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Are You Willing to Pay More for Healthy Food?

By: , – Dana Angelo White, Food Network’s Healthy Eats
6/20/2012 2:00 PM   :  46 comments   :  10,368 Views

A recent study finds that Americans aren’t willing to put their money where their mouth is for healthier restaurant options. Are some foods worth the extra cash?

Footing the Bill

study published in June finds that a large chunk of Americans aren’t willing to pay more for healthy foods at restaurants. The New York based marketing research firm that published the report found that approximately 70 percent of consumers over age 50 don’t expect to pay a higher price for more health-conscious menu items. The study also points out a decrease since 2007 in overall interest in seeking out healthier fare. 

There seems to be a bit more hope for younger folks (ages 18 to 24) — only 44 percent said they wouldn’t be willing to cough up more money.

Researchers recommend that restaurants increase efforts to offer healthy fare at comparable price points to other menu choices to keep customers coming back. My suggestion: restaurants could downsize large portions to help adjust costs.

Money-Saving Solutions

Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank, use our money-saving tips when cooking at home or dining out.

Eat Out Less – Don’t rely on restaurants to be your source for healthy. Making your own meals is almost always the smarter choice.

Shop Around – When shopping for healthy foods, hit up a few different stores to find the best bargains. You don’t need to go to multiple places every week, but a few extra trips can lead to big savings.

Bulk Up – Produce, grains, spices, meat, seafood and other healthy items can come cheaper when bought in large quantities.

Click here for more Money-Saving Solutions from Food Network.

More from Food Network:
What items are you willing to pay more for when you shop?


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Comments

  • 46
    I'm more likely to pay more for quality food (like an exceptional cut of meat) than food someone decided should sell for more because they could stick a "healthy" label on it. When a restaurant is charging more to hold the salt and sear rather than deep-fry, all I see is profiteering - not any consideration at all about health. (Too often that healthy just means they fixed one or two things - such as "low-fat" or "low-sodium", while being enough to feed 2-4 people.) - 7/3/2012   12:11:28 PM
  • 45
    I think it's unfair for restaurants to penalize you w/ higher prices on heathier fares!!! I rarely eat out ... but generally I go to Subway or one of our local restaurants (where they have an awesome warm spinach salad w/ roast chicken) for that ... otherwise I make my own lunches , etc. Healthy foods DO tend to go a bit further than junk food - so in that respect, grocery bills are about the same. - 6/25/2012   9:45:23 AM
  • 44
    If I had the money, I'd be more than willing. - 6/25/2012   7:51:26 AM
  • 43
    What's funny is that healthy food is actually LESS expensive for the nutrients (maybe not for the calories) - the cost as I see it (while soaking my beans for tomorrow's bean salad) is TIME to prepare food from scratch. - 6/24/2012   11:10:25 PM
  • OREONSASSY1
    42
    I am not willing to pay more for organic. The word organic is being overused and is more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. I can still eat healthy without paying the high cost for organic fruits and vegetables. - 6/24/2012   10:03:09 PM
  • 41
    We are paying more and the healthy food in this town is hard to come by! We buy lots of frozen veges! Hopefully the Farmer's market wll start soon... - 6/24/2012   9:39:54 PM
  • SHERIRF
    40
    Yes, we don't eat out as much and spend those dollars to buy healthier ingredients to cook at home. I but organic whenever possible and choose grassfed meat. We especially try to avoid genetically engineered food and ingredients. It's easier to do when you cook from scratch. - 6/23/2012   10:50:54 AM
  • 39
    as vegans, since vegetables and fruit are a major component of our diet we buy organic as much as possible to avoid the pesticides on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. we vote with our wallets - we buy almost no processed foods, and carefully read labels for those we do buy, which are usually organic and have recognizable ingredients. - 6/23/2012   7:14:44 AM
  • 38
    one might be willing - but let's be realistic - most people cannot afford the exorbitant prices - i.e bananas regularly run 59 to 79 cents pound - organics start well above the $1.00 mark.
    regular spinach - big pack - about $4. organic is more than $2. added to that.
    i for one on a fixed income and not working have to watch every penny. i buy only the sale items and still make reasonable meals that are healthy. i don't eat out either. i use veggie wash for all the items which i will eat unpeeled - to try and hold down the pesticides etc
    even a treat like a frozen yogurt cup at $3. per is unattainable - especially for a mom with a few kids - things have gone way out of hand.
    i grow as much as possible in my garden in the summer months - dry my herbs and so on.
    i know it is a catch 22 - cause they say if we bought more organic prices would come down. but i have also read where nothing is completely free of sprays - so really it is NOT all organic either. - 6/22/2012   10:25:10 AM
  • 37
    Yes, I am willing to pay more for good quality food. I am a believer that you get what you pay for. - 6/21/2012   11:10:36 PM
  • 36
    I am willing to pay more but We shouldn't have to pay more for healthy food. Our government subsidizes unhealthy foods with agra-farmers instead of encouraging healthy eating habits and nutritious foods. By the time our kids are adults they've been stuffed full of processed foods and the healthy stuff doesn't look good. - 6/21/2012   7:21:29 PM
  • 35
    I am definitely willing to pay more for healthy food. I am not spending money in the restaurants anymore, so it's a good trade. I buy a lot of organic food, which is costlier, but I'm much happier with it. I agree with Wholenewme...as long as people buy garbage food, it will continue to be around. - 6/21/2012   7:08:05 PM
  • 34
    Yes I am willing but I really don't think it cost me anymore to eat , buy or order healthier foods I think its teh same if not less with the foods that are processed and or fried I eat more because they aren't as filling to me and I'm still hungry and got ot get somehting else to eat I think it cost me less to eat when I make teh healthier choices - 6/21/2012   6:07:36 PM
  • 33
    When we were both working, Ev and I didn't have a problem. Now that we have a lot less money, we eat a portion and bring it home and try to get the most healthy thing we can. - 6/21/2012   3:59:33 PM
  • ACICEDA
    32
    Another challenge stepping stone for those who struggle with healthy lifestyles. That's just sad. - 6/21/2012   2:15:42 PM
  • 31
    Some good tips in the article and comments.

