Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. And a common mistake among consumers is that if a product costs more, it must be “better.” But a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a healthier choice. Check out these popular foods comparisons to see if these are “worth the splurge” from a nutritional point of view. It is definitely possible to eat healthy and save money!
1. Plain Greek yogurt (around $0.17/oz) versus plain regular yogurt (around $0.10/oz)
Worth it: Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is made from regular yogurt. It is simply a “strained” version, with much of the water removed, so it’s more concentrated. It’s thicker, and is nearly double the nutrients of regular yogurt. While both are good choices, Greek yogurt has at least twice the protein of regular yogurt. Stick with plain to limit added sugars, and add fresh or frozen berries.
2. Organic mac and cheese (around $1.80/box) versus regular mac and cheese (around $1.00/box)
Not worth it: Companies producing regular boxed macaroni and cheese have made a lot of changes and nutritional boosts in the product. Most brands, for both regular and organic versions have similar nutrient content, including sodium, protein, fat and additives. Add some cooked vegetables to boost nutrition.
3. Steel-cut oats (around $6.50/lb) versus regular rolled oats (around $4.50/lb)
Worth it: Steel-cut oats are rough cut, and are a plus for digestive health, often containing more fiber per serving. The major advantage is that the steel cuts oats take longer to digest, keeping you fuller longer, and supporting a stable blood sugar.
4. Organic bananas (around $1.30/lb) versus regular bananas (around $0.80/lb)
Not worth it: Bananas are a nutritional plus in any form. With a thick protective rind, any pesticide residue is moved when peeling before eating. The same goes for oranges and other thick-skinned fruits.
5. Grass-fed ground beef (around $9/lb.) versus regular ground beef (around $6/lb.)
Worth it: The flavor and nutrient profile are both higher when cows are fed what nature intended — a grass-based diet — and not a corn-based diet. Grass-fed ground beef is more flavorful, and contains less saturated fat compared to regular ground beef. A more flavorful meat means more satisfaction with a smaller serving. And organic ground beef is not the same as grass fed; these cows are still fed corn, but the corn is organic.
6. Fresh blueberries (around $10/12 oz) versus frozen blueberries (around $6/12 oz)
Not worth it: For pies, muffins and other baked goods, as a topping, or for anything blended, frozen blueberries are the way to go. The nutrient content is the same for fresh and frozen berries of all types, because berries are flash frozen at the time of harvest. For a handful as a snack, fresh berries are always a treat. And while organic berries are even more costly, if any potential pesticide residue concerns you, stick with organic for fresh or frozen berries.
7. Single-serve ice cream bars (around $1/serving) versus large tub of ice cream (around $0.60/serving)
Worth it: A tasty dessert can be a smart indulgence with portion control. With a single serving frozen treat, you can eat the whole thing. It’s hard to limit the amount when scooping from a large container — and even harder to limit the serving to a ½ cup. Look for bars made with frozen yogurt, for further savings in saturated fat and calories. And most products have “add ins” like cookies and cream, so no deprivation when you want a sweet treat!
Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor.