Did Gwyneth Paltrow Just Endorse Non-Organic Food?

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has stirred up more nutrition-related controversy with a photo she tweeted showing how far $29 a week will go for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, pledging to eat only that amount of food to bring attention to that federal program.

We did some math to see if Gwyneth's figures checked out and what that means for anyone who might be tempted to follow her seven-day diet.

Some critics have pointed out that one person subsisting on the foods shown in her photo would consume only about 1,000 calories per day, about half of what women should eat. (It's actually about the same amount of calories recommended for a toddler!) One website, The Frisky, estimated that Gwyneth's shopping list amounted to a total of 7,059 calories. Indeed, our own calculations were only about 10 percent higher than that, a slight discrepancy that can be accounted for by different estimates about the amount of some of the foods pictured.

There are plenty of other quibbles you could have with Gwyneth's menu, such as the fact that it isn't compatible with those of us who choose to eat meat (again, assuming that you eat only what's pictured above). Also, you can buy canned or packaged versions of many foods that will remain fresh and safe long after Gwyneth's veggies have rotted away and contributed to food waste.

But the biggest problem I have with it boils down to one word: hypocrisy.

You see, Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the more prominent advocates for an organic diet, not just in her own life but in what her website preaches to others. So we wanted to see how much you could expect to spend on her shopping list if you bought traditionally grown or raised foods versus their organic counterparts.

We looked at the prices publicly listed on the website of one prominent national grocery chain and compared "apples to apples," if you will, or the least expensive price for a non-organic product versus the least expensive price for the same amount of an organic product. In a few cases where we couldn't find an organic equivalent, we consulted the website of a second major national chain. In a few other cases, we couldn't find an organic version, so we assumed the same price as the non-organic food (even though organics were substantially more expensive in almost every case.)

The total cost of Gwyneth's shopping basket, if you buy non-organic products, was $24.68--enough to throw in a couple of pounds of chicken and still stay under the $29 limit. The total cost of the organic equivalents, however, was a budget-busting $36.66.

Here is our breakdown of the price difference between non-organic foods and their organic counterparts:

  • One dozen eggs: 79% higher
  • A head of romaine: 10% higher
  • An onion: Essentially equal
  • Scallions: The organic option actually appears to be 21 percent cheaper
  • One avocado: Not immediately known; we calculated our totals using the same price.
  • One ear of corn: 100% higher
  • Kale: 67% higher
  • One tomato: 78% higher
  • Seven limes: Not immediately known; we calculated our totals using the same price.
  • Cilantro: 132% higher
  • 18 tortillas: 31% higher
  • A 12 oz bag of frozen peas: 74% higher
  • One 28-oz bag of brown rice: 7% higher
  • One 1-pound bag of black beans: 59% higher
  • One jalapeño: Not immediately known; we calculated our totals using the same price.
  • One sweet potato: 153% higher

It's unclear whether Gwyneth is compromising her organic principles for a week to stay under the $29 limit, or if she's just eating even less than the picture would indicate. But either way, she's being disingenuous, regardless of what you think about her underlying SNAP message. Gwyneth Paltrow can go back to her life of indulgence after a week; the same can't be said for people who are living paycheck to paycheck.

But perhaps most offensively, Gwyneth touts a so-called "whole foods" diet, but then she admits: "You know, I use organic products, but I get [laser treatments]. It’s what makes life interesting, finding the balance between cigarettes and tofu."

Cigarette smoking kills almost half a million Americans every year. To my knowledge, if anyone has died merely because they followed an otherwise healthful, sensible, and balanced diet of non-organic food, rather than organics, I'm unaware of it. It's hard to take anyone seriously who believes there is any sort of "balance" between cigarettes and tofu.

Then again, this celebrity health advocate has previously come under fire for pushing highly dubious wellness practices and fad "detoxes." Caveat emptor, folks.