Healthy foods cheaper than junk food in UK supermarkets, study reveals

The IEA says the £1 cost of a cheeseburger could also buy a kilo of sweet potatoes, two kilos of carrots, or 10 apples

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If your motivation for tucking into a ready meal or frozen pizza is that you’d prefer not to splurge on fresh fruit and veg, then you might want to rethink your dietary habits.

Data published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) shows healthier foods bought in super markets tend to have a smaller price tag than their unhealthier counterparts, dealing a blow to the argument that poor diets and obesity are directly caused by economic deprivation.

The data compiles prices offered by Asda and Tesco on 78 common food and drink products and finds that healthier options are generally cheaper than less healthy alternatives.

When measured by edible weight, a wide range of fruit and vegetable are available for less than £2.00 per kilogramme. By contrast, the cheapest ready meals, chocolate, crisps and bacon cost more than £3 per kilogramme, the study found.

The IEA said the £1 cost of a cheeseburger could also buy a kilo of sweet potatoes, two kilos of carrots, or 10 apples, claiming that the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could cost as little as 30p.

"A diet of muesli, rice, white meat, fruit and vegetables is much cheaper than a diet of Coco Pops, ready meals, red meat, sugary drinks and fast food. The idea that poor nutrition is caused by the high cost of healthy food is simply wrong. People are prepared to pay a premium for taste and convenience,” Chris Snowdon, the report's author and head of lifestyle economics at the IEA, said

"A nutritious diet that meets government recommendations is more affordable than ever.

"Given the relatively high cost of junk food, it is unlikely that taxing unhealthy food or subsidising healthy food would change people's eating habits. Instead, it would transfer wealth from the poor to the rich," he added.

Nearly 70 per cent, or two-thirds of British households, said they find healthy food  and drinks more expensive when compared to other products, according to a YouGov survey released earlier this year.

The same survey found that a staggering 40 per cent of 18 to 34 years olds said they can’t afford to purchase healthy products because of their price.

A separate study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found increasing the portions of fruit and vegetables consumed each day from five to 10 could significantly reduce a person's risk of heart disease and cancer.