Are Healthy Snacks More Expensive

In a previous blog post, I encouraged parents to send their children to school with healthy snacks (such as fruit, whole grains, and yogurt) instead of treats like cookies, candy and chips. The response that I got was very supportive, especially from public school teachers who do see a difference in children who eat a more balanced diet.

However, some readers noted that they send treats because they are less expensive than healthy snacks. I didn’t know this to be true and had to test it for myself.

So, I visited two supermarkets and one online grocer to get the prices for common snacks and treats. Here’s what I found.

Cost-effective snacks:

My results largely meshed with a study released last week by the United States Agriculture Department, which found that most fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods cost less than foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. These findings counter the common misperception that junk food is cheaper than nutritionally-balanced options. Phew.

I compared foods by looking at the portion size that would typically be eaten – i.e. one banana vs one chocolate bar. At 37 cents, a banana would beat the $1.25 chocolate bar, and also provides fiber, potassium, and magnesium that are lacking in the fatty, sugar-laden treat.

My results? Per serving, most healthy snacks cost about 51 cents, while treats are about 70 cents. It’s not a huge price difference, but it certainly proves the point that healthy snacks are not more expensive than sugary or salty treats.

Of course, this pattern was not true for every example. As you will see in the summary below, some healthy snacks are expensive and some treats are dirt cheap. You have to shop around and compare.

But when a treat is cheaper than a healthy snack, I would challenge you to remember that we cannot only judge a snack based on monetary costs. It’s also important to consider the cost to your child’s long-term health. And in that case, healthy snacks win over treats every time.

The cost of treats:

  • 50 g potato chips = $0.82
  • 50 g pretzels = $0.47
  • 1 Bear Paw = $0.62
  • 1 store-baked cookie = $0.50
  • Cereal grain bar = $0.46
  • 42 g chocolate bar = $1.25
  • 1 Froot by the Foot = $0.62
  • 50 g Goldfish crackers = $0.62
  • 50 g Real Fruit gummies = $0.78
  • 1 store-baked raisin scone = $0.86
  • 1 store-baked carrot muffin = $0.75

The cost of healthy snacks:

  • 1 medium apple = $0.61
  • 1 medium banana = $0.37
  • 2 carrot sticks = $0.40
  • 1 medium pear = $0.72
  • ½ cup grapes = $0.53
  • ½ cup edamame = $0.48
  • 1 kiwi fruit = $0.50
  • 1 whole grain granola bar = $0.55
  • ½ cup green peppers = $0.44
  • 50 g whole grain Triscuit crackers = $0.51
  • 1 x 7 inch whole grain tortilla with 1 tbsp nut-free butter = $0.53
  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn = $0.16
  • ½ cup roasted chickpeas = $0.42
  • ¾ cup yogurt = $0.79
  • 1 slice of whole grain bread with 25 g cheddar cheese = $0.58

It is possible to offer your kids healthy snacks and still stay within a tight food budget. It might take more effort (peeling carrots vs. tossing a pre-wrapped treat into a bag), but the long-term health of your children is certainly worth it!