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How The Hell Does A Healthy Diet Cost Three Times An Unhealthy One?

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The Food Foundation tells us, today, that a healthy diet costs three times an unhealthy one. How the hell did they manage to reach this conclusion? By being casuistic. Ah, heck, let’s not beat around the bush here, they’re being lying little sods.

But everyone’s lapping it up:

With healthy foods three times as expensive as less healthy ones, the 20% least well-off families must spend 40p of every pound of their income in order to achieve an officially nutritious diet, according to the Broken Plate audit, compared with just 8p in the pound for families in the wealthiest 20%.

And therefore the usual dreary round of policies, subsidise healthy foods, tax unhealthy, ding the rich for more tax, raise low wages and every other wet dream we all thought we’d got over once Jezza had retired to his videos of terrorists I have known.

So, how was this remarkable achievement in fiscal prestidigitation managed?

Start by defining the Eatwell Guide as what is healthy.

Most of us still are not eating enough fruit and vegetables. They should make up over a third of the food we eat each day.

Aim to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg each day. Choose from fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced.

Remember that fruit juice and smoothies should be limited to no more than a combined total of 150ml a day.

Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Eatwell Guide starchy foods
Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates
Starchy food should make up just over a third of the food we eat. Choose higher fibre wholegrain varieties, such as wholewheat pasta and brown rice, or simply leave skins on potatoes.

There are also higher fibre versions of white bread and pasta.

Starchy foods are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet.

“Energy” and “calories” are, in this sense, close synonyms for each other. We need to eat the starchy foods in order to gain those calories that keep the home fires burning. Veggies and fruit are not a good source of calories even as they’re just great for those minerals, fibre and vitamins.

Well, OK. And now for the trick. From the Food Foundation report:

The price of healthier foods continues to remain much higher than less healthy foods.
Using a binary more/less healthy categorisation according to the FSA’s nutrient
profiling model reveals striking differences, with more healthy foods three times more
expensive than less healthy foods for the equivalent number of calories. The mean cost
of more healthy foods in 2019 per 1000 kilocalories was £7.68, compared to £2.48 for
less heathy foods. Although at the time of writing we have incomplete data for 2020,
the upward trend in price for more healthy foods seen in the first quarter of this year is
concerning one, with the mean price at its highest level since 2013.

Breaking the data down into the government’s five Eatwell Guide food categories tells a
similar story. While the mean price of fruit and vegetables is on an upward trend (£9.39
per 1000 kilocalories in 2019, up from £8.88 in 2017), the price of food and drinks high
in salt, sugar and/or fat has remained fairly stable at a much lower price point. The
mean price of foods in this category was £3.54 in 2019, compared to £3.42 in 2017.

They’re measuring the price of the diets in terms of calories. But we’ve already noted that veggies are low in calories. In fact, we shouldn’t be using them as our source of calories, but of those lovely minerals and vitamins.

They’ve just informed us that low calorie foods are an expensive way of buying calories. Well, yes, we rather suspected that might be true. Even, that’s why the serving is so often potatoes and two veg. But they’ve spun that into the statement that a healthy diet is three times the cost of an unhealthy one.

Lying little sods, aren’t they? And yet still the media fall over themselves to agree. Seriously, doesn’t anyone read these damn reports they write about?

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Must admit I thought it might just be that ‘healthy’ foods are fashionable, so people are charged more.

    In any case, that diet looks most unhealthy. Plenty of meat is needed, especially for kids. Can’t see any mention of eggs either.

  2. I doubt that they actually read any more than the summary section of the press release. Nevertheless, even if they did bother to read the whole report, the lack of mathematical, statistical and scientific knowledge of the typical “journalist” would mean that they still would not be able to spot the falsity of this sort of thing.

  3. They say the wealthiest 20% (they mean highest income, but let’s just let that go) spend 8% of income on a healthy diet, while the least well off 20% spend 40%. To what extent is that simply explained by 5x the income?

  4. But all should be ok for this NGO because healthy travel, that’s cycling and walking, is way cheaper than unhealthy travel such as using a private motor car with a single passenger (i.e. the driver). It might even be more than a 3 to 1 ratio based on miles travelled per pound. Oh, so netting that effect off against dietary effects should leave things broadly equal between the income deciles if the lowest income groups actually wanted to be healthy on aggregate.
    Oh no, there’s an inconvenient truth – adults in the lower income deciles tend to use bicycles to get around slightly less than the richer deciles. How could this be?
    Educate don’t taxsturbate.

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