Have you ever felt like you were on the right track with your diet, only to have someone completely derail your progress with a simple comment? It happens all the time. You may eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables… but someone asks you, are they organic? Locally-grown? Ugh.
So you do your best to adjust, adding more organic produce to your diet, and after just a few days, you realize that you're going broke.
I've seen this rollercoaster ride so many times before, and it often ends almost exactly where it started. This person who was trying so hard before, now throws her hands up and says, "This just isn't working." All her progress goes out the window because she was made to feel like she had to spend her whole paycheck on food in order to be healthy. Well, that's simply not the case. [12 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget]
Not all vegetables are expensive, but they're also not created equal. For example, iceberg lettuce is inexpensive, but it contains less protein, fiber, calcium, folate and vitamin K per calorie than its pricier counterpart, romaine. If you look at the lettuces in terms of penny per nutrient, instead of penny per calorie, romaine is the clear winner.
And speaking of nutritional winners, a study published in the journal PLOS One in May reported two clear winners in the overall cost-per-nutrient category: potatoes and beans (beans are classified as a vegetable by the USDA). [13 Easy Kitchen Fixes that Can Help You Lose Weight]
Researchers used a combination of nutrient profiling methods and national average pricing to create an affordability index, which was used to examine the nutrients in 98 individual vegetables as well as five subgroups. The fact that potatoes come out on top is surprising to some, but potatoes are extremely rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin C and magnesium. And, they're cheap too!
This report definitely sparked my interest because I think this is an important topic. So, I thought this might be a good time to review my personal favorite, budget-friendly organic vegetables that pack a healthy nutritional punch.
- Kale: This is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens you can get, and it's cheap. The other day, I went to the grocery store just for some organic kale and I walked out with a big bunch. Guess how much I spent? It was well under two dollars, and I'd say I got more than my money's worth. Just one cup of this raw leafy green has 206 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, and 134 percent of vitamin C.
- Green cabbage: At about $0.92 per pound, this organic vegetable is certainly affordable. But it's also nutritious. One cup of raw green cabbage contains nearly a full day's worth of vitamin K, and it has about half of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. It's also a good source of fiber, and is loaded with antioxidants.
- Baby carrots: At about $1.75 per pound, organic baby carrots make for a nutritious and inexpensive snack. And eating one mere ounce, will give you 77 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.
Healthy Bites appears on LiveScience on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!