The #1 Veggie to Eat When You're on a Budget, According to a Dietitian

They are called for in almost every recipe I make, and they’re less than $1 per pound.

Pictured Recipe: Grilled Blooming Onion

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Grocery shopping can be challenging for many, especially these days with inflation increasing food prices across the U.S. For me, this means I need to be more mindful of the foods I buy so that I can stay within my budget. However, this doesn't mean I have to skip out on the healthy foods I love; it just takes some planning and know-how.

There are several ways to save money on your overall grocery bill, like opting for frozen or canned when you can and shopping the sales. There are specific healthy ingredients that are particularly budget-friendly, like bananas, beans and eggs. But there is one vegetable that is always in my kitchen and part of almost everything I cook: onions. To me, onions are the No. 1 vegetable to buy when you're on a budget—here's why.

Onions are overlooked when it comes to vegetables, but they pack an impressive nutritional punch. One half-cup of raw onions contains 32 calories, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, 117 milligrams of potassium (about 4% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance), 6 milligrams of vitamin C (about 8% of the RDA) and 15 micrograms of folate (4% of the RDA). While these nutrient amounts aren't as high as some other vegetables, eating onions regularly can have a significant positive impact on your overall nutrition.

Grilled Blooming Onion
Caitlin Bensel

Onions boast some health benefits as well. They contain the antioxidant quercetin that has been associated with decreasing risk of heart disease and helping regulate blood sugar levels. Other research suggests that pairing onions with garlic may help lower risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer. Onions also have antibacterial properties that can help fight off bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. And the best part is that you can get all of this benefit for $0.97 per pound. Be sure to keep them in a cool, dark and dry place like your pantry and they should last for several weeks.

My favorite thing about onions is how versatile they are. They are the base for almost every dish I cook, and I notice if they're not there. Their rich, earthy allium flavor lends itself to everything from pastas to stir-fries, soups, tacos and curries. And if you cook them low and slow long enough to caramelize them, it's like they become a whole new ingredient. You can even enjoy onions on their own with our braised Melting Onions and Grilled Blooming Onion recipes.

There are so many reasons to love onions, and if you're on a budget, they are definitely a vegetable to add to your list. They're nutritious, versatile and last a long time in your pantry so it's easy to always have some on hand. If you enjoy them regularly, they can help you up your vegetable intake in a way that fits your budget.

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