Eating healthy may be cheaper than you think, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The government study determined "cheap food that provides few nutrients may actually be 'expensive' for the consumer from a nutritional economy perspective, whereas food with a higher retail price that provides large amounts of nutrients may actually be quite cheap."

The study goes on to say the key to assessing the economic value of healthy vs. unhealthy food is to compare the cost by weight or portion, not by cost per calorie.

Fortunately, discount grocers make it easy for you to find affordable food that's good for you. The Houston Chronicle reports that Aldi is going into the Houston market with 30 stores. If you've been to an Aldi recently, you know they're putting a special emphasis on healthier items following the general trend in American life.

Also, around the country you can find local farmer's market where you can buy affordable fresh food. And then there's always Aldi's sibling Trader Joe's (they share common ownership,) with its big emphasis on natural and organic fresh produce.

When it comes to eating out, a separate USDA report finds that you'll blow through your daily recommended levels of fat, sugar, cholesterol and other nutritional no-nos 96% of the time when you eat at a big chain restaurant. In some cases, a single entrée may exceed the amount of calories you should have in a whole day.

That's created a situation where restaurants have revamped some menu selections in response to a new federal mandate requiring businesses with 20 or more chain locations to disclose calorie counts right next to the items on the menu. So they're reconfiguring ingredients and portion sizes to get below the 1,000 calorie mark on many popular items.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. View More Articles

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