By Kerri-Ann Jennings, Associate Nutrition Editor for EatingWell Magazine
How often have you heard or read, “Healthy food is expensive”? I hear this assumption a lot, as it’s frequently pegged as one of the causes of America’s obesity crisis. Fruits and vegetables, in particular, are mentioned as overly pricey and inaccessible for many people. Which, when we’re talking about health, is a problem.
As a registered dietitian and associate nutrition editor at EatingWell Magazine, I think it’s important that everyone reap the enormous health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. Produce delivers important nutrients, such as vitamins and fiber, as well as phytochemicals that may protect us against a host of chronic diseases. Still, I realize that despite how healthy fruits and vegetables are, it can be hard for people to eat more of them.
When the USDA revised their recommendations for a healthy diet this past year (find out more about their 6 foods rules for a healthy diet here), they also did a parallel study analyzing the cost of following their recommendations. Specifically, the USDA calculated the average cost per serving for fruits and vegetables (to come up with the average, they looked at fresh, frozen and canned) and found that, on average, they cost 50 cents per one-cup serving. For an adult eating 2,000 calories per day, the USDA recommends eating 4½ cups per day (2½ cups vegetables and 2 cups of fruit), which would cost roughly $2.25/day.
Depending on the fruits and vegetables you choose, that number can be much higher…in some cases (as below) it’s lower. Still, the take-home is the same: getting in those fruits and vegetables doesn’t necessarily have to be out of reach. Looking at cost alone, you could choose to either eat a bag of chips and soda or 4 ½ servings of fruits and vegetables.
And although 4 1/2 cups might sound like a lot, spread over the course of a day, it seems pretty doable. Here’s an example of how you can add in 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables across 3 meals and a snack, to whatever else you eat throughout the day:
Small banana (21 cents—equivalent to ½ cup)
1 cup of watermelon (17 cents)
2 cups of Romaine lettuce (40 cents—equivalent to 1 cup) + ½ cup of carrot sticks (13 cents) or grape tomatoes (60 cents)
½ large baked sweet potato (22 cents—counts as half a cup) + ½ c. frozen green beans (29 cents) or peas (26 cents)
½ c. canned peaches (29 cents)
Total cost for fruits and vegetables= $1.68 - $2.18
Do you think it's affordable to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day?
By Kerri-Ann Jennings
Kerri-Ann, a registered dietitian, is the associate editor of nutrition for EatingWell magazine, where she puts her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University to work writing and editing news about nutrition, health and food trends. In her free time, Kerri-Ann likes to practice yoga, hike, bake and paint.