I am a problem solver. The most common problem I have heard from anyone trying to maintain a fresh, plant-based diet is the price. Oh the price of organic vegetables, fruits, specialty flours, nuts, pretty much anything that is healthy is going to come with a high price tag. What bothers me more than the price of good food are the health nuts that continue to spew the mantra of “it’s ok if you spend a lot on food because it is an investment in your health.” I totally get this argument and I don’t necessarily disagree with it, but for some of us (ehem recent college graduates) it’s not possible to spend hundreds of dollars on food every month. That’s right it’s IMPOSSIBLE, especially if you want to be fiscally responsible and not add onto your debt load. The solution? I’ve compiled a list of healthy eats, arranged by category, that are the best bang for your buck at the grocery store. Today we take a look at everyone’s favorite: vegetables!
1. Sweet Potato
I have been eating a ridiculous amount of sweet potatoes recently because on top of being cheap (usually between $1-$2/lb) they are SO easy to prepare. Just turn the oven on to 400 degrees, wrap that potato in aluminum foil, wait one hour, and voila, a delicious sweet potato awaits you! I like to add coconut oil to enhance the flavor.
But wait, it gets better! Sweet potatoes contain all sorts of awesome vitamins, like B6 for heart health and magnesium for natural stress-relief. There’s also a serious amount of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and potassium in those tiny little sacks. They are less starchy than a regular potato and they’re SWEET. Make sure you pick up a real sweet potato and not a yam. Sweet potatoes taste better than yams AND are healthy, crazy right?
Ah, the carrot, the poor man’s staple. They are typically around $1/lb and can be used in everything from stews, to chilies to side dishes, and even eaten raw as a healthy alternative to a chip. I like to cut up carrot sticks and dip them in hummus, mmm mmm! : ) While these suckers are cheap, you will literally turn orange if you eat too many (my cousin Sydney learned this the hard way by age 1).
Carrots contain a sick amount of beta-carotene, that awesome form of vitamin A that helps to regulate skin health, improves vision, and slows aging. But the carrot isn’t done yet! It also is known to help prevent certain cancers, packs a punch of fiber, and even has a bit of protein. Even my meat-loving dad can’t help but swoon over cooked carrots. However you like them, pick up a bunch, they stay fresh in the refrigerator for a long time. If you have outdoor space grow your own, they are one of the easiest vegetables to maintain.
Truth time: I am a bit obsessed with onions. I think the smell of caramelizing onions is what is wafting around in Heaven. There’s something about the smell that makes me go weak in the knees. Don’t get me wrong, raw onions are delicious too and can really jazz up a salad, but when a caramelized onion touches my lips my brain goes crazy for the slightly sweet vegetable that is about to pass through my digestive system. Onions, onions, opinions!! Add them to a chili, a stew, a soup, a salad, or a sauce and you will NOT be disappointed.
And of course, they are good for you too, they are a vegetable after all ; ). Onions are packed with flavonoids, which act as antioxidants, those amazing entities that bolster our immune systems. Onions also help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and prevent blood clotting. Each type of onion has other specific health benefits.
4. Whatever is in season
Pick vegetables that are in season where you live. The less a vegetable has to travel, the less expensive it is and the more nutrients it contains. Pick out a cheap option, like root vegetables in the winter, and base a recipe off of what you found on sale. Preparing your own meals always cuts down on costs and is the only way you can be certain what you are putting in your mouth. Instead of going out to a restaurant for a date, cook a meal together at home, it’s much more romantic, stimulating and private. What are some appropriate foods for a date night at home? Now that’s a post for a different time!