Do you have to be rich to be healthy?

Warning: if you intend to consume as many calories as possible, for the least amount of money, then this article may not be for you. But what if do you intend to prioritise nutrition? Like a lot of us these days, you may be questioning if it’s really possible to sustain a healthy, nutritious lifestyle—without emptying your bank account.

Take the example of a Big Mac. Approximately 540 calories worth of purely processed carbs and saturated fat, leaving you out of pocket by £3.99. So why not choose the more nutritious option? Instead, why not go for 540 calories worth of strawberries, for a bargain price of £14.60? Or, the equivalent caloric intake of blueberries, coming in slightly cheaper at £10.60?

No wonder the perception of “having to be rich to be healthy” is so widespread. No wonder more and more people these days are turning to cheaper, more convenient alternatives, albeit packed with sugar and saturated fats. And no wonder rates of obesity have been exceeding those ever observed before.

So, the question is, do you have to be rich to be healthy, or is it all just an excuse?

A study carried out by nutritionists at Harvard University compared the diets of nearly 80,000 women. Their findings didn’t surprise them; women who spent more on food tended to have a healthier diet. Yet, interestingly, they concluded that in terms of the best investment for dietary health, the purchase of plant-based foods came out on top.

Nutritional information is being made more public, meaning we can compare the cost of foods based on their nutritional content. Meat costs roughly three times more than vegetables, yet yields 16 times less nutrition (based on the accumulated amount of nutrients). So, because meat is less nutritious and costs more, vegetables will net you 48 times more nutrition per pound (lb), compared to meat!

But are you likely to eat a pound of meat a day? Even exchanging two beef burgers for the equivalent weight of vegetables generates some serious health benefits. Not only will you consume on average 24 times more nutrients, reduce the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet, but you’ll help keep your bank balance afloat.

Dr Michael Greger, founder of, suggests that if you are looking to buy foods high in nutritional value, then opt for more beans, whole grains, nuts and soya products. These foods not only offer a healthy alternative to meat-based protein, but are significantly cheaper.

So, do you really have to have buckets of cash in the bank to sustain a healthy lifestyle? It’s clear that processed foods only beat healthier options on a cost-per-calorie basis. Slowly cutting your meat consumption is just one way of getting around this, whilst directing your diet towards plant-based alternatives and fresh fruit and veg (instead of packaged products), is an efficient way to sustain both your health, and your bank balance.

The message remains: you don’t have to compromise your capital to eat healthily; all it takes is an open-mind and willingness to prioritise.