    It is sad how much more expensive healthier choices can be. - 6/21/2012   1:46:46 PM
  • 30
    I love this. The fact is, healthier options should be LESS expensive; they are unprocessed, after all. It should be more expensive to pay for all the processing and additives. And then we wonder why we have the obesity problem in this country. - 6/21/2012   10:24:21 AM
  • 29
    It's only a matter of paying more for healthy food now or more for healthcare later. In our household we made subtle changes in our groceries over time and continuously add on to that. The money we saved not buying a lot of processed snack foods we can now spend on fresh fruit instead. The difference in brown rice/pasta isn't nearly as significant in the bill as it is in our bodies. And we only get meat from a local butcher, in bulk, so that it adds up to being about the same price as the poorer quality grocery chain meat anyhow. Once your body has had fresher, higher quality food... the other stuff even tastes bad. I can't stand canned vegetables because of the metallic taste I never noticed before switching to fresh or frozen only. We browse the reduced produce cart frequently. Granted we live five minutes from the grocery store, so this isn't a difficult thing to do once or twice a week and save a lot of money. I'm all for putting higher tax on foods like snack cakes, chips, and soda just to deter the purchase and only help people's health. - 6/21/2012   9:44:40 AM
  • 28
    I don't like paying more for anything but through trial and error, I have found that grass fed ground beef doesn't upset my children's stomachs like regular ground round or ground sirloin (yes, I bought the leaner ones because I don't like buying fat that will end up getting throw out - more meat for your dollar). When I can afford it, I will buy some organic, but have a hard time justifying $1 for an organic cucumber when a regular one is 50 cents.

