13 Healthy vs. Unhealthy Food Statistics (Facts & Costs)


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Each day, we’re bombarded with both fast food advertisements and reminders that health should always be our number one priority.

With rising inflation, unemployment, and general costs of living, food costs have also taken a hit. Let’s look at some statistics about healthy food vs. unhealthy food to see how you can make the most of your salary this month.

People Spend More on Food Than on Other Household Costs

Unless you’re a professional athlete, this might be surprising for you to learn. Athletes spend way more on food than the general public, yet the general public still spends a ton on food each month. Maybe mom was right – we do have McDonald’s at home…

We have McDonald's at home
  1. A Food Foundation report found that in order for the average UK household to eat within the guidelines of the “Eatwell Guide,” 20% of the poorest people would end up spending 39% of their income on food. The Eatwell Guide wants the average person living in the UK to prioritize lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and high-grain carbohydrates while minimizing sugary and fatty foods.
  2. Who doesn’t like eating out every now and then? Most of us do, but some of us push it a bit too far. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average American household spent $3,459 on dining out in 2018. There was a 27.6% increase in dining costs from 2020 to 2021, and yet Americans also spent 6.6% more on at-home food. Americans are eating more than ever – period.
  3. The US Department of Agriculture has come across some interesting facts when looking at how COVID impacted money spent on food. In 2017, the average middle-income family spent $6,224 on food yearly. Low-income families spent roughly $3,862. Not only did food spending increase after COVID died down slightly, but they also found that richer families spend (proportionally) less on food than their poorer counterparts.

It’s brutally clear that people are just spending more on food than ever before. This is mostly due to higher costs, but also, people are just eating more.

Fast Food Is All Around Us

Ever notice how you can never really go anywhere without seeing either a fast food stand or at least an advertisement for one? That’s no coincidence.

  1. While fast food once offered a fast and easy method to get some food, its place in society should have cooled down due to easier access to cooked food (more supermarkets). Unfortunately, between 2014 and 2017, more than 4000 fast-food outlets opened their doors for business in the poorest neighborhoods of London.
  2. While many frowns at the idea of athletes “planning” a cheat meal, the reality is that 24% of adults consume fast food more than three times per week. Three meals per day, 7 days per week, means some individuals have a diet that’s 14 – 30% fast food.

People seem to fall for the marketing and ease of fast food, even though there are plenty of other options available.

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People Are Turning to Fast Food as an Affordable Option

One of the biggest reasons people refrain from eating healthier is the cost associated. While fine dining might be expensive, buying a burger and fries down the road might be cheaper than chicken breast and quinoa still.

  1. Eating healthy is obviously very important, especially as a growing child. If a family of four were to follow the MyPlate Dietary Guidelines, they would end up spending between $1,000-$1,200 a month. I’m pretty sure if they had college students that were savvy with their money, they would find ways to get that down. Regardless, eating healthy isn’t always cheap. Leaner cuts of meat do cost more than their fatty counterparts.
  2. Following up on the previous statistic, a 2017 study found that “healthier” foods appear to be nearly twice as expensive as unhealthy food. “Healthy” is a relative term, of course, but for the most part, it would include leaner proteins, more fruits, vegetables, and higher fiber carbohydrates as well.
  3. Let’s do a bit of quick math. If the average individual spent only $1.50 more per day trying to eat healthier foods, their yearly food costs would increase by about $550. For some, this simply isn’t possible, and healthy foods are off the table (pun intended).
  4. After examining 2,765 people, scientists from Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health found that for every 14% increase in the price of healthier food compared to unhealthy food, the odds of folks having a healthier diet plummeted by 24%. It’s becoming pretty obvious that costs seem to be the biggest roadblock.
  5. Or is it? There will always be those who claim otherwise, and they finally have a study to support their point. Possibly due to the fact that those who follow healthy diets eat less, an Australian paper found that healthy diets could end up being 12 – 15% cheaper compared to an unhealthy one for a family of two adults and children, respectively. While this seems like a great answer, food costs will differ from country to country. For example, a country that has a lot of wild game will be able to use that to supply cheap, lean, and healthy meat. If you live in Vatican City, that’s not really going to work.

So, you really need to look at what’s healthy where you’re located. Spend some time finding retailers that sell in bulk. For instance, fisheries would be happy to sell you fresh fish in large quantities – they don’t have to package it, and you get a much cheaper rate.

Eating Unhealthy Foods Can Lead to Poor Health

Without fat-shaming anyone, it’s fairly common knowledge that the consumption of unhealthy foods is more likely to be bad for you compared to a healthy diet.

  1. Heart health is something that’s crucial to our survival, and the American Heart Association states your consumption of saturated and trans fats should only be 7% and 1% of your daily calories, respectively. Saturated fats are often found in animal products, whereas trans fats are readily found in on-the-go snacks such as pastries.
  2. Sugar is a culprit that isn’t necessarily bad. However, too much of it is. Limiting your sugar intake has been linked to better overall health, cholesterol levels, and reduced risk of obesity, and other cardiovascular diseases. Sugar is fine in small amounts, although larger amounts on a daily basis – from soda, for instance – are going to be quite bad.
  3. Lastly, unhealthy diets have directly been linked to an increased risk of diabetes. This can, in turn, lead to an increased risk of cholesterol, hypertension, and even death in severe cases.

While it may be uncomfortable for some to hear, an unhealthy diet isn’t only damaging your body but your mind as well. Prioritizing healthier foods could help people avoid some of these illnesses and prolong their lives.

Following a diet rich in lean protein, veggies, fruit, and high-quality carbohydrates with plenty of fiber is the key to improving your health. Throw in some cardio and resistance training, better sleep, and maybe some de-stressing techniques, and you have the perfect environment for anyone to thrive in.


How Is Healthy Food Better Than Junk Food?

This is a really great question because what is healthy food? What is healthy to a normal individual might put a diabetic at great risk. This is where context and looking at the facts become really important.

The main factors behind a food being healthier than another are based on what the food gives you in regards to macro and micronutrients.

This means we have to look at:

  • Protein content and quality
  • Amino acid content and quality
  • Carbohydrate content, quality, source, and compatibleness with the individual
  • Fat content, quality, and source
  • Fiber content
  • Vitamins and minerals content
  • Calorie content

These things will reflect how healthy something is. For instance, both a candy bar and a banana have 25 grams of carbohydrates within. However, the banana has more protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins and less added sugar (obviously). It also has zero trans fats.

The general rule of thumb: the less sugar and fat are added to food (by humans), the healthier it should be – but not always. A pot of lard is natural, but it’s still not as healthy as whey protein, which is made by humans.

Do More People Eat Healthy or Unhealthy?

Without looking too deep into this topic, it’d be easy to claim that more people eat unhealthy food. Most of the world is obese, and the number of overweight folks is increasing yearly. Most people simply cannot afford healthier food options and will therefore keep eating the cheaper but unhealthy option(s).

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