It’s a common refrain among the public: healthful food costs more. However, this isn’t necessarily true, especially if you consider the cost per nutrient. Sure, an apple that costs about a dollar is more expensive than a serving of potato chips ($0.23) or a serving of peanut butter cheese sandwich crackers ($0.31). But when we look at the nutrients in an apple compared to the nutrients in the chips or crackers, the apple is the hands-down winner. Purchasing calories is cheap because calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods are relatively inexpensive. But, when looking at nutrient density, fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods are absolute winners.
Adam Drewnowski PhD, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, told a group of registered dietitians during a webinar in January 2012 that fruits and vegetables contribute 12% of the energy in our diets, but way more of the nutrients. They offer:
- More than 70% of vitamin C
- About 30% of fiber
- More than 25% of potassium
- More than 60% of beta-carotene
- More than 50% of our lutein + zeaxanthin
These are important points we can make when helping our patients understand the true cost of food. In an attempt to rank fruits and vegetables for affordability and nutrient density, Drewnowski developed an affordability metric using seven nutrients: vitamins C and A, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Here are the results...
Best Nutrient Bargains: Fresh Fruit
Naval oranges, kiwi, bananas, tangerines, watermelon, grapefruit, mangoes, cantaloupe, pears, honeydew, strawberries, plums, apples, pineapple, and papaya.
Best Nutrient Bargains: Fresh Vegetables
Sweet potatoes, carrots, white potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, celery, cauliflower, kale, onions, spinach, mustard greens, iceberg lettuce, and Brussels sprouts. Finally, let’s not forget to encourage our clients to consider canned and frozen fruits and vegetables as affordable, convenient, and nutritious options.
All Fruits and Vegetables Really Do Fit on MyPlate. Webinar January 11, 2012, Presented to School Nutrition Services DPG of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.