fruit nutritionJennifer Langston jokes that her 2-year-old eats fruit like a bat, so that helped propel her to come up with nifty calculations on which fruits bring the most nutritional bang for your buck.

If you want to watch your budget and also buy fruits that provide pretty good nutrition, below are the choices that offer the best combination of those factors, says Langston, a researcher, editor and writer at Sightline Institute, a nonprofit sustainability think tank, who developed the rankings with her co-worker Eric Hess.

Here are their rankings of the best, cheapest fruits to get your vitamins from:
  1. Watermelon
  2. Plums
  3. Oranges
  4. Apples
  5. Strawberries
  6. Cantaloupe
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Bananas
  9. Kiwi
  10. Peaches

So if you want to spend only so much money on fruit, go with watermelon, plums, oranges and apples to get the most nutrition for relatively little dough.

Everyone knows berries are great sources of vitamins, but they rank low on this chart because they're pricey. This chart emphasizes both low cost and nutrition.

Here's how Langston and Hess came up with these rankings: They tracked down the price-per-cup of various fruits, as revealed in a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They also got the nutritional scores for various fruits, as determined by the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) rating method used by the Whole Foods chain and others. They then divided each fruit's ANDI score by its price per cup.

Bottom line: It's not enough to just buy the cheapest fruit; try buying the cheapest fruit offering the best nutrition for the price.

How cheap a food is alone is not always the best measure of value, Langston tells Consumer Ally. You may very well prefer to buy an apple (ranked No. 4) grown in the neighboring countryside instead of a banana (No. 8) shipped from afar. "Cheap food," Langston says, "is probably one of the problems of the food system." For the Top 10 vegetables, go here.

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