In one corner of the ring, your favorite box of snack cakes for $1.99. In the other corner, a bag of apples for $3.99. Ding! Ding! Ding! Looking solely at the price tag, Healthy Food gets knocked out, and Junk Food is ruled the winner. But let’s rewind the tape and take a closer look at the true cost of eating junk food.

The Cost and Contents of Food

If you’re getting your junk food fix from your favorite fast food restaurant, you’re definitely spending more than if you bought fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains from the grocery store. But if you compare apples to apples, or rather, apples to candy bars both bought from the grocery store, junk food definitely seems less expensive.

While junk does seem cheaper, you’re eating just that—junky, cheap ingredients, which supply little to no nutritional value. Some of these foods also contain ingredients which are actually damaging to your health. While the immediate price difference may seem like an incentive to buy junk food, the cheaper cost is balanced out when you start paying for health care, doctor visits, and medicines to address illnesses that result (directly or indirectly) from your food choices. When it comes to eating, you really do get what you pay for.

How Much Does Healthy Food Really Cost?

On the other hand, healthy, whole foods (we’re talking fruits and vegetables, not foods labeled “Low Fat” or “Diet”) have been known to prevent certain cancers as well as reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and other preventable diseases. And notice, many of these medical issues are, in fact, preventable. Our food (and exercise) choices make a big difference. So, while you may be paying more at the grocery checkout line, you’ll probably save on unnecessary medical expenses: You’ll sleep better, be sick less often, miss less days of work, pay less of your insurance deductibles (because of less doctor visits and prescription needs), and just feel better!

For more information healthy food choices, check out this article and this website.

For more in-depth research on the link between food and health care costs, click here.