    When I eat out, I try to find healthier options that aren't exorbitantly priced too. I can actually eat healthy at McDonald's and not spend a fortune for it too. - 6/21/2012   8:37:40 AM
  • 27
    OK in these difficult economic times- I can buy healthy food at home- if you want my business don't charge me more money for the steamed version of your fried food- - 6/21/2012   7:58:04 AM
  • 26
    Grrrrr. Why is this even a question? Why do we always buy the best house we can afford, the best car we can drive, the best mobile phone, the best computer...but balk at the best food? Priorities.... Time to realize that cheap calories are in no way equal to cheap nutrition. - 6/21/2012   7:11:53 AM
  • 25
    I am very reluctant to pay more for healthier food, and it makes me quite cross that we are expected to. It's no wonder obesity is such a huge problem when it makes more sense financially to buy the most unhealthy food. - 6/21/2012   5:39:12 AM
  • PAYDAY10
    24
    The food manufactures should want their consumers to be healthy.
    Good health, longer life, more time to purchase their product. +hey do not seem to consider that fact - only the bottom dollar they receive - not sure they think to the future.
    Pefer healty food - make from scratch instead of purchasing easy boxed foods. Better to grow our own food (getting exercise in the process) Purchase from farmers that do not add artifical methods to get a better crop. .We should not pay more for foods that have unhealthy additives. It would cost the producer more to add those things than leaving them out and letting the consumer add the items themselves like salt and sugar. - 6/21/2012   4:43:19 AM
  • MRE1956
    23
    COME ON! Don't people realize that we're slowly but surely heading toward another GREAT DEPRESSION - and this one of WORLDWIDE proportions!!!!!! PAY MORE?????? That's absolutely unconscionable in this day and age - where are people going to get the funds to pay *more*? Sheesh! - 6/21/2012   4:10:33 AM
  • 22
    I refuse to pay more for healthy food. All food is inherently good and "healthy." It's what people do with it that determines the final nutritional value for better or for worse. I will however pay more for low-calorie portion-conscious meals. - 6/21/2012   3:20:56 AM
  • CLARE1ST
    21
    I am willing to pay more, both in restaurants and at the store, for health and humane reasons. Having survived Stage III breast cancer on two occasions, I am cautious about putting pesticides and hormones into my body. They could kill us! So I buy organic vegetables, dairy and meat (which I don't eat much of). I'm also disturbed by the horrific living conditions under which chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs are kept and slaughtered. Birds have it especially hard because they're not even protected under the Humane Slaughter Act. Absolutely anything can and is done to the poor little things. So I always look for free-range eggs and meat so that the animals are at least allowed to live a normal life. You are what you eat. - 6/21/2012   3:09:59 AM
  • 20
    I always buy organic veggies, fruits, chicken and beef. I fortunately can afford it and I think my body is worth it. I do try to eat healthy when we go out, however, I find that most chain restaurants have the most unappealing items on the lower calorie range. I usually go online and look at the menu of the restaurants that we are going to eat at, I write down what I want to order and include all of the changes, like no bun on a sandwich and no cheese on a salad. I find that a lot of your fast food places allows you to create your own meals online and they include the calories, fat etc in the item, many of them have it setup so you can change out almost any of the ingredients to customize your order. If a restaurant isn't willing to make the subs that I request, I do not go back and I go online to Yelp and give them the rating that they deserve!! I also have been known to write the head office with my complaints and my suggestions they can't make changes unless they hear the complaints. - 6/21/2012   2:37:15 AM
  • 19
    This is why we don't go out anymore. Everything is processed in such a way that one meal could be the total calorie count for the day. Plus, asking for special substitutions takes all the fun out of dining out. So we just stay in and save our money to buy items in season from the local farmers or organic at Costco. - 6/21/2012   1:04:43 AM
  • 18
    I am UNABLE to pay more for food! I am struggling desperately to eat at all. I have never purchased organic anything - it is always a rip off. Whether in restaurants or supermarkets, food costs are absolutely prohibitive now. I cut portions, and frequently have to skip meals again - or eat a rice cake for lunch. I don't eat ramen noodles anymore - they were my TOTAL diet for months at a time due to sheer necessity. I am NOT willing to pay MORE for anything at all! - 6/20/2012   11:32:21 PM
  • 17
    I'm not sure what I'm being asked to comment on here - am I willing to pay more at restaurants for healthy foods, or am I willing to pay more at the market?

    I think that restaurants that charge more for healthier options are stupid. And although I haven't seen this very often, when I do, I will order something from the normal menu, but have them prepare it how I want.

    At the grocery store, I tend to pay more for organic produce. I don't like that I have to, but I understand the reasons behind it, and support the farmers who grow organic foods the best that I can.

