Sustainable eating costs less, not more

28th October 2020 | Eativity editors

Researchers have debunked the myth that healthy eating is costly by showing an average family can save $1800 a year by making more sustainable food choices at the supermarket.

The team from Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences compared the cost of a basket of groceries based on the Planetary Health Diet, which includes more fresh and less ultra-processed food, with a basket of groceries based on a typical Australian diet.

The baskets were costed at Coles supermarkets in metropolitan areas in each state, in a range of different socio-economic areas to allow affordability comparisons.

Seasonal, organic produce benefits the environment and provides more nutrients.

Tara Goulding, who led the research as part of her Masters in Human Nutrition, says the Planetary Health Diet basket was cheaper than the typical Australian diet basket in all states and all metropolitan areas. It was also more affordable, regardless of socio-economic area.

“We found that a family of two adults and two children could save more than $1800 a year on their household food budget simply by choosing healthier food based on the Planetary Health Diet,” she says. “There is often a perception that eating a healthy diet that’s also good for the environment is unachievable, partly because it will cost more.

“This study shows that Australians can be confident that it is more affordable to eat a healthy diet that supports the planet compared to what they might typically eat.”

The Planetary Health Diet is good for people as well as the planet.

The Planetary Health Diet comprises minimally processed food produced from sustainable food systems. Items in the Planetary Health Diet food basket included brown rice, oats, wholemeal grain bread, fruit and vegetables, nuts and meat (mainly chicken and fish) with beans and legumes also contributing to protein intake.

To assess affordability for different socio-economic groups, researchers compared the cost of groceries to the median income in low, medium, and high socio-economic areas in each state. They found that low socio-economic households need to spend an average 17% of their income to eat a healthy, sustainable diet compared to 21% to eat a typical Aussie diet.

Households in higher socio-economic areas only need to spend 11% of their income to eat a healthy diet, and 13% to eat a typical Australian diet.

 “We really hope these results will convince shoppers that making healthier and more sustainable choices at the supermarket will not blow their food budget,” Goulding says.

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