The Mediterranean diet is often touted as being one of the healthiest, but the cost can be a deterrent for many. However, a new study from the University of South Australia found that not only is the Mediterranean diet healthier, it’s also budget-friendly, saving a family of four $28 a week (or $1456/year).
The study compared the nutritional profiles and weekly costs of three food baskets: a typical Australian Western diet, a Mediterranean diet, and the Australian Healthy Eating Guide (AGHE). While the Mediterranean Diet and the AGHE met recommendations for food groups, macronutrient distributions, and key health-related micronutrients, the typical Australian diet was deficient in fiber, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamins B6.
The Mediterranean Diet cost $78 per week for a single household, $135 for a family of two, $211 for a family of three, and $285 for a family of four. UniSA researcher and PhD candidate Ella Blatch says the study shows that the Mediterranean diet can be a viable and healthy option for cost-conscious families.
“Australians tend to eat significant amounts of foods high in fat, salt, and sugar, which mirrors the Western diet. Unfortunately, this is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and osteoporosis,” says Blatch. “To combat unhealthy food choices, global bodies are increasingly endorsing plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, as the preferred guide to healthy eating.”
The Australian Healthy Eating Guide recommends a balanced diet consisting of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables and legumes, breads and cereals, dairy products, and meats (and their substitutes), but only 8% of Australians eat the recommended amount of 375g of vegetables per day.
Associate professor Karen Murphy at UniSA emphasizes that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. Stocking up on specials and markdowns, seasonal produce, frozen, dried, and canned goods, private label and non-premium products can all help reduce grocery costs. A $28 savings a week may not seem like much, but it can add up to almost $1500 in a year.
Overall, whether following Australia’s healthy eating guidelines or the Mediterranean diet, both provide the nutrients and energy needed for a healthy diet. However, the study shows that the Mediterranean diet is generally more affordable, making it a viable option for families on a budget.