New Diet, New Budget: The Cost of Alternative Eating

Diet fads have been commonplace in American culture for decades. From Weight Watchers to Atkins and Paleo, there’s always a new angle of eating that promises better health and, more poignantly, a better-looking body. While we won’t weigh the pros and cons of any lifestyle, we can measure the associated costs. If you’re thinking of switching to a new meal plan, review the budgetary implications below. It may be necessary to overhaul your budget in addition to overhauling your calories.

Weight Watchers

  • What is it? Weight Watchers has been around since 1963, encouraging members to eat normally, but mindfully. Their philosophy allows dieters to continue eating the same foods in smaller quantities, assigning points to meals based on their nutritional and caloric values.
  • Are there associated products? In order to receive full nutritional instruction, Weight Watchers members are required to subscribe to their monthly service, either in person or online. Although the occasional freebie is available on the website, you’ll need to purchase a membership before receiving full access.
  • How much does it cost? Weight Watchers memberships are billed in two categories:
    • In person: Rates vary by location, but most members who attend meetings will spend about $10 per week. Total annual cost: $520
    • Online: A one-time sign-up fee of $29.95 for a first month and an $18.95 monthly subscription. Total annual cost: $257.35.


  • What is it? Also known as the Cave Man Diet, Paleo relies on the foods eaten 10,000 years ago as the foundation of its theory. Paleo dieters are encouraged to stop eating all processed foods, sugars, dairy, grains, legumes and certain types of oils in favor of animal proteins and plants. Click here for a complete list of dos and don’ts.
  • Are there associated products? There are plenty of online resources available to those seeking a Paleo lifestyle, so you won’t need to shell out cash on any specific products. That said, many Paleo eaters participate in Crossfit, a workout regimen that can cost between $15-$60 per one-hour session.
  • How much does it cost? The meat and produce sections are expensive, especially if you choose organic and grass-fed products. There’s no easy answer, but the general consensus is yes, Paleo eating is pricey. Dieters rely on staple alternatives such as almond milk and butter to replace dairy and agave to replace sugar. These products usually require a trip to a specialty or high-end grocery store. Expect to loosen your purse strings to the tune of $100 extra dollars per month. 


  • What is it? The body uses carbs as fuel. This rapid weight loss method gained traction in the mid-1990s. By limiting sugars, starches and other carb-heavy foods, the body burns stored fat for energy, allowing the dieter to shed weight quickly. Once weight loss has been attained, carbs are reintroduced slowly and sparingly in order to maintain the new lifestyle. Click here for a list of Atkins-approved food.
  • Are there associated products? While you may see the Atkins stamp on products in the grocery store, there are no required products to follow this diet.
  • How much does it cost? Like Paleo, diets that focus on high-protein diets are often more expensive, but rather than finding alternatives to common foods, Atkins limits many groups entirely. As a result, you aren’t likely to see a significant change in your grocery list.

Health is important in every area of life, from personal strength to financial fortitude. Don’t allow one area to overshadow another; make informed decisions that weigh your health and credit with equal measure.