In Australia, Mediterranean Diet Costs Less than Alternatives, Study Finds

Researchers found Australians could save 28 Australian dollars per week by following the Mediterranean diet.
Melbourne, Australia
By Thomas Sechehaye
Sep. 6, 2023 14:35 UTC

New research from the University of Southern Australia con­firmed the Mediterranean diet is good for health and fits a lower weekly bud­get.

The study com­pared food bas­kets of the Mediterranean, the typ­i­cal Australian Western and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating diets.

If dietary guide­lines are mov­ing towards pre­dom­i­nantly plant-based diets like the Mediterranean diet, we need to under­stand the costs and afford­abil­ity for all Australians.- Karen Murphy, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor, University of Southern Australia

The Mediterranean diet was more cost-effec­tive than other stan­dard diets, sav­ing 28 Australian dol­lars (€17) per week while offer­ing higher nutri­tional value.

Many peo­ple may think that eat­ing healthy’ is expen­sive and it takes a lot of time to pre­pare and cook food,” Karen Murphy, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the University of Southern Australia, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Americans Find Cost of Food Biggest Barrier to a Healthy Diet, Survey Finds

We know from pre­vi­ous research from around the world and from our stud­ies here in Australia that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy dietary pat­tern; Australians can fol­low the pat­tern and, as a result, achieve ben­e­fits to their car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and mem­ory,” she added.

Ella Bracci, a Ph.D. can­di­date at the University of Southern Australia and first author of the study, told Olive Oil Times that the research sought to update the con­cept of healthy food bas­kets, designed to mon­i­tor food afford­abil­ity and pric­ing for indi­vid­u­als and tra­di­tional nuclear fam­i­lies.

They have been mod­eled from our dietary guide­lines but may no longer apply to the com­po­si­tion of house­holds (cou­ples, sin­gles, sin­gle par­ents, etc.), may not meet 100 per­cent of dietary require­ments and may use sim­ply the cheap­est brand pos­si­ble, which does not reflect the lat­est con­sumer pur­chas­ing trends,” she said.

The study aimed to achieve two main out­comes. The first was to update the Healthy Food Basket for Australia with rel­e­vant pur­chas­ing trends and house­hold com­po­si­tions, includ­ing a cou­ple with chil­dren, a sin­gle par­ent with two chil­dren, two elderly pen­sion­ers and a sin­gle adult.

The sec­ond out­come was to com­pare the cost of fol­low­ing a Mediterranean dietary pat­tern with Australian dietary rec­om­men­da­tions for healthy eat­ing – the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating – and with that of a typ­i­cal Western diet based on the most recent sur­vey of what Australians eat.

If dietary guide­lines are mov­ing towards pre­dom­i­nantly plant-based diets like the Mediterranean diet, we need to under­stand the costs and afford­abil­ity for all Australians,” Murphy said. A healthy food bas­ket does not cur­rently exist for Australians.”

The Mediterranean diet food bas­ket was mod­eled from a seven-day meal plan. The design met all house­hold nutri­ent rec­om­men­da­tions except the dietary zinc needed for a 44-year-old male.

The Mediterranean diet bas­ket was gen­er­ally the most inex­pen­sive way of eat­ing. It costs 78 Australian dol­lars (€46) for a sin­gle-per­son house­hold and 285 Australian dol­lars (€170) for a four-per­son house­hold,” Murphy said.

Vegetables were the main con­trib­u­tor to all house­hold food bas­kets. In con­trast, meat and veg­eta­bles were the main cost for the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating bas­kets, and dis­cre­tionary foods such as bis­cuits and processed meats were the most sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tors to the Western diet bas­kets.

Vegetables were, in fact, the low­est-cost com­po­nent of the Western diet,” Bracci said.

The authors said the study could inspire action­able steps for peo­ple seek­ing a bud­get-friendly approach to the Mediterranean-style diet.

See Also:Focus on Healthier Diets Instead of Demonizing Certain Foods, Health Researcher Argues

Use the prin­ci­ple of a din­ner plate with a ratio of plant to ani­mal foods of 4:1,” Murphy said. Keeping a few prin­ci­ples in mind, she advised home chefs to sub­sti­tute red meat with legumes and beans.

Choose foods in sea­son,” she added. Frozen fruit and veg­eta­bles are fine, and canned veg­eta­bles and fruits (in nat­ural) juice are great to con­sume. Dried or canned legumes and beans are another good way of includ­ing pulses in your diet.”


Choose white meat over red, and choose the appro­pri­ate por­tion size – gen­er­ally, use the palm of your hand to esti­mate the size of meat in a serv­ing,” Murphy said.

If you have the space, pur­chase prod­ucts in bulk,” Bracci rec­om­mended. Home brand prod­ucts may just be as good as branded prod­ucts – give them a try.”

Her favorite tip starts in the gar­den. Grow your own herbs – oregano, pars­ley, thyme, and mint are good ones to start with.”

Simplifying cook­ing and shop­ping often starts with plan­ning a weekly menu. Plan your weekly menu so you can shop to a menu and avoid food wastage,” Murphy said. Choose sim­ple recipes with com­mon ingre­di­ents, so you don’t have to pur­chase spe­cialty prod­ucts and 15 dif­fer­ent herbs and spices.”

A lot of Mediterranean dishes are sofrito based – extra vir­gin olive oil, gar­lic, onion and toma­toes – we can cheat by cook­ing some onion and fresh gar­lic in good qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil and adding pas­sata or a can of diced or chopped toma­toes – a great base for soups, pasta and sauces,” Bracci said.

When peo­ple think about the Mediterranean diet, they some­times think about pizza and pasta, com­mon foods con­sumed in Italy,” she added. We must rec­og­nize that there are many dif­fer­ent diets and cuisines from many coun­tries sur­round­ing the Mediterranean basin.”

The study authors note that many peo­ple have a good gen­eral under­stand­ing of the com­po­si­tion of a Mediterranean diet. However, Bracci said, peo­ple might not under­stand that it is really a way of life.”

It is not just about eat­ing and focus­ing on food groups, but it also rec­og­nizes fru­gal­ity, includ­ing choos­ing foods in sea­son,” she con­cluded. The lifestyle includes eat­ing socially, con­sum­ing wine in mod­er­a­tion, being active, tak­ing time to rest and choos­ing eco-friendly prod­ucts for a sus­tain­able envi­ron­ment.”


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