On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

The Real Cost of Eating Healthy on a Budget

Is the cost of health eating keeping you from starting or staying on your journey to health? Truth is, it might not be as expensive as you think. By discovering healthy, low-cost foods and with a little bit of preparation, you can keep your food budget low, while keeping progress on your healthy lifestyle high.

The Real Cost of Eating Healthy on a Budget

A study that surveyed why Americans eat what they do found that taste was the most important influence on food choices, followed by the cost.  So what about healthy foods? Are healthy choices more expensive? Think organic vs. regular produce. Ordering a salad vs. a fast food hamburger. Fresh ingredients vs. right-out-of-the-box. Most people can recognize that often the healthier choice appears to be the more expensive choice. At least – that is what most people assume. We’re here to tell you the contrary, that cost of eating healthy on a budget is within your reach, and that buying healthy food doesn’t have to break the bank. Luckily, healthy foods can be tasty and inexpensive.

Setting the Example on a Budget

In an article published in Preventive Medicine, researchers described how some groups, such as Mexican Americans, can achieve higher quality diets at a lower cost than other groups, showing us that it is possible to achieve a healthy eating pattern without emptying our pockets to buy healthy food.

How did this particular group do it? Turns out, there were a number of key things that made a lower-cost diet healthier.

One characteristic of people who were eating healthy on a budget that stood out most—individuals in this group had a highly positive attitude toward healthy eating, no matter what their socioeconomic status or family income. Because of this positive attitude toward healthy eating, these individuals consumed twice the servings (an average of 5 servings) of fruit and vegetables compared to people who had neutral or negative attitudes toward healthy eating, who consumed an average of only 2 and 1/3 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And it absolutely did not matter what their family income was, or the fact that they were spending less on food in general. What counted was their positive attitude toward eating healthy eating, and positivity meant healthier eating, even on a lower income.

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Researchers in Italy found that some of the best ways to reduce the cost of eating healthy are to choose foods that are in season. They also reported some of the best inexpensive healthy foods with the most nutrition for the lowest price. These low-cost healthy foods included spinach, oranges, bananas, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, milk, yogurt, skinless poultry, ham, turkey breast, and beans/legumes.

Other ways to keep eating healthy on a budget include buying frozen fruits and vegetables, which usually have a longer shelf life and cost much less per serving, and buying the generic brand of foods which are often just as delicious—and don’t have to add the cost of advertising to their product. You can drastically drop your cost of eating healthy by eating before you shop (so that you are not hungry!), reading the sales flyer and using coupons, or join the store’s loyalty program where you get rewarded with discounts. For the healthiest foods, shop the perimeter of your grocery store, as the center aisles contain the majority of processed, unhealthy foods.

What about Gender and Ethnicity Differences in Eating Healthy on a Budget?

If you think there are differences between men and women and how much they spend on food, you’re absolutely right.  Researchers in the US came up with a value that detailed how many dollars were spent per 2,000 calories. Then, they looked at how healthy the individual’s food choices were.  What they found is remarkable.

Men had lower healthy eating scores than women did, with men spending a little less on food, or an average of $5.72 per 2,000 kcals of food, while women spent a little more, at $5.86.

Aside from gender, there were also differences in healthy eating scores between race/ethnicity groups. Mexican Americans had a very high quality eating score at a much lower cost, spending only $5.27 per 2,000 kcals of food. Another interesting finding from the study was that the groups who ate the healthiest also had the most education, with the highest healthy eating scores in the groups who graduated from college.

The Truth is Eating Healthy Doesn’t Cost as Much as You Think

Recent studies contradict the popular assumption that eating healthy is expensive, though this is only half of the truth. For people with extra time to spare, healthy meal planning, shopping and preparation is more accessible. On the flip side, those who have little time to spare often include a cost of time vs immediacy assessment to the cost of healthy eating discussion. For these busy people, even if they believed that eating well as not expensive, there still isn’t enough time in the day to make it happen. Whether you fall into the first group, and are looking for a convenient solution that doesn’t break the bank, or the second group with just too little time to spare preparing healthy meals bistroMD is an excellent option.

Our doctor-designed, chef-prepared meals are prepared using fresh ingredients and then delivered right to your door. BistroMD is designed to support healthy eating, and even weight loss, through the proper nutrition for metabolism correction. You pick the meals you want to receive, and we take care of the rest at a cost that won’t bust your budget.


Rehm CD, Monsivais P, Drewnowski A. Relation between diet cost and Healthy Eating Index 2010 scores among adults in the United States 2007-2010. Prev Med. 2015 Jan 24. pii: S0091-7435(15)00021-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.01.019. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 25625693.

Primavesi L1, Caccavelli G1, Ciliberto A1, Pauze E1. Nutrieconomic model can facilitate healthy and low-cost food choices. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Dec 1:1-9. [Epub ahead of print]  PMID: 25435095.

A. Aggarwal, P. Monsivais, A.J. Cook, A. Drewnowski. Positive attitude toward healthy eating predicts higher diet quality at all cost levels of supermarkets. J. Acad. Nutr. Diet., 114 (2014), pp. 266–272. PMID: 23916974.

Glanz K, Basil M, Maibach E, Goldberg J, Snyder D. Why Americans eat what they do: taste, nutrition, cost, convenience, and weight control concerns as influences on food consumption. J Am Diet Assoc. 1998 Oct;98(10):1118-26. PMID:  9787717.