    If I am buying bread or peanut butter or something like that, I will pay more for healthier options, like natural peanut butter or actual bread with bread ingredients rather than fluffy sugar, chemicals and bleached flour. - 6/20/2012   11:24:12 PM
  • 16
    Neither is the government - corn and soy are subsidized. Not apples. Not lettuce. Not spinach. Not squash. Not oranges. Not grapes. Not strawberries. Everything is made of corn! We feed corn to animals who aren't supposed to eat corn, get sick, and pass it onto us! How about the high fructose CORN syrup? The SOYBEAN oil in everything? It's garbage! Lettuce farmers, swiss chard farmers, carrot farmers, etc. have a hard time making it because they're competing with subsidized crops. Macro-level issues are influencing our micro-level diets. And it's sick.

    I spend extra money for healthy food. And I have a garden with heirloom tomatoes, red, yellow and purple peppers, cucumbers, swiss chard, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, basil, chives, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. I wish I could have it all year! - 6/20/2012   11:15:02 PM
  • 15
    Well I am definitely thinking of paying more for meats after reading about the ongoing serious problem with chicken & bacteria & the antibiotics they are fed.

    The article said any meat that is organically fed doesn't have the antibiotics pumped into them, which is (to try) and take care of the unsanitary conditions in which they live. Ugh!

    The article said Whole Foods only sells non-antibiotic fed meat. Since I drive by a Whole Foods 6x a week, I think I will stop by, instead of passing by (on my way home or to Safeway). - 6/20/2012   10:42:05 PM
  • 14
    I agree with the premise as to what exactly constitutes "HEALTHY" food for this article. Furthermore, I think we pay too much for certain foods that might be considered healthier (mind you we all pay for convenience as WELL). I feel that once again companies and restaurants are going to use this as another GIMMICK to pad their bottom line. - 6/20/2012   9:32:21 PM
  • PRUSSIANETTE
    13
    Well, as others have pointed out, this study/article is a bit useless since it doesn't give examples of what "healthy" vs "unhealthy" is. However, that being said, I rarely eat out as I have to be on a gluten free diet, and it is difficult to find those options (or restaurants who don't cross-contaminate with their utensils, etc.) However, on those rare occasions I do, I always go for the healthy. However, I would say about half the time those are tasteless disappointments. So, it dawns on me that maybe it isn't the price per se, but the fact they don't want to pay more for tasteless food. - 6/20/2012   7:38:46 PM
  • 12
    I try not to pay more for healthy food - I still cannot understand why brown (less processing than white) rice should cost more than white/parboiled/bleached rice. It doesn't make sense unless you look at economics 101 - the price of goods is related to what the market will bear.

    I seldom eat out but I have found that Applebee's have two great menu sections that suit my husband and I really well. The 'under 550 calorie' section has smaller portion meals at a good price and recently I discovered some Weight Watchers Items at very reasonable prices - now those are the types of meals that we happily enjoy on the special occasion when we eat out. - 6/20/2012   7:09:23 PM
  • 11
    The question was about what we'll pay for when we shop... the study was about what we'd pay for at a restaurant - two completely different things...

    Articles about studies like this are really quite useless - you don't know what biases were introduced by who they interviewed (or where) - was it people sitting in a McDonalds, walking into Trader Joe's, or a true cross section of people? How did the subjects interpret "healthy option" ? Does that mean only tofu will do, or that chicken is better than steak, or that steak is okay if it's grass fed? for that matter, how do they interpret "Pay more". Do they envision it as menus that read "side salad - $1.00, organic side salad - $2.00"

    Generally, I think people who are really interested in "healthy" food - whatever their definition - probably aren't going to restaurants that much, or they find niche restaurants that cater to styles they like, which serve healthy food as their standard.

    As for shopping, I spend more on all sorts of things - organic and/or local as often as possible, things made with simple ingredients (i.e. NOT made out of synthetics by food-industry giants), and I do it at a smaller regional market that gets product from local businesses and farms. That goes for my pets' foods as well. - 6/20/2012   6:09:04 PM
  • RHETORDAYNA
    10
    I get mad. It's less food. It should cost less. I blame the corn subsidies. - 6/20/2012   5:06:11 PM
  • 9
    I eat at almost no chain restaurants because (a) their portions are ridiculously large (2) their preparation methods are rarely transparent (c) they tend to use cheapest sources for ingredients.

