A new study just released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service shows just how affordable fruits and vegetables really are. Getting the recommended amount costs only $2 - $2.50 per day. Researchers also found no significant difference between the average prices of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.

The study used Nielsen Homescan data from 2008 to estimate the average retail price per pound and per cup of 153 commonly consumed fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. They found that average prices ranged from under 20 cents per cup to over $2 per cup depending on the specific fruit or veggie.

"We all know how important fruits and vegetables are to a healthy diet, yet most Americans don't eat enough of them," said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), the nonprofit organization, in partnership with CDC, behind the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters national public health initiative. "Eating fruits and vegetables is a sound investment in long-term health. The notion that they are too expensive is just an excuse for some people. Fruits and vegetables are literally the cheapest form of health insurance you can buy!"

The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise us to fill half our plates with fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack. This new USDA research shows that this can be done easily and affordably while incorporating all forms of fruits and vegetables into the diet. Among the 153 varieties of fruits and vegetables used in the USDA study were fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and 100 percent juice. All of these nutritious, delicious forms of produce count towards filling half your plate each day.

These findings are consistent with a Produce Marketing Association (PMA) study done last year. PMA's study concentrated only on fresh fruits and vegetables but found the same level of easy affordability with the lowest average price for nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetable per day in the East region at $2.08, while the South was the highest at $2.30 for nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day.

Furthermore, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditures Survey, the average two person household spends $6,308 on food. Filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables for this two person household would only cost 29 percent of their food budget. That means you can fill half your plate (and your grocery cart) for only about a quarter of your food budget.

Pivonka says that Fruits & Veggies-More Matters has a wide array of tips for eating healthy on a budget and advice for eating more fruits and vegetables while limiting sodium, added sugars, and solid fats, just the goals recommended by the new dietary guidelines. On their website, www.FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org, you'll find a page detailing some key highlights from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and suggestions on filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. There is also a database of over 1,000 recipes, many of which can be made in 30 minutes or less, and a Video Center that features videos about fruit and vegetables selection, storage, and preparation.

Learn more about Fruits & Veggies-More Matters and the America's More Matters Pledge at www.FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org. For more information on the USDA's Economic Research Service's study, How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost, visit www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib71. For more information on PMA's study, The Cost of the Recommended Daily Servings of Fresh Produce, visit www.pma.com/system/files/fresh_produce_year_round_bargain_2_3_2011.pdf. For more information on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditures Survey, visit http://stats.bls.gov/cex/2009/Standard/cusize.pdf.