- New research has found that the Mediterranean diet could help you save money on your grocery bill.
- The diet was found to offer savings of up to $1456 per year for a family of four when compared to the typical Western diet.
- The Mediterranean diet offers many health benefits, including a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes
Taste. Cost. Healthfulness. These are just some of the factors you might consider when buying groceries.
Now, new research shows that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is not only better for your health than a typical Western diet, but it’s better for your bank account too.
The research, which was carried out at the University of South Australia, compared the nutrition profile and weekly costs of three food baskets: the typical Australian Western diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE).
Both the Mediterranean diet and the Australian Guide To Healthy Eating met many of the recommendations for good health, including food groups, macronutrient distribution, and key micronutrients. However, the Australian Western diet was significantly lacking in fiber, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin B6, and had double the recommended salt intake.
When it came to cost, the Mediterranean diet reigned supreme with a weekly cost of $78 for a single-person household, $135 for a household of two, $211 for a family of three, and $285 for a family of four.
Cost is often a deterrent when it comes to eating well, however, this new research shows that the Mediterranean diet – well known for its health benefits – may be a cost-effective option for families who want to prioritize healthy eating while on a budget.
“The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of whole foods and healthy fats, which are typically less expensive than processed foods commonly found in a Western diet,” says Bari Stricoff, registered dietitian for Well Easy. “This data is encouraging. It demonstrates that eating healthier does not have to be more expensive, which is a common misconception.”
She says, “While the Mediterranean diet has traditionally been seen as more expensive because of the addition of nuts and fish, it can actually work out cheaper due to the large number of fruits and vegetables.”
The Mediterranean diet includes a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods and is based on food traditionally eaten in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Spain, Greece, and Italy.
It’s characterized by a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and olive oil. It also includes moderate amounts of fish and poultry and limits the intake of red meat, processed foods, and sweets.
The Mediterranean diet is typically high in protein and fiber, both of which help you feel fuller for longer.
In contrast, Stricoff says the hyper-palatable nature of a Western-style diet, combined with the reduced satiety these foods offer, can cause you to eat more, further contributing to higher food costs.
Additionally, Stricoff notes that the Mediterranean diet encourages eating in season, which can also make your weekly shopping more cost-effective.
The Mediterranean diet is often considered to be one of the healthiest diets to follow.
In particular, eating a Mediterranean diet may help lower several health risks, including:
It can also promote weight loss and reduce the risk of early death.
“As a registered dietitian, I can affirm that the Mediterranean diet is one of the most health-promoting dietary patterns recognized by the scientific community. The benefits of this diet are extensive and multi-faceted, rooted in its emphasis on a variety of nutrient-dense, whole foods,” says Stricoff.
She notes that the inclusion of healthy fats can reduce levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. What’s more, the emphasis on eating unprocessed whole foods, means the diet is typically lower in added sugars, salts, and unhealthy fats, all of which can contribute to obesity, heart disease, and hypertension.
Stricoff says a fundamental aspect of the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits lies in its potential to reduce chronic inflammation.
“Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor in many non-communicable diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer,” she explains.
“The high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds provides substantial amounts of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.”
The Mediterranean diet may even be beneficial for your mental health.
The reasons to eat a Mediterranean diet are many and this new research confirms that eating this way need not be expensive.
If you’re planning to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, how can you cut those costs even further?
Rutishauser-Perera says introducing more vegetables to your diet and reducing the number of times you eat meat is an excellent starting point.
“You could start having a plant-based meal at least two days a week, or aim to include more vegetables at each meal,” she suggests.
You don’t always need to buy fresh either, particularly if you’re worried about food waste contributing to the cost of your grocery bill.
“It’s important to remember that canned or frozen foods count within the recommendation of eating five portions of vegetables and fruit per day and contain a high level of vitamins and minerals,” she points out.
Buying in season is another great money-saving tip. Rutishauser-Perera recommends researching what fruit and vegetables are in season at different points in the year and creating meal plans around this.
Meanwhile, Stricoff advises prioritizing plant-based proteins.
“Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans are cheaper than most animal-based proteins and are a key part of the Mediterranean diet. They often come tinned or you can buy them dried, which is very cost-effective,” she notes.
It’s not just what you buy but how you cook and store food that can have an impact on your wallet too. For example, batch-cooking meals and freezing them.
Budget is often cited as a barrier when it comes to eating well, but this new research is clear: by following the Mediterranean diet, you can mind your health and your money.