With the rising health concerns directly related to our food, many people are switching to healthier food options. However, a universal problem most people face is that healthy food can be more expensive than you would expect. So, why is healthy food so expensive? Let us find out all the reasons behind this.
The reasons why healthy food is costly come down to factors like seasons of growing fruits and vegetables may differ, and their transportation, fertilizers, and storage all turn out to be very expensive for farmers. Moreover, most vegetables and fruits are not subsidized, so farmers grow them infrequently, leading to higher prices.
There was a time when everyone ate as healthy as possible, relying on family farms for most fresh produce. However, with urbanization, most people have stopped family farming projects and moved to urban areas for better working conditions.
This process has put a lot of pressure on farmers regarding growing certain healthy foods. Moreover, most nutritious food is not subsidized in most cases, and the demand for unhealthy food and animal products has increased a lot, creating even more of an imbalance in the supply and production of healthy food items.
In this detailed article, we will understand why healthy food is as expensive as it is. Moreover, we will also discuss in detail some ways to enjoy healthy food without burning a hole in your pocket. So, let us get right into it!
What's In The Post
Are Healthy Food Items Expensive?
Yes, most nutritious food items in most developed countries, like certain grains, fruits, and vegetables, are costly. They are a lot more expensive than any sort of processed food that you may come across.
You may have noticed that at most supermarkets, they have racks filled with canned food, along with frozen food as well. That is not all, though. Even coming to restaurants, you are more likely to find a fast food restaurant at every corner rather than a joint that serves some healthy meals.
So yes, the fact that unhealthy food is everywhere also proves that storing and selling healthy food is expensive for retailers and restaurants, too! As per a study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), eating healthy food would cost $1.50 more on average than eating unhealthy food daily.
To get a better idea of how vast the price difference between the two types of food can be in the United States, look at the table below. This table denotes the comparison of the cost of healthy food for a day, as per Numbeo, and the cost of fast food per day, as per Food & Wine.
|Average Cost Of Healthy Food||Average Cost Of Fast Food|
|$ 10.69 – $ 13.37||$ 6.19 – $ 12.99|
Of course, this is just the average for all United States. The prices for both healthy and fast food can differ from one location to another. But on average, healthy food does cost more than unhealthy food.
Reasons Why Healthy Food Is Getting Expensive
As mentioned earlier, many causes contribute to making healthy food expensive. This section will examine these points and why healthy food is getting more costly each day, particularly in the United States.
1. Seasonality and Region of Production:
You may know that most fruits and vegetables have certain seasons when they grow the best. When these fruits and vegetables are in season, they have a great price and are also the best to consume.
However, we have reached a point where we are advanced enough to grow most fruits and vegetables all year round. But, when these fruits and vegetables are produced out of season, the entire cost from planting them to their harvest turns out to be very expensive.
Take berries as an example; now, they are available all year round. However, the berries grown in season- the summer are cheaper and have a better price.
On the other hand, processed food has no season and can be made anywhere, anytime, making the process a lot cheaper.
Another critical factor here is the region of production. Let us take avocados as an example, which are considered some of the healthiest food options. Since these are native to Mexico, the transportation cost is a bit much, leading to higher prices. Unhealthy food does not need fresh ingredients; hence, it can be made anywhere.
2. Climate Issues
Here is another vital factor in the rising prices of healthy food, especially fruits and vegetables. Every fruit, vegetable, or even cereal, for that matter, grows best in a particular climate and temperature.
If the conditions are not favorable, the growth and harvest of these crops will undoubtedly be disrupted. As we all know, we have been going through significant climatic changes over the past few decades.
This has caused a lot of issues in farming, giving rise to farmers getting much less produce out of what they initially expected. Naturally, the farmers would have to sell the acceptable produce at higher prices to make up for the costs. This, in turn, increases the cost of healthy food overall.
3. Cost Of Fertilizers
One more vital thing that most crops need to grow well, mainly due to the declining quality of soil, is enough fertilizer. Some crops are so used to fertilizer that they only succeed if the same is added to them.
The cost of fertilizers has been soaring, especially since the pandemic hit us. As per The Cold Wire, the prices of fertilizers increased by about 300%, which is quite a lot! This has taken most farmers aback.
Since the cost of fertilizers has increased, this, in turn, increases the entire production cost for the farmers. This leads to prices of healthy, fresh produce rising by a high margin, which has been happening a lot over the past decade.
