The general public has been conditioned to presume that healthier foods are generally more expensive than less healthy foods, so much so that it may be causing an overcorrection in guarding against “cheap and unhealthy” foods by convincing us that “cheap and healthy” food rarely exists.

According to findings published in The Journal of Consumer Research, many people believe that healthy food needs to be expensive, and that a high price tag will even convince consumers that a certain food is healthful.

The study also notes that the perception is difficult to change, as participants in the study had to read more about the products they were told were healthy (yet inexpensive) to convince themselves it was true. 

“It’s concerning. The findings suggest that price of food alone can impact our perceptions of what is healthy,” says Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the study and professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

This perception could be leveraged by food manufacturers to convince consumers that their products are healthier simply by hiking the prices. The FDA has taken to combating this partly through redefining the term “healthy” for food labels. Their goal is to help consumers better understand what’s inside the foods they are buying and consuming, and to eliminate the myth of healthiness being connected to price.