Fruits, Vegetables More Affordable Than Packaged Snacks and Sides, Report Finds

July 25, 2013

Fruits and vegetables are not only more healthful but are often more affordable than packaged snacks and side dishes, according to a new report from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group analyzed 20 popular snack and 19 side dish items, half of them fruits or vegetables. It found that the average price per serving of the fruit or vegetable snacks was $0.34, while the unhealthy packaged snacks cost about twice as much, $0.67. Healthy vegetable side dishes cost $0.27 per serving, while less healthy packaged side dishes cost $0.31 per serving.

For instance, while a half-cup serving of apple cost $0.26, one Fruit by the Foot roll cost $0.45. A half a cup of grapes cost $0.46—and provides just 50 calories—while a package of M&M's cost $0.75—and provides 230 calories. For side dishes, a half-cup, 150-calorie serving of Stovetop Stuffing cost $0.38, while a half-cup, 110-calorie serving of sweet potato cost $0.31. An ounce of Lay's Potato Chips—about 15 chips—cost $0.27 and provides 160 calories; a half cup of sliced cucumber cost just $0.14 and has 5 calories.

"The notion that healthy fruits and vegetables are expensive and that packaged snacks are cheaper is an urban myth that deserves to be put out to pasture once and for all," said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Very few Americans are actually eating recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables—and most of us would do well to consume fewer packaged convenience foods and snacks, which are often higher in calories, salt, and sugars."

The fruit and vegetable snacks had fewer calories than packaged snacks to which they were compared, and the same was found for the vegetable side dishes compared to packaged side dishes. For example, three Oreo cookies have 160 calories, while a half cup of cantaloupe has just 25. A half-cup serving of Rice-a-Roni has 155 calories, while a half-cup serving of cabbage is only 15 calories.

Government guidelines recommend that the average person eat two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables a day (for a 2,000 calorie diet).

"This may seem tough to some people," said Wootan. "But it is probably easier than you think. Eating a half cup of blueberries with yogurt and a half cup of orange juice at breakfast, a large apple as a snack, a half cup of baby carrots with lunch, and a large sweet potato and a cup of broccoli at dinner will get you there." A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that people can purchase the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables for $2.00 to $2.50 a day.


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