People with higher education levels have higher quality diets but the better diets are most costly, U.S. researchers said.
Researchers from the University of Washington compared the eating habits and food costs of a sample of 164 adults in the Seattle area.
Pablo Monsivais and Adam Drewnowski, both of the University of Washington, Seattle, said energy density of the diet — i.e., available energy per unit weight — is one indicator of diet quality. Lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy products and fresh vegetables and fruit provide fewer calories per unit weight than do fast foods, sweets, candy and desserts.
Energy dense foods provide more calories per unit weight but tend to be nutrient-poor.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, said that for both men and women, higher dietary energy density was associated with higher intakes of total fat and saturated fat and with lower intakes of dietary fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C. Daily diet cost was slightly higher for men at $6.72/day than women at $6.21/day — reflecting the fact that men ate more than women.
However, for each 2,000 calories of dietary energy, men spent $7.43 compared to $8.12 spent by women. Diets that were more costly in terms of dietary energy were also lower in energy density and contained higher levels of nutrients.