New CSPI research has found that, on average, fruit and vegetables are cheaper than processed snacks and convenience foods.
It found that a half-cup serving of apple cost $0.26 while one of General Mills’ Betty Crocker Fruit by the Foot roll cost $0.45. An ounce of Lay’s potato chips (around 15 chips) cost $0.27 compared to half a sliced cucumber at $0.14.
In addition to being cheaper than packaged snacks, fruit and vegetables have a better nutritional profile, CSPI said.
The ounce of Lay’s chips tots up 160 calories versus its half cucumber counterpart which contains just five calories. Three Oreo cookies also have 160 calories, while a half cup of cantaloupe has just 25.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, director of nutrition policy at CSPI and co-author of the report Margo G. Wootan said findings should dispel the urban myth that fruit and veg costs more than processed snacks.
Wootan said the importance of this is even more relevant given that snack foods are no longer an occasional indulgence in the typical American diet.
“Given the obesity epidemic and high rates of chronic disease in the US, it’s important that all foods, not just meals, are nutritious and offer positive contributions to the diet,” she said.
“…Typical snack foods are still too high in calories, fats, sodium, and added sugars, and make few, if any, positive contributions to people’s diets.
“Snack food manufacturers should do more to improve the nutritional quality of their offerings. Some reformulation has occurred already, but not nearly enough.”
Price and calorie motivations
Wootan said the findings reinforce an emerging view that healthy fruits and vegetables are more affordable than most people think.
“Price is a key motivator for food purchases and while people buy snack foods for many reasons, people tend to think of them as inexpensive options compared to more nutritious fruits and vegetables,” she said.
The CSPI research paper suggested that the main barrier preventing Americans from eating the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables is the belief that these foods are not affordable.
However, the average price per serving of fruit and vegetable snacks was $0.34 while processed snacks average at $0.67.
She also noted that historically calories have been one of the most important nutritional assets people looked for in food, and are still important today.
Marketing muscle stronger behind processed snacks
CSPI identified another hurdle in the push for Americans to make the transition from processed snacks to fruit and veg.
It said that processed snacks are marketed to consumers much more than fruit and vegetables, which may in turn position these foods as more desirable and a better value.“Shelf-stable snacks also are more widely available than fresh product, so they are found in more retail venues, increasing people’s familiarity with those items.”
The full report can be read here.