Eating Money: How Much Food Will A Dollar Buy You? [Chart]

Eating Money: How Much Food Will A Dollar Buy You? [Chart]

Are cheap calories the reason why people are unhealthy?

Kyana Gordon
  • 30 june 2011

Welcome to the dollar menu where on a price-per-calorie basis, unhealthy food is much cheaper than a healthier option. The above chart from Lapham’s Quarterly (click here to enlarge) illustrates this fact by depicting how many calories you can buy for one dollar. For a buck, choose among eating 1/2 a head of iceberg lettuce, (50 calories), more than a half gallon of water (0 calories), or an entire McDouble sandwich (390 calories). This chart emphasizes a major problem with the American diet because healthy food comes at a price.


The New York Times Economix blog charted the historic rise in price for different food categories relative to overall inflation since 1978 and revealed the growing price gap. For example, the price of soda has dropped more than 30%, while the price of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased by more than 30%. To demonstrate this point the Times explains how it cost $5 to buy 2,000 calories at McDonald’s, $19 to buy 2,000 calories worth of canned tuna and $60 to buy 2,000 calories worth of lettuce.

If food corporations aren’t taking the initiative to produce or sell healthier foods, should there be a tax on unhealthy foods? It definitely has shifted the behavior of cigarette smokers. Though it doesn’t all boil down to dollars and cents, it’s important to place a spotlight on the price-per-calorie comparison to bring awareness to the larger issue: food consumption and the American diet.

[via Lapham’s Quarterly and New York Times Economix]

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