Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Which costs more? A healthy diet or an unhealthy diet?

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Myth 12: Healthy food costs too much.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“How much food costs is an important issue for many Canadians. With some planning and wise choices, you can create tasty, healthy and affordable meals. To get the most value, choose foods that are big on nutrients and low on cost. Many healthy staple foods can be lower-cost items, including bulk flours and whole grains, in-season fresh produce, eggs, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), powdered milk, and sale-priced frozen or canned vegetables, fruits and fish. Scanning flyers for specials, stocking up on sale items and cooking meals from scratch can all save you money.”
What I say:
From a food security perspective it can be difficult to provide yourself and your family with a healthy diet. Pop and chips (for example) provide calories to fill your child up without costing as much as milk and fresh vegetables. When you’re living in poverty it can be extremely challenging to eat a healthy diet. For those of us not living in poverty it is ridiculous to say that healthy food costs too much. A primarily plant-based diet is not only the healthiest diet, it’s also the most affordable. Beans and tofu are far more inexpensive than meat and cheese. Side note: Did you know that cheese is actually the most commonly shop-lifted food? It’s expensive and easy to conceal.
Mark Bittman created a neat infographic comparing the costs of a McDonald’s meal and a homemade meal (of course a flaw of the graphic is that it only shows the costs for the quantities you need for the recipe, not for the amounts you would actually have to purchase). Don’t forget the hidden health care and loss of productivity costs incurred by consuming a primarily unhealthy diet. Yes, food costs are rising. However, Canadians still allocate a ridiculously small portion of their incomes to food. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that percentage has actually decreased over the past 40 years. In 1961 Canadians spent an average of 19.1% of their household income on food. By 2005 that had dropped to 9.3%. Our food spending is also lower than that of other developed nations.
It really doesn’t need to cost you a lot to eat a healthy diet. You don’t need to buy all those over-priced trendy so-called “superfoods”, healthy eating can be simple and affordable. Cooking meals at home is more affordable and often healthier than purchasing meals from restaurants.  I think we also need to reprioritise, and place more importance on eating a healthy diet and be willing to put our money where our mouths are. Consider using some of your disposable income to buy sweet potatoes and kale rather than popcorn at the movies.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

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