Is eating healthy more expensive?

It really depends on where you are eating.

If you’re preparing meals from scratch at home, then eating healthy is not more expensive.

In fact, it can be a lot cheaper.

I bought two Publix Greenwise 8 oz. top sirloin filets last night for under $10.

That’s a fraction of what you’d pay at even a mid-tier chain restaurant and if you know how to prepare steak well, it will taste just as good, if not better. This is how I cook steak.

Add some potatoes and veggies for a few bucks and you’ve got yourself a healthy, delicious, and satisfying meal for two people for under $15.

If you’re eating out, eating healthy may or may not be more expensive.

In my experience I’ve found that eating healthy isn’t more expensive at high-end restaurants.

When you compare entree vs. entree, healthier choices like salmon or chicken are usually about the same price or cheaper than unhealthy entrees like burgers or pasta.

An entree salad may actually be much cheaper than a traditional entree. You can usually also substitute healthier sides like veggies with a meat entree for no extra charge.

However, if you want a salad to start as an appetizer, that will cost you extra.

The places I’ve found eating healthier to be significantly more expensive are fast food and fast casual restaurants.

If you go to a fast food restaurant, like McDonald’s or Wendy’s, a salad will cost you around $7 or $8.

But you can get a crap load more unhealthy food for under $5 by purchasing off the value menu.

Wendy’s has a 4 for $4 deal which is a big hit that’s “winning customers back.” [1] In the 4 for $4, you can get a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger or chicken sandwich, nuggets, fries, and a soda for $4.

That’s three to four times the calories as a salad for half the price.

Even if you go to a “healthy” fast place like Chipotle, by the time you’re done, you’re looking at around $10 for a salad or bowl.

If I had to eat healthy at a fast place, I would personally opt for Chipotle over a Wendy’s salad since it’s only a couple bucks more, but way more tasty and filling.

But still, it’s no match against the value of the 4 for $4.

At Taco Bell, you can probably get even more calories for under $5 than at Wendy’s.

When you consider these options, it’s not really surprising that many people who struggle financially choose unhealthy fast food.

I sometimes eat at M Shack [2], which is a local burger joint that has both healthy and unhealthy options. I’d consider M Shack to be on the higher end of fast casual.

Their burgers are really tasty and not that expensive.

You can get a Sunrise Burger, which has “Bacon, Sunny Side Egg, American Cheese and Shack Sauce” for $6.95.

Or you can get an Omega-Fit, which is “Two Salmon Cakes, Sweet Bell Peppers, Farro Salad, Seared Kale, Edamame, Sunny Side Egg, No Bun” for $11.95.

So, whether it’s this example or the $10 Chipotle meal, I consider the extra $5 to be the premium you pay to eat healthy at fast places.

It’s a little annoying in the moment, but a healthy diet obviously pays off in the long-run with disease prevention, improved quality of life, etc.

To recap:

If you want to eat healthier without spending a lot of money, then prepare meals at home. If you eat at high-end restaurants, eating healthier won’t be more expensive. If you eat at fast food or fast casual restaurants, be prepared to spend a lot more on healthier options.


[1] Wendy’s 4 for $4 Menu Is Winning Customers Back

[2] FULL MENU – M Shack Burgers

First published on Quora.

Featured image by Jay Wennington.

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