Mediterranean Diet Proves Affordable and Nutritious Choice in Australia, Study Reveals

by Ella

Recent research conducted by the University of Southern Australia has reaffirmed the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet while highlighting its cost-effectiveness when compared to alternative dietary patterns.

The study meticulously assessed the food baskets associated with the Mediterranean diet, the typical Australian Western diet, and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating diet.


In a landscape where dietary guidelines are increasingly emphasizing plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, researchers sought to gain insights into the financial implications and affordability of these dietary choices for all Australians.


The findings of the study indicated that the Mediterranean diet emerged as a more economical option compared to other conventional diets, resulting in a savings of 28 Australian dollars (approximately €17) per week per person while simultaneously offering enhanced nutritional value.


Karen Murphy, an associate professor at the University of Southern Australia, stressed the misconception that “eating healthy” is expensive and time-consuming. She explained, “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.”


Ella Bracci, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern Australia and the first author of the study, shed light on the research’s primary objectives. It aimed to modernize the concept of “healthy food baskets” originally designed to monitor food affordability and pricing for individuals and traditional nuclear families. Bracci noted that these baskets, modeled on dietary guidelines, may no longer align with contemporary household compositions, fail to meet all dietary requirements, and often rely on the cheapest available brands, which may not reflect current consumer purchasing trends.

The study achieved two significant outcomes. Firstly, it updated the Healthy Food Basket for Australia to accommodate relevant purchasing trends and various household compositions, including couples with children, single parents with children, elderly pensioners, and single adults. Secondly, it compared the cost of adhering to a Mediterranean dietary pattern with Australian dietary recommendations for healthy eating, as per the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, and with that of a typical Western diet, based on recent surveys of Australian eating habits.

Karen Murphy emphasized the importance of understanding the cost implications of dietary guidelines shifting toward predominantly plant-based diets like the Mediterranean diet. She noted, “A healthy food basket does not currently exist for Australians.”

The Mediterranean diet food basket was designed based on a seven-day meal plan, ensuring compliance with all household nutrient recommendations, with the exception of dietary zinc for a 44-year-old male.

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

In all household food baskets, vegetables were the primary contributor. In contrast, the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating baskets placed the greatest cost burden on meat and vegetables, while discretionary items like biscuits and processed meats accounted for the majority of expenses in the Western diet baskets.

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

The study’s authors believe that these findings can inspire practical steps for individuals seeking a cost-effective approach to adopting a Mediterranean-style diet. Karen Murphy suggested some key principles, such as maintaining a plant-to-animal food ratio of 4:1 on dinner plates, substituting red meat with legumes and beans, choosing seasonal foods, and considering frozen or canned fruits and vegetables as viable options. She also recommended incorporating dried or canned legumes and beans as a convenient means of including pulses in one’s diet.



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