4. Transportation and Storage Cost
Most healthy produce, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, tend to have a short shelf life. So, before they begin to wilt or start going bad, it is imperative to transport them to vendors who can sell them.
The cost of transporting these items is relatively low, as you may have guessed, due to the rising prices of fuel. This adds up to the total cost of the fresh produce. Moreover, there is a significant shortage of truck drivers everywhere who transport the goods.
This adds even more pressure to transportation and costs, which eventually adds up to the prices of the fresh produce. The price increase continues once the healthy food is successfully delivered to the vendors!
These fruits and vegetables need to be stored at optimal temperatures to ensure they stay their best until they are sold. This requires proper storage spaces, temperature controllers, and monitors, too. All of these factors add to the cost of the fresh produce, raising its prices.
5. Healthy Food Cannot Be Mass Produced
A protocol must be followed when dealing with healthy food to ensure it stays at its best. One of the main things here is that the farmers can only produce a certain amount of fresh products at a time.
They must consider various factors like fertilizers, water supply, sunlight, etc. They have to make sure that the produce stays at its best once it is ready, and has to be of the highest quality.
With unhealthy food, on the other hand, like biscuits, cookies, chips, candies, and more, there is no need to use crops of the highest quality. Since the production cost turns out to be cheaper for healthier food, they can be mass-produced, whereas fresh food cannot.
6. Population Growth
Considering all the factors mentioned above, you may have understood that producing a few healthy and fresh foods like fruits and vegetables at a time is possible. Now, the problem is that there is a high demand for healthy food from a particular sort of clientele.
But, most farmers cannot keep up with the demands, and the supply is never enough. This, in turn, creates an imbalance in the supply chain, increasing the request, and hence, the prices tend to be a lot higher, too.
7. Short Shelf Life
Fresh produce, especially fruits and vegetables, has a concise shelf life. They must be stored well and sold in their best state. If they are not transported or sold at the right stage, it would lead to the wastage of an entire batch.
To keep up with such issues that naturally occur from time to time, farmers and retailers have to keep the prices of their products on the higher end. That is the only way for them to make up for the money lost when a batch goes to waste due to a short life span.
8. No Government Subsidies
The government provides farm subsidies to farmers to make up for costs in case they have a terrible year of farming. However, the issue here is that the federal government provides subsidies for only five crops: wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton, and rice.
Although these are cereals, and it is good that there are subsidies for them, the government does not have any such arrangements for fruits and vegetables. So, if the farmer has a bad year of growing fruits and vegetables, they will not get any benefits from the government.
Instead, they would have to incur losses from their own money. This has made many farmers shift to only farming crops that have subsidies provided by the government. So, since the production of vegetables and fruits is low, their prices naturally soar!
The Cost Of Eating Healthy Over The Years
Of course, there was a time when eating healthy food in the United States was affordable for most people. But over the years, the cost of eating healthy has skyrocketed due to inflation and all the reasons mentioned above.
To better understand how the cost of eating has increased over the years, let us look at specific statistics presented by the USDA.
Firstly, they stated, “Food prices increased faster in 2022 than any year since 1979, due in part to a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak and the conflict in Ukraine, which compounded other economy-wide inflationary pressures such as high energy costs.”
As per their statistics, they compared the prices of most everyday food items from 2021 with the costs in 2022 and found that the prices were 11.4% higher than the previous year! This is shocking since the 20-year historical retail food price inflation is just 2%.
So, since the early 2000s, the price of healthy food has increased by 2% every year, keeping inflation in mind. The cost of fruits and vegetables has increased by 12% in 2022, so the prices now are even higher than what they were just the previous year.
Since the price comparison is so drastic for just one year, you may have guessed that the price of the same food about 20 years ago was about 12% lower than what you may get at any retail store these days.
Why Is Unhealthy Food Cheaper Than Healthy Food?
Unhealthy food, speedy food, and processed food are a lot cheaper than healthy food for several reasons, mainly because more inexpensive quality ingredients can be used to make them. While healthy food relies on the flavor of fresh produce, the same is not necessary for unhealthy food.
The reason mentioned above is one of the main reasons unhealthy food is much cheaper for retailers and customers. But several reasons make unhealthy food a lot more affordable. Have a look at the list below for all the bases.
