Healthy eating is a buzzword that’s been used for decades but eating healthy isn’t as cheap as it should be. Almost everyone knows that healthy eating often requires significant financial commitment however, not many people know why. There is a broad range of factors that make healthy food expensive. This article will take a closer look at the reasons why eating healthy can cost more than eating unhealthy foods.
Why is Healthy Food Expensive?
The high cost of healthy food is a common topic that people often discuss. A lot of people argue that the price of nutritious food is prohibitively expensive, which affects their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are many reasons why this is the case:
1. Processing Costs
Unhealthy foods often require less processing, which reduces production costs, making them less expensive than healthy foods. It’s cheaper to fry food in oil than it is to bake or steam it. Additionally, a lot of unhealthy foods can be stored for an extended period, which lowers the cost of distribution, unlike healthy foods that need to be transported and stored under specific conditions. This leads to more frequent spoilage and higher management costs.
2. Demand & Supply
The high demand for junk food is a significant factor in the high cost of healthy food. Healthier foods are typically grown in smaller quantities, so there’s limited supply for demand to follow, causing prices to go up. Unhealthy foods are usually mass produced, which means they’re available in large quantities, making them relatively cheap compared to healthy options that are farmed more sustainably in smaller quantities.
The government offers subsidies for the production of crops that are primarily used for processed foods. Such foods include corn, wheat, and soybeans, which are primary ingredients in cheap junk food. In contrast, farmers that grow fresh produce receive a relatively lower subsidy, making it more expensive for marketers to sell agricultural products.
4. Seasonal Variations
Seasonal variations account for the fluctuating cost of foodstuffs. Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables don’t have a constant supply and can only be produced within specific seasons, making them more expensive when they are out of season.
5. Nutritional Value
Healthy foods have a higher nutritional value compared to unhealthy foods, which makes them expensive. For instance, organic foods can cost up to 50% more than the regular, conventionally grown varieties. Organic farmers invest more time and resources in their crops, which translates into higher prices for their products.
6. Location & Access
The location of a grocery store or farmer’s market can also impact the cost of healthy food. Stores in a low-income area might not have access to healthy food, so consumers have to travel to other areas to get their hands on fresh produce. Travel costs combined with the high cost of healthy food might make it difficult for low-income households to afford healthy food.
7. Advertising Costs
Unhealthy foods are heavily advertised compared to healthy foods, which increases demand and lowers costs. Junk food manufacturers have more marketing power at their disposal, allowing them to compete with other similar products. Healthy food producers might not have the same access to the media, limiting their ability to advertise and expand their market.
8. Labour Costs
Healthy foods require manual labor, which makes them more expensive. For instance, farmers have to sell their products at a higher price to cover the cost of the workforce to pick up and package their goods. Also, quick foods require no effort to prepare, which makes them cheaper in comparison.
It is no secret that healthy foods are more susceptible to price increases compared to unhealthy foods. The cost of food is determined by multiple factors, and the ones listed in this article are some of the most common reasons why healthy food is expensive. Nevertheless, eating healthy food doesn’t have to be costly; you can shop smart and make wise decisions to ensure that you can afford the best food options for you and your family.
- Q: How can I eat healthy on a tight budget?
- A: Buy in-season fruits and veggies, compare prices at different stores, buy in bulk, and plan your meals.
- Q: Which healthy foods are worth splurging on?
- A: Foods that are highly nutritious and difficult to produce, such as avocados, salmon, and organic produce.
- Q: Are healthy foods always a better option?
- A: Not necessarily; it is essential to have a balanced diet. While healthy foods are generally nutritious, anything consumed in excess can be harmful to your body.
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- Public Health Nutrition. (2012). Healthy food and green spaces: Empowering deprived communities in Cardiff to make the most of existing assets. Cambridge University Press, 15(2), 291–294.