Junk food costs $1.76 per 1,000 kcal, while nutritious food costs $18.16 per 1,000 kcal, a new study finds. [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    So unhealthy food is cheaper? I thought this would be apparent by 99 cent Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers.

  2. Crymson_77 says:

    I thought it was pretty obvious too…heck just look at the price of frickin fruit lately!

  3. Techguy1138 says:

    The reason healthy food tends to be healthy is low calorie density.

    For instance fruit is healthier than fruit juice because it has more fiber and lower calorie density. Other than that they are very nutritionally similar.

    It’s far easier to safely transport 10,000 oranges worth of juice as opposed to 10,000 oranges. Individual fruit has a finite storage life, needs to be handled carefully and needs to look presentable.

    Most ‘unhealthy’ food has a long shelf life and is easier to transport. That can have a large part in cost.

  4. Spamwich says:

    Interesting statistic, but man cannot live on kcal alone =D

  5. varco says:

    I think you mean 1 kCal, not 1 kcal.

    1000 calories = 1 kcal = 1 Calorie

    1 Calorie = the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 liter (about a quart) of water by 1 degree celsius.

    1 nonfat, sugarfree yogurt contains about 100 Calories or about 100 kcal. No way i’m paying 100*$1.76=$176 for that.

  6. swalve says:

    There is no way this article is correct. Vegetables are not 10 times as expensive as potato chips.

  7. czarandy says:

    This is useless because the $18 assumes you eat only “healthy food” (= vegetables/fruits) for your 1000 calories. A normal, healthy diet will contain lots of grains and other things which are much cheaper per calorie. So a more useful study would compare diets that people actually eat.

    Also, you can eat 1000 calories much more cheaply than $1.76. For example 300 g of lentils contain about 1000 calories. 1 pound of lentils costs $0.50-1.00, so 1000 calories of lentils is less than 70 cents.

  8. TechnoDestructo says:

    “Based on his findings, a 2,000-calorie diet would cost just $3.52 a day if it consisted of junk food, compared with $36.32 a day for a diet of low-energy dense foods.”

    What exactly does his shopping basket consist of?

    I think this is like those surveys of how expensive various cities are that assume one is living in 5000 dollar apartments and hiring maid services and stuff.

  9. seanSF says:

    Considering what I’ve been reading about the caloric content of fast food (e.g. an entire day’s calories in one sandwich), this says less about how expensive “real food” is and more about how much you’re really consuming when you take down that Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger. We should be comparing meal-to-dollar ratio, not calorie-to-dollar: the “real food” is still going to outpace the “fast food” but not nearly by as much. And certainly if we bring nutrition into the equation (a vitamins-and-minerals-to-dollar ratio, perhaps?), “real food” is going to be pennies compared to “junk food”.

  10. balthisar says:

    If your goal is just calories, well, then, the most calorie-dense thing you can eat is fat, and what does junk food usually contain large quantities of?

    The FA mentions low-income shoppers. While there are thin poor, and fat middle-class, I think we can agree that the poor are generally fatter. They’re not just sustaining themselves (per the article), they exceed their calorie requirements while not getting the nutrition they need.

    I’d like to see this study done again, and compare the prices it takes to eat a balanced diet with reasonable calories, junk food versus healthy food. I think you’ll have to add healthy food to the junk food diet just to round it out. If you want to call a McD’s salad “junk food,” then you’re still paying $5.00 for about $1 worth of ingredients.

    Pretty much, the whole summary is, fat is cheap.

  11. larkknot says:

    Buying healthy, fresh foods is more expensive than buying cheap, unhealthy processed foods. Note that rice, beans, and lentils are not just boring to taste without expensive seasonings, but are also dried rather than fresh. Want fresh beans or peas? That’ll cost you! It’s more expensive to live off a healthier diet of fresh meat and vegetables than it is to buy several boxes of hamburger helper that will make several meals in one go with one pound of ground meat. Additionally, it is more costly in terms of time to go to the grocery store more often since fresh vegetables and meat can go bad very quickly after you buy them, and cooking times are greater. I was recently given a slow cooker and was able to solve my food budgeting problems by buying frozen veggies and freezing meat on sale, which can then be taken straight out of the freezer in the morning and tossed in the slow cooker.

  12. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    This is all quite beside the point. My question is, what is the total cost of the junk food you would have to eat to get your RDA of vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients?

    Given that a lot of junk food contains absolutely zero percent of the RDA of many vitamins and minerals, the cost is potentially infinite. The healthy foods cost a negligible amount by comparison.

    I mean, you could compare the cost of a pound of sand and a massively healthy raw veggie sandwich made with organic everything and whole wheat bread. Both might give you a sensation of fullness after you eat them, but only one will actually feed you.

  13. timmus says:

    @larkknot said: freezing meat on sale, which can then be taken straight out of the freezer in the morning and tossed in the slow cooker.

    I’d be concerned whether that meat is getting up to 160 degrees and if it might be producing exotoxins and endotoxins as it slowly rises through the 60-80-100F temperature range. I’d love to cook that way in my slow cooker but I don’t trust it, so I thaw and toss it in the pan for a few minutes.

  14. tadowguy says:

    WTF? I guess the only healthy food is hydroponic lettuce or something. I can get 1000 calories with bananas or potatoes for much less than $18 and I bet you NYers could probably manage it too.

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    Let us not forget that Big Agra steals many $billions/year from Americans in the form of subsidies and tax breaks. There’s a reason why HFCS, corn, sugar and soybeans are so cheap, and it’s not the free market.

  16. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @trai_dep: There is no free market anymore, by definition, when the government interferes. Nobel-Prize-winning economists have gone so far as to suggest that it’s the interference of government in the market that gives rise to most of the problems we see in business today.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    Yup. I live in California. We’re facing the 5th year of drought, where 90% of the people live in urban/suburban areas yet are allocated only 10% of the water. And pay something like 10-100x more than the agri sector.

    Fine, if they were using it sensibly. But instead they basically turn on the spigots and flood their multitude of acres (salinisation results, as well as profligate waste by evaporation of water). Case in point. In a Mediterranean/desert climate, California is the #1 grower of… Rice. Rice?!

    Charge ’em market rates (or a modest discount) and they’ll make ecologically AND financially sensible choices. The current way is madness.

  18. Mr. Gunn says:

    Those numbers are bullshit. The calorie density of foods varies, but I can guarantee you that a thousand calories of cheese doesn’t cost anywhere near $18 unless you want it to.

  19. katyggls says:

    @Mr. Gunn:

    Cheese is a healthy food? I suppose it does have some protein in it, and in small amounts it wouldn’t hurt you too much in the fat/cholesterol department, but since there are much more efficient sources of protein, I doubt it was cheese that the study was referring to when talking about “nutritious food”.