- Unhealthy food can be mass-produced, whereas healthy food cannot.
- Most unhealthy food can be made with cheaper grains and cereals, reducing the cost.
- Unhealthy food is easier to transport as temperature variations do not cause as much harm to it.
- Unhealthy food is often loaded with preservatives that increase the shelf life so that it can be sold for much longer.
- Since unhealthy food is laced with preservatives, it does not need special storage or temperature, reducing the cost significantly.
Why Should Healthy Food Be Cheaper?
Eating healthier food is not just about keeping your weight at an average level. Even people who are at a standard weight but don’t consume healthy food often can have various health issues because of the same.
So, obesity is one of the most common by-products of eating unhealthy food, which puts a lot of burden on the health system. But other than that, there are plenty of reasons to eat healthier food, which is why healthy food should be made much cheaper.
Sadly, most people consume processed food simply because they cannot afford healthier options. So, here are some reasons why it is necessary to make healthy food more affordable:
- People will buy healthier food more, reducing the chances of obesity.
- Eating healthier food that is also affordable will also reduce the chances of heart disease and Type-2 diabetes among people.
- If healthy food is made cheaper, it will be less of a burden for the health system as everyone will be healthier overall.
- Healthy food keeps the gut clean and prevents constipation and other gastrointestinal issues.
- Making healthy food cheaper will also reduce the chances of child obesity, which is a big problem in many developed countries.
- Studies have shown that eating healthier food improves brain and muscle activity, increasing lifespan.
- People can live longer, fuller lives if they eat healthily.
These are some reasons why everyone should consider eating healthy food as often as possible. Sadly, since healthy food does not come cheap, these can be regarded as good enough reasons to make healthy food more reasonable and more affordable for people across the globe.
How To Make Healthy Food More Affordable?
Although it is a fact that healthy food is generally expensive, it does not necessarily have to be so. If you really like eating healthy and want to stick to it, but also make sure it does not cost you a fortune, there are a few tricks and hacks that are worth keeping in mind.
One of the main things to consider when trying to eat healthy in an affordable way is to have as many meal plans as you can. Moreover, buying in bulk, and sticking to your shopping list are also a few hacks that can help. Here are some pointers worth considering for a better understanding of how to do the same.
1. Buy Generic Healthy Food
You may visit grocery stores and see a bunch of healthy food with fancy branding, all exponentially expensive. The good news is that you don’t have to go for those fancy brands! The food you pick is healthy, so that you could go for any local or generic brand.
2. Buy In Bulk
Buying in bulk is always one of the best ways to make food a lot more affordable and save some money. You can make a list of all you need for the week beforehand and buy all the ingredients at once, saving you a lot of money.
3. Plan Your Meals
Of course, if you want to buy your ingredients in bulk to save some money, it is imperative to have a meal plan ready. One of the best things to do is to have your meal plan prepared for the entire week before you go grocery shopping, as that will help with buying in bulk and also help you buy the right amount of ingredients.
4. Cook Your Meals
Eating healthier food can be more expensive than anticipated, especially if you get it from a restaurant. Instead, cooking your meals at home would be much better and cheaper, as that will save you a lot of extra cash.
5. Stick To Seasonal Produce
Another mistake most people tend to make while buying healthy food is buying fruits and vegetables that are out of season. Anything that is being sold when it is not supposed to be in season will surely be costly. So, it is best to stick to seasonal fruits and veggies, as they will be more affordable.
6. Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
If you are one of those people who is not too sure about using your fresh produce in time, you could also go for frozen fruits and vegetables. Make sure these are preservative-free to take care of the health aspect. Once frozen, these fruits and vegetables will stay fresh for much longer, saving you some money.
7. Stick To A Plant-Based Diet
Plenty of fancy diets are out there, from keto to paleo, which can help you stay at your ideal weight and fit simultaneously. But, these diets are too expensive because of all the specific ingredients.
Luckily, a plant-based diet with plant-based proteins is one of the most affordable options for a diet that is easy to stick to.
8. Save Your Scraps
We often habitually discard scraps of fruits, vegetables, and more, thinking they will not be useful. But you can use those scraps and save a lot of money.
Most fruit and vegetable scraps, like stems, peels, and trimmings, can be used to make a vegetable broth at home. The same goes for meat trimmings, too. So, use your scraps wisely, and you will surely save money!
