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Is More Expensive Food Healthier?

People Perceive Expensive Foods as Healthier than Cheaper Eats 

Which is better for you: an energy bar that costs 99 cents or a bar that costs $4? It may seem like a trick question, yet most people would be quick to answer the $4 bar without any additional information. We’ve come to equate healthy food with expensive food, but does higher cost always mean higher nutrition? 

Researchers from Ohio State University put this query to the test in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. In one trial, participants were asked how expensive a granola product would be. People who were told the granola was healthy thought it would be more expensive than those who were told it wasn’t so healthy.  

Digging further, another trial presented participants with different “Perfect Vision” trail mixes, all with different prices. Some people saw the label "Rich in Vitamin A for eye health" while others saw the label "Rich in DHA for eye health." Most people know what vitamin A is, so price didn’t play a role in how healthy people thought it was. But with DHA, people thought the trail mix was healthier when it was more expensive, likely because most people had never heard of DHA. 

This isn’t always the best line of thinking while shopping. “Some of the healthiest foods in the supermarket are among the least expensive and most familiar,” says Jenn LaVardera, MS, RD. “Bananas, oranges, carrots and broccoli can fit nearly any shopping budget and provide vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients important for health.” 

Another simple trick for saving money on nutritious foods: prepare and cook them yourselves. "If you're looking to save money and eat healthfully, choose foods like heads of cauliflower, loose Brussels sprouts and whole pineapple instead of the pre-cut versions," suggests Dole's Chef Mark Allison. Plus if you eat at home instead of out, you can control exactly what goes on your plate and help lower your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart-disease.Head lettuce is another nutrient-packed supermarket steal! 

Try our Sautéed Green Leaf Lettuce with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar for a new twist on this affordable salad green.

Published March 2017

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