    Locally, there are several places that (1) make an effort to buy their ingredients locally from responsible sources (2) are up-front and open about their cooking methods (3) have reasonable-sized portions. I eat at those places, pay a bit more (maybe $1-2/meal) and celebrate their standards and ethos. - 6/20/2012   4:28:57 PM
  • 1954MARG
    8
    Independents tend to be more responsive to their customers, and figure that the longer they wait to have a heart attack the more repeat business they will get. The chains want to please their shareholders, that way their boards members get bigger bonuses, after all there is one born every minute! - 6/20/2012   4:24:18 PM
  • 7
    I think that a lot of restaurants have attempted to put healthier options on the menu, only to find that people won't eat them. There is no question that it is easier and cheaper to put healthy meals together by yourself. However, for many people, eating out is sometimes a necessity. OK, maybe not an absolute necessity, but if you are travelling or under social pressure, it may be hard not to eat out. I do agree with CRYSTALLULLABY though. It does seem like local restaurants are a little better about keeping foods healthier than chain restaurants. - 6/20/2012   3:52:11 PM
  • 6
    I do pay more for healthier food when I eat out. While my husband and children opt for their favorites, I opt for the grilled chicken salads that most restaurants offer. This will usually last me for two meals as I have had gastric bypass. This makes it more economical for me, as well as healthy. I also still have my favorites that I love, but I opt for the lighter versions that I can create at home myself with items bought at the grocers. I just wish more people were willing to pay more to stay healthy now days. It is a shame that the obesity rate in this country is skyrocketing out of control. - 6/20/2012   3:50:57 PM
  • 5
    My techinque for getting healthy food without paying more is to ask for the lunch portion or share my dinner with a friend. This allows us to purchase a healthier option while having enough to eat without having to deal with leftovers.
    However, if they don't have a petite or lunch portion OR I can't agree on what to share with my friend, I will tend to order less healthy to save money.
    - 6/20/2012   3:42:40 PM
  • GREENZWIGGLE
    4
    I think it sad that everything that is good for you comes with extra challenge/pressure. That being said although i would not prefer to spend the extra cash once in a while i would as a treat. That being said i would not opt for a £7.95 ceaser salad if i could get a more satisfying plate of food that i would probably not be able to finish for £6.00. I know the difference is small but right now every penny counts. - 6/20/2012   3:23:07 PM
  • CRYSTALLULLABY
    3
    I agree with ALICIALYNNE. I can grill a chicken breast and make a salad for $2.00 a serving at home - I'm not going to pay $9.99 - $14.99. And fast food restaurants, I can't even enjoy a "splurge" there anymore. It just makes me feel gross (and I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE Big Macs). Again, when I can have a grilled chicken salad for $1.50 - it's kinda hard to even splurge.

    When I do eat out anymore (once or twice a month), I tend to gravitate toward local cheaper restaurants where their menu tends toward healthier and tastier food (Greek, local sandwich shop, Thai, and even Mexican). The chains just can't seem to figure out that you can have tasty, amazing, and healthy meals with minimal ingredients, fuss and cost to the customer. - 6/20/2012   3:16:01 PM
  • 2
    What chain restaurants are really offering healthy food right now? I would happily pay more for healthy food that actually is yummy. Frankly, that's part of why I LOVE McDonalds- my Bacon Ranch Salad does have cheese and such on it, but keeps me full and satisfied for hours. The salad is actually better than Subway's subs after you get done putting on the cheese and mayo. For real, sit-down restaurants, I truly cannot find enjoyable healthfood fare that is worth going out to eat. If I can make it at home (and have it taste just as delicious!), I'm not going to pay 15$ for it at the restaurant. - 6/20/2012   3:08:11 PM
  • 1
    I'm not surprised by this at all, and it is one of the big reasons I don't eat out- Healthier options tend to more expensive than unhealthy. Even making healthy subs on an unhealthy meal costs more at most restaurants.

    Sadly, as long as people are willing to pay for crap food, we'll be stuck with it. - 6/20/2012   2:32:03 PM

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