Research shows that many Americans could eat healthier meals — if they made more time.
In May, the USDA’s food plan estimated that an individual would need to spend $70 a week to prepare healthy food at home. But a follow-up study in the Journal of Nutrition found that the USDA missed a major cost factor — time. In fact, the value of the time spent chopping and cooking can outweigh the cost of food
Cooking is labor intensive, and time is not an unlimited or free resource. According to a formula developed by economists at the Warwick University in England, an hour of time equals around $16.55.
Among breakfast, lunch and dinner over the course of a seven-day week (21 meals), the USDA recommends taking 9 to 16 total hours per week to prepare healthy meals — this means the health-conscious cook loses $150 a week in labor.
Many Americans simply can’t spend that much time washing lettuce leaves and chopping celery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average working woman has only five hours a week to spend on food preparation — creating nutritious meals at home is an unlikely reality.
Some Americans are turning to meal-delivery services for healthy meals that don’t require hours of cooking time.
Caroline Cederquist M.D., a bariatric physician and the developer of the Bistro MD meal plan, which offers physician-designed, metabolically balanced meals and free access to dieticians, explains:
“When adding the USDA’s conservative $70 for groceries and the $150 weekly value of time in preparing healthy meals, it becomes clear how spending as little as $22.85 a day for Bistro MD meals that are delivered right to your home is a real bargain.”
Americans spend less on food than people in many other developed nations, but inexpensive junk food comes with a price — fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, obesity and other diseases. A study by Johns Hopkins University determined that 75 percent of all U.S. adults will be overweight in the next five years.