Are You Willing to Pay More for Healthy Food?

By , Dana Angelo White, Food Network’s Healthy Eats
A recent study finds that Americans aren’t willing to put their money where their mouth is for healthier restaurant options. Are some foods worth the extra cash?

Footing the Bill

study published in June finds that a large chunk of Americans aren’t willing to pay more for healthy foods at restaurants. The New York based marketing research firm that published the report found that approximately 70 percent of consumers over age 50 don’t expect to pay a higher price for more health-conscious menu items. The study also points out a decrease since 2007 in overall interest in seeking out healthier fare. 

There seems to be a bit more hope for younger folks (ages 18 to 24) — only 44 percent said they wouldn’t be willing to cough up more money.

Researchers recommend that restaurants increase efforts to offer healthy fare at comparable price points to other menu choices to keep customers coming back. My suggestion: restaurants could downsize large portions to help adjust costs.

Money-Saving Solutions

Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank, use our money-saving tips when cooking at home or dining out.

Eat Out Less – Don’t rely on restaurants to be your source for healthy. Making your own meals is almost always the smarter choice.

Shop Around – When shopping for healthy foods, hit up a few different stores to find the best bargains. You don’t need to go to multiple places every week, but a few extra trips can lead to big savings.

Bulk Up – Produce, grains, spices, meat, seafood and other healthy items can come cheaper when bought in large quantities.

Click here for more Money-Saving Solutions from Food Network.

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What items are you willing to pay more for when you shop?

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I agree with the premise as to what exactly constitutes "HEALTHY" food for this article. Furthermore, I think we pay too much for certain foods that might be considered healthier (mind you we all pay for convenience as WELL). I feel that once again companies and restaurants are going to use this as another GIMMICK to pad their bottom line. Report
Well, as others have pointed out, this study/article is a bit useless since it doesn't give examples of what "healthy" vs "unhealthy" is. However, that being said, I rarely eat out as I have to be on a gluten free diet, and it is difficult to find those options (or restaurants who don't cross-contaminate with their utensils, etc.) However, on those rare occasions I do, I always go for the healthy. However, I would say about half the time those are tasteless disappointments. So, it dawns on me that maybe it isn't the price per se, but the fact they don't want to pay more for tasteless food. Report
I try not to pay more for healthy food - I still cannot understand why brown (less processing than white) rice should cost more than white/parboiled/bleached rice. It doesn't make sense unless you look at economics 101 - the price of goods is related to what the market will bear.

I seldom eat out but I have found that Applebee's have two great menu sections that suit my husband and I really well. The 'under 550 calorie' section has smaller portion meals at a good price and recently I discovered some Weight Watchers Items at very reasonable prices - now those are the types of meals that we happily enjoy on the special occasion when we eat out. Report
The question was about what we'll pay for when we shop... the study was about what we'd pay for at a restaurant - two completely different things...

Articles about studies like this are really quite useless - you don't know what biases were introduced by who they interviewed (or where) - was it people sitting in a McDonalds, walking into Trader Joe's, or a true cross section of people? How did the subjects interpret "healthy option" ? Does that mean only tofu will do, or that chicken is better than steak, or that steak is okay if it's grass fed? for that matter, how do they interpret "Pay more". Do they envision it as menus that read "side salad - $1.00, organic side salad - $2.00"

Generally, I think people who are really interested in "healthy" food - whatever their definition - probably aren't going to restaurants that much, or they find niche restaurants that cater to styles they like, which serve healthy food as their standard.

As for shopping, I spend more on all sorts of things - organic and/or local as often as possible, things made with simple ingredients (i.e. NOT made out of synthetics by food-industry giants), and I do it at a smaller regional market that gets product from local businesses and farms. That goes for my pets' foods as well. Report
I get mad. It's less food. It should cost less. I blame the corn subsidies. Report
I eat at almost no chain restaurants because (a) their portions are ridiculously large (2) their preparation methods are rarely transparent (c) they tend to use cheapest sources for ingredients.

Locally, there are several places that (1) make an effort to buy their ingredients locally from responsible sources (2) are up-front and open about their cooking methods (3) have reasonable-sized portions. I eat at those places, pay a bit more (maybe $1-2/meal) and celebrate their standards and ethos. Report
Independents tend to be more responsive to their customers, and figure that the longer they wait to have a heart attack the more repeat business they will get. The chains want to please their shareholders, that way their boards members get bigger bonuses, after all there is one born every minute! Report
I think that a lot of restaurants have attempted to put healthier options on the menu, only to find that people won't eat them. There is no question that it is easier and cheaper to put healthy meals together by yourself. However, for many people, eating out is sometimes a necessity. OK, maybe not an absolute necessity, but if you are travelling or under social pressure, it may be hard not to eat out. I do agree with CRYSTALLULLABY though. It does seem like local restaurants are a little better about keeping foods healthier than chain restaurants. Report
I do pay more for healthier food when I eat out. While my husband and children opt for their favorites, I opt for the grilled chicken salads that most restaurants offer. This will usually last me for two meals as I have had gastric bypass. This makes it more economical for me, as well as healthy. I also still have my favorites that I love, but I opt for the lighter versions that I can create at home myself with items bought at the grocers. I just wish more people were willing to pay more to stay healthy now days. It is a shame that the obesity rate in this country is skyrocketing out of control. Report
My techinque for getting healthy food without paying more is to ask for the lunch portion or share my dinner with a friend. This allows us to purchase a healthier option while having enough to eat without having to deal with leftovers.
However, if they don't have a petite or lunch portion OR I can't agree on what to share with my friend, I will tend to order less healthy to save money.
I think it sad that everything that is good for you comes with extra challenge/pressure. That being said although i would not prefer to spend the extra cash once in a while i would as a treat. That being said i would not opt for a £7.95 ceaser salad if i could get a more satisfying plate of food that i would probably not be able to finish for £6.00. I know the difference is small but right now every penny counts. Report
I agree with ALICIALYNNE. I can grill a chicken breast and make a salad for $2.00 a serving at home - I'm not going to pay $9.99 - $14.99. And fast food restaurants, I can't even enjoy a "splurge" there anymore. It just makes me feel gross (and I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE Big Macs). Again, when I can have a grilled chicken salad for $1.50 - it's kinda hard to even splurge.

When I do eat out anymore (once or twice a month), I tend to gravitate toward local cheaper restaurants where their menu tends toward healthier and tastier food (Greek, local sandwich shop, Thai, and even Mexican). The chains just can't seem to figure out that you can have tasty, amazing, and healthy meals with minimal ingredients, fuss and cost to the customer. Report
What chain restaurants are really offering healthy food right now? I would happily pay more for healthy food that actually is yummy. Frankly, that's part of why I LOVE McDonalds- my Bacon Ranch Salad does have cheese and such on it, but keeps me full and satisfied for hours. The salad is actually better than Subway's subs after you get done putting on the cheese and mayo. For real, sit-down restaurants, I truly cannot find enjoyable healthfood fare that is worth going out to eat. If I can make it at home (and have it taste just as delicious!), I'm not going to pay 15$ for it at the restaurant. Report
I'm not surprised by this at all, and it is one of the big reasons I don't eat out- Healthier options tend to more expensive than unhealthy. Even making healthy subs on an unhealthy meal costs more at most restaurants.

Sadly, as long as people are willing to pay for crap food, we'll be stuck with it. Report