Climate/Environment, Health and Improved Nutrition
Objectives : The cost of food, along with several other factors, influences how people eat and is an important facet of sustainability. Sustainable eating patterns are both nutritionally adequate and affordable. The objective of this study was to compare the cost to the consumer of obtaining shortfall nutrients from different food groups: milk and dairy, protein foods, mixed dishes, grains, snacks & sweets, fruits, and vegetables.
This analysis used dietary intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 (n = 5,876 children age 2-18 years and 9,953 adults age 19-99 years). Americans’ nutrient intake from food categories in “What We Eat in America” and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was determined using the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies. Food cost and the cost of nutrients were obtained from Center for Nutrition Promotion and Policy food cost database 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 and adjusted for inflation.
The daily mean cost of food was $4.74 ± 0.06 for children and $6.43 ± 0.06 for adults. “Protein foods” and “mixed dishes” were the two most expensive food categories (43-45% of daily food costs), and “milk and dairy” accounted for 6-12% of total daily food costs in both adults and children. “Milk and dairy” were also the least expensive dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D in the American diet. “Protein foods” and “grains” were the main dietary sources of choline, and “protein foods” were also the least expensive sources of choline. “Grains” were the least expensive sources of iron and magnesium, while “fruits” and “vegetables” were the least expensive sources of potassium and vitamin C, respectively. “Snacks & sweets” were the least expensive sources of vitamin E. Although “milk and dairy” were not the least costly sources of potassium, magnesium and vitamin A, they were the second least expensive.
In addition to contributing essential nutrients to the American diet, “milk and dairy” are also inexpensive sources for several of these nutrients, including three of the four “nutrients of public health concern” (calcium, vitamin D, and potassium), indicating that dairy foods can be part of sustainable eating patterns.
Funding Sources : National Dairy Council