USDA Report Shows "Healthy" Foods Are Affordable
Monday, May 21st, 2012
The USDA says healthy foods cost less than foods high in fat, sugar and salt. That's despite perceptions to the contrary.
According to a 50-page report issued Wednesday, it depends on how price is measured. Comparing the price per calorie makes higher-calorie pastries and processed snacks seem like a bargain compared with fruits and vegetables.
But comparing food costs based on weight or portion size shows that grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy foods are less expensive than most meats or foods high in saturated fat, sugar or salt.
Measured that way, bananas, carrots, lettuce and pinto beans are less expensive than French fries, soft drinks, ice cream or ground beef.
The USDA study takes to task a 2010 University of Washington report finding that calorie-for-calorie, junk food is more cost-effective for low-income people. But that study's lead author, Adam Drewnowski, says there are no recommendations for how many pounds of food an American should eat. However there are, he says, federal guidelines that suggest a 2,000 calorie diet.
Drewnowski concedes that empty calories are not terrific nutritionally, but he says they keep people from being hungry, which is why lower-income people buy them.