The weekly cost of a healthy family diet

The weekly cost of a healthy family diet

Report reveals the weekly cost of a healthy family diet for low income households.

A study by Safefood has revealed some families need to spend up to €160 a week to eat a healthy balanced diet, a 36% share of their budget if on a low income or social welfare.

The study also revealed the cost of a healthy food basket for different household types, such as:

  • A two parent, two children household needs to spend between €121 and €160 a week
  • A one parent, two children family needs to spend up to €101
  • For a pensioner living alone, the cost of a healthy food shop is €64 per week.

Introducing the report, Ray Dolan, CEO, safefood said: “This study confirms the stark choices that low income households have to make, spending in some cases up to one third of their weekly take home income in order to purchase a minimum acceptable standard of food, while also meeting their nutrition and social needs.”

“Families on a low-income tend to eat less well, have poorer health outcomes with higher levels of obesity and its’ complications, continued Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood. In general, cheaper foods and takeaways are simply less nutritious. This presents a real challenge for parents when it comes to food shopping and planning for the week”.

The research was based on menus put together by consumers themselves and details the cost of a healthy food basket for six of the most common² household types in the Republic of Ireland.

The contents of the food basket costed in the study were based on menus put together by people themselves.

People selected an acceptable food basket in terms of taste and menu choices, while also meeting the social needs of a household for example hosting visitors or special occasions like birthdays.

The food baskets were reviewed by nutritionists from University of York to make sure they met the nutritional guidelines of the Food Pyramid and price-checked accordingly.

The weekly cost of a healthy family diet

The weekly cost of a healthy family diet

The research reveals the challenges facing low‑income families to balance the expense of a minimum nutritious food basket while meeting other weekly household expenses.

Research lead Dr Bernadette MacMahon of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice continued “This is our second report into the cost of a basic but healthy food basket in the Republic of Ireland. While some food prices may have fallen slightly since our first food basket report last year, low-income consumers continue to struggle to afford a healthy, balanced diet.”

“Because the contents of the food baskets in this study were put together by people themselves, this gives us an evidence-based measure which is grounded in the lived experience of Irish households”, added Dr MacMahon. This research will help inform the decisions needed to tackle food poverty in our communities.”

“Food poverty is complex. It affects those living on low incomes, with limited access to transport and poor cooking skills while others in the same situation have a healthy diet in spite of these obstacles”, continued Dr Foley-Nolan. “In trying to make a limited household budget go further by compromising on healthy foods, some households are ending up nutritionally poor”, she added.

The findings also show the cost depends on the age and number of people in the household. In particular, the cost of providing food for an adolescent is similar to that for an adult.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


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Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.