Prevention of Non Communicable Diseases

Food cost and adherence to guidelines for healthy diets: evidence from Belgium

Abstract

Background/Objectives

Evidence on whether healthy diets are more expensive than less healthy diets is mixed. The relative cost of meeting healthy diet guidelines in Belgium was estimated.

Subjects/Methods

Data from the nationally representative food consumption survey (FCS) 2014–2015 (n = 3146; 3–64 years) were used. Dietary data were collected through two non-consecutive 24-h recalls (records for children). Average prices for >2000 foods were retrieved from the 2014 GfK ConsumerScan panel and linked with foods consumed in the FCS. Daily costs of meeting nutritional guidelines were estimated across age and household education level groups.

Results

Processed meat contributed most (9.8%–14.4% dependent on age group) to the daily cost of diets. Soft drinks contributed to the daily cost more while fruits and vegetables contributed less for lower versus higher educated households. Compared to individuals not meeting any nutrient recommendations (sodium, saturated fat, free sugar, fibre), the average cost/2000 kcal was significantly higher for individuals meeting one (0.36 ± 0.11€, p = 0.001), two (0.87 ± 0.14€, p < 0.001) or three or more (1.44 ± 0.24€, p < 0.001) recommendations. Similarly, compared to individuals not meeting any of the food-based recommendations (fruit, vegetables, wholegrain, nuts and seeds, red meat, processed meat), the average cost/2000 kcal was significantly higher for individuals meeting three or more (1.04 ± 0.27€; p < 0.001) recommendations. For adults, diets meeting guidelines for vegetables were 20% and for fruits 10% more expensive than diets not meeting those guidelines.

Conclusions

The cost of diets of Belgian people meeting healthy diet guidelines is greater than of those not meeting guidelines. Policies that make healthy diets more affordable are recommended.

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Acknowledgements

The authors want to thank the Federal Public Service of Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment for providing funding for the national food consumption survey 2014/2015 and the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) for providing a Research credit (Grant no. J.0017.19) for this study.

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Correspondence to Stefanie Vandevijvere.

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Vandevijvere, S., Seck, M., Pedroni, C. et al. Food cost and adherence to guidelines for healthy diets: evidence from Belgium. Eur J Clin Nutr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-00815-z

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