Public Health Nutrition

Health economy

A cost comparison of more and less nutritious food choices in US supermarkets

David L Katza1 c1, Kim Doughtya1, Valentine Njikea1, Judith A Treua1, Jesse Reynoldsa1, Jennifer Walkera2, Erica Smitha2 and Catherine Katza1

a1 Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, Griffin Hospital, 130 Division Street, Derby, CT 06418, USA

a2 Independence School District, Independence, MO, USA


Objective The present study directly compared prices of more and less nutritious foods within given categories in US supermarkets.

Design Foods selected from six supermarkets in Jackson County were categorized using the five criteria of the Nutrition Detectives™ (ND) programme and an item-to-item cost comparison was made using posted prices. The nutritional quality of foods was distinguished using the clues of the ND nutrition education programme for elementary-school children and validated using the Overall Nutritional Quality Index.

Setting Supermarkets in Jackson County, MO, USA.

Subjects Not applicable.

Results The average price of the item for more nutritious foods did not differ significantly from that of less nutritious foods overall ($US 2·89 (sd $US 0·74) v. $US 2·85 (sd $0·68), P = 0·76). More nutritious breads cost more than less nutritious breads ($US 3·36 (sd $ US 0·28) v. $US 2·56 (sd $US 0·80, P = 0·03), whereas more nutritious cereals ($US 2·46 (sd $US 0·69) v. $US 3·50 (sd $US 0·30), P < 0·01) and cookies ($US 2·76 (sd $US 0·50) v. $US 3·40 (sd $US0·28), P < 0·01) cost less.

Conclusions Our findings indicate that it is possible to choose more nutritious foods within many common categories without spending more money and suggest that making small improvements in dietary choices does not invariably cost more.

(Received March 22 2010)

(Accepted January 12 2011)

(Online publication February 28 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email,