Fresh fruits and vegetables are bargains compared with processed foods, according to a study that debunks the perception of pricey produce as an “urban myth.”
Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest evaluated 20 popular snacks and 19 side dishes, half of which were fruits and vegetables.
The report found that the average price per serving of the fruit or vegetable snacks was 34 cents, while the unhealthy packaged snacks cost about twice as much, 67 cents.
For example, a half-cup serving of apple cost 26 cents but one Fruit by the Foot roll cost 45 cents.
“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,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the center, said in a news release.
Government guidelines recommend that the average person eat two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables a day. Wootan said consumers can accomplish that economically, with recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture putting the daily cost to consumers between $2 and $2.50 per day.
The report found that healthy vegetable side dishes cost 27 cents per serving, while less healthy packaged side dishes cost 31 cents per serving.
The study is more evidence to disprove the notion that eating healthy foods is unaffordable, said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.
“PMA continues to battle that myth, armed with our own research, USDA’s findings, and this new information from CSPI,” she said on PMA’s Field to Fork blog .
The study also touts the low-calorie advantages of fruits and vegetables, noting that the calories per serving were 15 to 260 calories lower per serving than less healthy options.
In looking at the barriers to increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, the CSPI study notes that low calories may be considered a liability by some consumers, even though most Americans need to consume fewer calories. Bigger expenditures on marketing efforts for less healthy foods compared with fruits and vegetables also puts fruits and vegetables at a disadvantage.
“Marketing could give increased perception of value to produce and increase consumer familiarity with how to prepare and consume different types of fruits and vegetables,” according the report summary.