9. Store Food Properly
Most of us find healthy food unaffordable as it is not laced with preservatives; hence, it goes bad quickly in most cases.
However, if this same food is stored correctly, you can still keep food that does not have any preservatives fresh for long. Use proper storing techniques, like using airtight containers for cooked food. The same goes for fresh vegetables and fruits.
If you want to keep your food fresh for longer, store it in the freezer.
10. Eat Leftovers
Do not get rid of leftovers too quickly! Leftovers are one of the best ways to save some extra money.
Like the last point mentioned, if fresh food is stored correctly, you can have leftovers that stay at their optimum freshness for a long, making the whole process of eating healthy food much more affordable.
11. Grow Your Fresh Produce
Sure, it will only be feasible for some to grow fresh produce at home. But if some of you have little gardens, you could grow veggies and fruits that are not too tedious to handle. Similarly, you can grow fresh herbs in your backyard, saving much money.
12. Stay Updated With Deals
Most supermarkets and grocery stores occasionally have lovely deals, even with fresh fruits and vegetables. So, keep an eye out for every sale you can, eventually saving you some money.
Affordable Meals To Make At Home
Now that you know some hacks on how to save money while trying to eat healthy, you should also look at some healthy and affordable recipes.
Most of these recipes are affordable for a reason and will keep you in your best shape. Moreover, these can also be a way for you to kickstart your healthy eating journey!
1. Low-Salt Diet Fluffy Pancakes
This recipe for low-salt diet fluffy pancakes is as healthy as a pancake can get. Most pancakes are loaded with a lot of salt and butter. They make them unhealthy, and the choice of pancake ingredients can also make them expensive.
But this pancake recipe uses simple ingredients like vegetable oil, eggs, and just a little sugar for the right sweetness. The potassium bicarbonate and vinegar give these pancakes a perfectly soft and fluffy texture.
2. Beans Salad
A bean salad is a healthy and tasty option to devour while also being cheap. The salad uses beans as the protein base, which is much cheaper than animal-based protein. A way to save some extra money is to use dry beans instead of canned ones.
Moreover, most of the vegetables used to make this salad can be used right when frozen, which is another way to save some extra money. Try this salad for yourself, and you will get a perfectly delicious and balanced meal!
3. Grilled Chicken with Tomatoes
Among most types of animal-based protein, poultry is one of the cheapest options that you could go for. In poultry, chicken is an excellent source of protein and also very affordable, making this meal healthy and cheap at the same time.
You could use some simple hacks with this recipe, like buying chicken in bulk and storing it in the freezer until you want to use it again. Moreover, you can also use canned tomatoes to make a delicious sauce, making the recipe just as healthy as using fresh tomatoes.
4. One-Pot Pasta
Did you know that making homemade pasta is one of the easiest things you could ever do in your kitchen? One way to make any pasta dish more affordable is to make your pasta at home.
But, if you don’t have time for that, you can also use store-bought pasta, which will stay good for a long if stored well. Moreover, you can use diced tomatoes to make the sauce base and frozen veggies and meat, saving some money.
5. Hummus and Veggie Wraps
Wraps, in general, are relatively inexpensive, easy to make, and can be made as healthy or expensive as you would please. This wrap does not need any extra protein, as the hummus, made with chickpeas, is already loaded with a lot of protein.
You can use a simple blend of veggies in the wrap, like carrots. Cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes are all reasonably priced. You can also go for a fresh salad blend to make your wrap worthwhile!
As we have come to the end of this article, I hope you enjoyed reading it and got many insights. Yes, healthy food is undoubtedly expensive for plenty of reasons. The authorities should take responsibility to ensure more nutritious food items are affordable for people.
However, until that happens, you can follow many practices to make your healthy food diet much more affordable. Moreover, try out some of the recipes mentioned above, and I can guarantee you will be satisfied with flavor and affordability!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is healthy food expensive?
Healthy food is expensive as it is much more challenging to transport and store, and there are also seasonal aspects, among other reasons.
Why can unhealthy food be mass-produced?
Since unhealthy food can have added preservatives and can be made with lower-quality ingredients, mass production is much easier.
Why should healthy food be cheaper?
Healthier food should be cheaper as it will significantly impact people’s overall weight, as seen in any country’s health system.
Is it possible to make healthy food affordable?
Yes, with a few tricks and hacks, it is possible to make healthy food a lot more affordable.