The Mediterranean diet is good for your health and also for your weekly budget

We’ve heard it time and time again – the Mediterranean diet is great for our health. But despite the significant health benefits of this diet, a common deterrent is often the expected costs, especially when budgets are tight.

Image credit: University of South Australia

Now, new research from the University of South Australia shows that the Mediterranean diet is not only good for your health but also for your weekly budget, saving a family of four a week $28 ( or $1456 per year) compared to the typical Western diet.

The study compared the nutrient profile and weekly costs of three food baskets based on: the typical Western Australian diet, the Mediterranean diet and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE).

It found that the Mediterranean diet and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating met recommendations for food groups, macronutrient distribution and key micronutrients associated with good health, but the typical Australian diet was significantly lacking in fibre, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin B6, and had double the recommended salt intake.

The Mediterranean diet costs $78 per week for a one-person household, $135 for a two-person household, $211 for a three-person family, and $285 for a four-person family.

Ella Bracci, a UniSA researcher and PhD candidate, says research shows that a Mediterranean diet can be a viable and healthy option for cost-conscious families.

Diet is one of the main modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases. Yet a significant number of Australians still do not consume a healthy, balanced diet.

Australians tend to eat a fair amount of foods high in fat, salt and sugar, which mirrors the Western diet. Unfortunately, it also contributes to rising rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and osteoporosis.

To help combat unhealthy food choices, global agencies are increasingly endorsing plant-based diets such as the Mediterranean diet as their preferred guide to healthy eating. The challenge, however, has been for people to adopt them in Australia and one of the biggest hurdles is the perceived cost.

The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, seeds and seafood, and these foods are thought to be more expensive. And with the cost of living so high in Australia, it’s no surprise that people are careful about where their hard-earned money goes.

This research shows how a Mediterranean diet can be a cost-effective option, allowing people to prioritize both their health and their hip pouch.

Ella Bracci, UniSA researcher and doctoral student.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that a healthy, balanced diet should include five food groups: fruits, vegetables and legumes, breads and cereals, dairy products and meats (and alternatives).

Only 8% of Australians eat the recommended 375g of vegetables per day, with the average Australian consuming up to 35% of their daily energy from foods high in salt, added sugars and unhealthy fats.

UniSA Associate Professor Karen Murphy says healthy food shopping is more affordable than some people think.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t have to break the bank, but eating unhealthy foods can damage your body.

Whether you prefer to follow the Australian guidelines for healthy eating or the Mediterranean diet, both provide the necessary nutrients and energy, but as this study shows, the Mediterranean diet is generally less expensive.

As with everything, shopping around, looking for deals and discounts, buying in season, or stocking up on frozen, dried, and canned goods can help lower your weekly grocery costs. Just like choosing private label or non-premium products.

Saving $28 a week may seem like a small thing, but over a year it’s almost $1,500, which can make a big difference to your budget when times get tough.

Karen Murphy, Associate Professor, UniSA

Researchers reveal the secret to healthy eating on a budget | 9 News Australia

Video credit: UNISA


University of South Australia

Journal reference:

Weapons, EL, et al. (2023). Development of a Mediterranean healthy food basket and an updated Australian healthy food basket modeled on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Nutrients.

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