High Food Costs Prevent 65% of Americans from Eating Healthy

Unfortunately, food costs are a deterrent for Americans trying to eat healthy.

Man shocked at grocery bill
Updated May 13, 2024
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Eating healthy can be tough … and expensive. Inspired by National Nutrition Month, FinanceBuzz recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to find out how the cost of healthy foods impacts their food choices and gather opinions on specific kinds of diets.

In this article

Key findings

  • 65% of Americans say the cost of healthy foods has "frequently" or "occasionally" deterred them from eating as healthy as they would like.
  • Since 2019, the average cost for foods essential to popular diets has risen by 11.64% on average. The overall inflation rate in that same time frame is just 9.05%.
  • Men are more likely than women to pursue a new diet this year — 42% of men say they will "definitely" or "probably" try a new diet in 2022, while 33% of women say the same.
  • The diet most people are willing to try is the Mediterranean diet (35%), while the ketogenic (keto) diet follows closely behind (27%).

How many people plan to try a new diet in 2022

Many people struggle with their weight and health, with CDC research finding that over 42% of adults in America are obese. Increasing exercise and changing dietary habits are among the best ways to combat obesity and other health issues, but there is no single program or diet that works for everyone. As a result, many people experiment with different techniques and programs to find the one that is right for them.

Our survey found that 38% of people are "definitely" or "probably" giving a new diet plan a try in 2022. Another 23% of people will “maybe” try a new dietary approach, while only 39% of people said it is unlikely they will try a new diet.

We also found men are more likely to try a new diet this year, with 42% of men indicating such a change is likely, compared to just 33% of women.

Graph showing the reasons people are trying new diets

When asked to give reasons for considering a new dietary approach this year, over half (54%) of respondents cited a desire to improve their overall health. The second most common response was weight loss (45%), and the third most common answer was changing their body appearance (33%).

How costs impact healthy eating

Graphs showing how the cost of healthy foods impacts healthy eating

While improving overall health is the top reason for a new diet, there's a major barrier for Americans trying to do this. Fresh, healthy foods often cost more than fast-food, pre-packaged meals, and unhealthy snacks. We found that 65% —nearly two-third of the population — has "frequently" or "occasionally" been deterred from eating as healthy as they would like because of the cost of food.

Demonstrating how universal this issue is, men and women said they had been deterred from healthy eating due to costs at nearly the exact same rate. We also found that at least 60% of respondents in every age group said the price of healthy foods has kept them from eating as healthy as they would like.

Graph showing how interested people are in trying different diet programs

We asked survey-takers to give their opinions about how likely they would be to try eight popular diets. The highest percentage of respondents are currently trying the keto diet (17%), while the Mediterranean diet (35%) received the highest level of respondents willing to try it.

Graph showing the changes over time in costs for foods that are essential parts of different diets

While people may be enthusiastic about trying these diets, food costs may impact the ability of people to actually follow the dietary guidelines of each program. We used government and grocery store pricing data on the costs for at least 15 different food items considered essential parts of each diet to see how prices for those items have risen since June of 2019. We also found the overall rate of inflation in the same time period to see if costs for these food items have risen faster or slower than costs in general.

While there is some overlap between the foods that are core to each diet, we made sure to include as many foods as possible that are considered critical for each diet. For example, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes heart-healthy fats, so we made sure to include olive oil as well as salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The paleo diet’s emphasis on meats led us to include beef, pork, and chicken when evaluating costs for that diet.

Of the eight diets we examined, food costs for all eight of them have risen even faster than inflation since 2019. On average, food costs for items essential to these diets have risen at a rate of 11.64% in the time period we examined, which is over 2.5 points higher than the overall inflation rate of 9.05% in that same time period.

Those wanting to give intermittent fasting a try will feel the biggest crunch in their bank accounts, as prices for nutrient-rich foods common on that diet, such as bananas and broccoli, have risen by 12.67% in the last 2 1/2 years.

That number is nearly matched by the diet that the highest percentage of people said they are currently trying — the costs for keto rose 12.49%.

Tips for saving at the grocery store

While the costs for healthy foods have recently risen faster than inflation, rising food costs have become a major concern for many, regardless of whether they are dieting or not. For those looking to save on groceries, here are a few tips:

  • Get rewarded when buying groceries. Many credit cards offer bonuses and increased rewards for grocery purchases, and using one of the best credit cards for groceries can help ease the sting of increased costs at the checkout.   
  • Hack your way to savings. There are lots of ways to save at the grocery store, from apps to coupons and more. Utilizing some of the top tips for spending less on groceries can help keep some cash in your pocket the next time you buy groceries.
  • Get big savings when you buy in bulk. Costco is beloved by shoppers due to the selection and savings the wholesale club offers. Smart shoppers can save even more by doing things like utilizing top Costco hacks or earning cash back by using the Costco Anywhere Visa Card.


FinanceBuzz surveyed between 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 or older, who comprise a nationally representative sample, on January 12, 2022. Historic and current costs for core diet food items were found via the Bureau of Labor Statistics Average Retail Food and Energy Prices report and grocery store websites. Food price data was pulled in February 2022.

The prices of the following foods were included for each diet:

  • Mediterranean: Olive oil, tomatoes, peppers, romaine lettuce, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, peanut butter, beans, whole wheat bread, salmon, boneless chicken breast, eggs, cheddar cheese, milk, coffee, red wine, Greek yogurt, apples, avocados.
  • Keto: Beef roasts, pork chops, boneless chicken breast, salmon, eggs, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, romaine lettuce, lemons, strawberries, milk, cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt, olive oil, butter, coffee, avocados.
  • Intermittent fasting: Apples, bananas, peaches, strawberries, pears, tomatoes, broccoli, romaine lettuce, rice, olive oil, eggs, salmon, beef roasts, pork chops, boneless chicken breast, avocados.
  • Vegan: Beans, peanut butter, broccoli, bananas, strawberries, apples, romaine lettuce, oranges, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, peaches, pears, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, avocados.
  • Vegetarian: ​​Beans, peanut butter, broccoli, bananas, strawberries, apples, romaine lettuce, oranges, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, peaches, pears, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, eggs, butter, cheddar cheese, milk, avocados.
  • Weight Watchers: Bacon, beans, ground beef, whole wheat bread, butter, American cheese, boneless chicken breast, coffee, chocolate chip cookies, eggs, salmon, boneless ham, milk, olive oil, peanut butter, potatoes, pork chops, rice, spaghetti, red wine, Greek yogurt, avocados.
  • Paleo: Ground beef, pork chops, boneless chicken breast, salmon, eggs, broccoli, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, apples, bananas, pears, oranges, potatoes, olive oil, strawberries, avocados.
  • Whole30: Ground beef, pork chops, boneless chicken breast, salmon, eggs, olive oil, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, peppers, bananas, strawberries, apples, beans, potatoes, grapes, peaches, avocados.

Author Details

Josh Koebert

Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.