Whole foods, not to mention organic and non-GMO varieties, which are typically deemed the “healthiest”, cost more than processed, pre-packaged products. Stores specializing in health foods also are associated with higher costs than your run-of-the-mill grocery store. With more research being completed every year, there is now evidence to bolster this belief. In a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, the researchers found that the healthiest diets cost around $1.50 more per day when compared to less healthy ones [1]. The main reason given for this price difference was that “…diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts—cost significantly more than unhealthy diets” [1]. Companies have begun to place the center of their attention on the production of a high volume of inexpensive goods, which in return, typically have a lower nutritional value. This allows them to lower their costs and charge less for their merchandise. Furthermore, another study concluded that healthier foods, per serving, have a cost that is almost double that of unhealthy foods [2]. For example, fish, meats, and poultry were found to have the highest price per serving, while foods rich in carbohydrates, fats, and sugars were cheapest [3]. It is apparent from this research that a healthy diet does indeed cost more than a less healthy one.

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