Is Your Dinner Providing the Biggest Nutritional Value for Your Dollar?

Is Your Dinner Providing the Biggest Nutritional Value for Your Dollar?

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Jelisa Castrodale
Mar 22, 2018

At this point, it seems like almost every fast food restaurant has some kind of dollar menu — and we're not mad about that. But when you're shouting into a drive-thru speaker, how do you know when (and if) you are really getting the most nutritional bang for your buck?

Wellio, an online meal-planning assistant, decided to investigate which meals were the most (and least) nutritious per dollar spent, and the results might be enough to make you drive away without getting your McDinner.

How the Study Was Conducted

To determine which foods were the best values for your health, the Wellio team used their database of foods and recipes to determine the average cost per serving for the 85 most common American dinners. Then they assigned a health score to each of those meals, which is a combination of calories and its nutrient profile (think: protein, carbs, and fiber).

The Highest and Lowest Health Scores

After all of those calculations, they started ranking foods — and the results are pretty unsurprising. The five foods with the highest health scores were as follows:

  • Kale salad
  • Chinese chicken salad
  • Falafel
  • Lettuce wraps
  • Cobb salad

The five lowest-scoring foods were as follows:

  • Corn dogs
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Mac and cheese
  • Meatloaf
  • Sloppy Joes

According to Wellio, 11 of the top 25 most-nutritious meals were either meat-free or pescatarian (fish tacos, shrimp scampi, and grilled salmon were all on the "good" side of its graph). By contrast, the word "cheese" appeared in the names of five of the 25 least-nutritious meals. (We're just the messenger here).

The Most (and Least) Nutritious Meals for Your Dollar

When it comes to the cost per serving, eating healthier is a little harder on your wallet. "Good health is an investment," Wellio wrote. "For every quarter-point increase in a dinner's health score, you can expect to pay about a dollar more per serving."

The three meals that Wellio determined had the highest amount of nutrients-per-dollar were as follows:

  • Kale salad
  • Falafel
  • Lettuce wraps

The three biggest nutritional ripoffs were as follows:

  • Mac and cheese
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Meatloaf

"The remainder of this chart reads like a concession stand menu," Wellio wrote, and we honestly wish they hadn't said that like it was a bad thing.

Although the findings aren't necessarily groundbreaking, it does provide a concrete reminder that spending a little more for a meal — assuming that it's a healthy option and not, like, some restaurant's signature dessert — can be an investment in your health.

Do any fast food restaurants have lettuce wraps on their dollar menus?

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