Doctors and parents say “eat your greens!” for good reason. Full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, green veggies are good for you. These foods lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health problems. But they aren’t always cheap. ($2 for an avocado, anyone?) Eating a healthy diet is possible on a budget, though. Read on to uncover the nine most healthy and inexpensive green vegetables, and how to best eat them.
Cabbage tops our list as the #1 lowest cost green vegetable with the highest amount of nutrients. In fact, it’s the cheapest fresh green veggie of all the ones the USDA has studied! Studies show this superstar may protect against cancer, especially lung and esophageal cancers, and lower your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Cheap + healthy = cabbage.
How to cook cabbage: Eat cabbage raw. Braise, sauté, or roast it. Add to soups. Shred onto tacos or into coleslaw. Eat it fermented, as sauerkraut.
2. Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is one of the most affordable leafy greens. The USDA recommends you eat at least a half cup of green leafy plants every day. While iceberg lettuce is a veggie option that’s light on your pocketbook, as a dark leafy green, romaine lettuce is better for you. It has vitamins A and K, which are linked to lower risk of heart disease. Romaine lettuce also contains folic acid, which is important for healthy pregnancy, male fertility, and preventing depression. So, get more for your dollar at the grocery store and choose romaine.
How to eat romaine lettuce: Rinse, dry, and eat raw in salads. Try lightly grilling. Use lettuce leaves as wraps.
3. Beet Greens
Budget-friendly beet greens: a dark leafy vegetable, they are so healthy. With a flavor like kale (which almost made our list, too!), beet greens have vitamin K, which is linked to lowering chances of type 2 diabetes, and potassium, calcium, and riboflavin. Beets are usually sold with the greens attached, making it a two-for-one deal. Sometimes you can even get the greens for free, since some folks discard them and just eat the roots. Ask around at the farmers market.
How to cook beet greens: Sauté with olive oil and garlic or just add to frittatas, soups, or whole-grain pasta dishes in the last few minutes of cooking.
Broccoli is a green powerhouse, with loads of vitamins C and K, which may lower your risk of some types of cancer. It’s also one of the cheapest vegetables to buy and easy to find and use in many different dishes. Remember, the whole head can be eaten. If it’s a bit bitter for you, try peeling the outer layer of broccoli’s stem first.
How to cook broccoli: Eat raw. Blanch. Steam in the microwave or on the stovetop. Sauté. Roast. Add to stir fries, egg dishes, salads, soups, and casseroles.
A gardener’s delight, zucchini grows easily and quickly. It has vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B6, which may protect against diabetes. Zucchini also helps your digestion and, with its cheap cost, your wallet.
How to cook zucchini: Great raw, steamed, and grilled. Try shredding into a salad, cooking a batch of fritters, or making “zoodles.”
6. Green Peas
Good ol’ green peas. They are so common, and so good for you. Full of vitamins C and E, zinc, and other antioxidants that strengthen your immune system, green peas are a heart-healthy vegetable with bonus points for its low price. If you’re low on cash and want to eat healthy and feel full, pick protein-packed green peas.
How to cook green peas: Boil briefly, steam, or sauté. Easy addition to almost any dish near the end of cooking time.
7. Green Beans
One of the most affordable green veggies when they’re canned, green beans have vitamins A, K, and C, plus a healthy dose of protein and fiber. Often, you’ll find cut green beans less expensive than whole.
How to cook green beans: Eat raw when fresh. Lightly steam. Add to soups near the end of cooking time.
Take care of your heart: eat more celery! Celery is so full of nutrients, including flavonoids, vitamin C, lunularin, phthalides, fiber, and other antioxidants, and it’s one of the most loved, budget-friendly vegetables.
How to cook celery: Eat raw (kids love ants on a log!). Sauté with onions and carrots to start dishes. Add to soups and stir fries.
This Southern favorite is a low-fat, low-calorie way to get your vitamins A and C, magnesium, and folate. Frozen okra often costs less money than the harder-to-find fresh kind here in New England.
How to cook okra: Steam, sauté, grill, or roast. Add to gumbo and casseroles.