Does Eating Healthy Have to be Expensive?

Many people assume that eating healthy has to be expensive.  It is true that many cheap foods are unhealthy.  However, that doesn’t mean all cheap foods are unhealthy and it certainly doesn’t mean that a food is healthy just because it is expensive.   I’ve posted in the past about healthy, frugal foods.  It is certainly possible to eat healthy on a relatively low grocery budget.

One common mistake people make is assuming a food that is generally considered the “healthy option” has more nutritional value than it actually does. For example in a post at The Simple Dollar “Thoughts on a low grocery bill” Trent asked his readers to “compare the cheap pasta sauce and the organic pasta sauce on the nutrition label.” The implication being that the cheap pasta sauce would be less nutritious. I was skeptical that the cheap pasta sauce would be less nutritious since studies have shown that organic food is not more nutritious. I decided to actually compare the nutrition labels of the cheap pasta sauce and the organic pasta sauce.

For the comparison I chose the most expensive jarred pasta sauce at my local grocery store which was Bertolli Organic Traditional. I compared it to the cheapest canned sauce which was the Best Choice brand. Most of the nutrition information was about the same between the two brands. There were small differences in the vitamins and minerals. The organic brand had the following percentages of the USRDA: Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 0%, Iron 10%. The cheap brands percentages are: Vitamin A 15%, Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 2%, Iron 6%. The cheap brand is at least as nutritious as the organic variety if not slightly more nutritious.

If I were to compare the Best Choice Garden Vegetable variety of pasta sauce to the Bertolli Organic traditional the results are even more in favor of the cheap sauce. The cheap brand has 45% of the USRDA of Vitamin A and 17% of Vitamin C. Considering the cheap brand is $1.09 for 26 oz. and the organic is $4.39 for 24 oz. the cheap brand is a much better value for nutrition.

Also the cheaper Best Choice Organic traditional brand was more nutritious than the Bertolli Organic although still not as nutritious as the non-organic Best Choice Garden Vegetable variety of pasta sauce. After looking at the nutrition labels of some other foods in both organic and non-organic varieties it was clear to me that organic food is not more nutritious. There are other reasons for buying organic but if you are buying organic just for added nutrition you are not getting value for your money and are wasting your money. You don’t have to take my word for it, next time you are at the grocery store compare the labels for yourself.

To help you eat healthy while keeping a low grocery budget here are a couple of links to help you save money while buying natural or organic foods.

How to Save Money Buying Natural Foods from blog.

Deciding Which Produce to Buy Organic from WiseBread.

***Although it is possible to eat healthy on a low budget I don’t eat very healthy myself. I’m making it a goal to eat healthy for one month and post everything I eat and how much it cost. It may not be feasible to do that while I’m in Guatemala but I’ll do this as soon as possible.

8 thoughts on “Does Eating Healthy Have to be Expensive?”

  1. One of the problems I have noticed with cheap pasta sauce is that it tends to be loaded with salt and sugar, the more expensive sauces tend not to do this but add to the flavour in other ways, ie garlic and herbs.

  2. Your article on this blog is fantastic. Well done! I’m a big fan of your blog and be sure to keep up the great work.
    I plan on returning and linking to your site.

    The Alan Haft Blog,

  3. Andy,

    I agree there is generally no difference on the nutritional ingredients. The reason we buy organic/natural is for either the non-nutritional ingredients (e.g. nitrites, dyes, preservatives etc.) and non listed ingredients (e.g. antibiotics and pesticides used while growing). While these do not have nutritional value, we do believe they will have long term health effects… not for us, since we have already eaten lots, but for our daughter, who is turning five soon.

  4. Regardless of the Organic/pesticide laden argument, eating healthy for most Americans would be cheaper.
    Fruits and vegetables routinely cost less per pound than most meat. Replacing just half the protein intake with a low fat alternative like beans would save me several dollars a week. I know it, I just don’t live it.
    ….. Off to grill a nice juicy pork steak…..
    …..With roasted red potatoes……
    …..Fresh (steamed) green beans…
    …..and a cold beer….

  5. This is very interesting!! I am going to have to start actually reading those labels 🙂 My husband was comparing the nutrition values of canned chicken — he was comparing store brand versus a name brand — and the store brand had three times the cholesterol and twice the sodium. That was sobering information too 🙁


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