Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grocery Store 101: Produce

The produce section is definitely my favorite section in the grocery store.  All of the fruits and veggies lure me in!  Despite this, I rarely shop this section.  Instead I head to my local farmer or co-op to get my produce whenever I can.  That being said, there are times when shopping for produce at the grocery store can’t be avoided.

Like right now, we’re on a last minute vacation at the beach (my husband had a work trip pop up so we all tagged along).  I had very little time to plan what we’d eat or do any shopping, so I’m at the mercy of the local grocery stores.

If you need to shop the grocery stores for your produce, there are easy steps you can take to ensure you’re getting the freshest, healthiest fruits and veggies you can.  This will translate into more nutrients for you!  Here are the things you can look for when choosing your produce:

An Improvement: Avoid the dirty dozen and look for the clean fifteen
Getting There: Buy local produce that is in season
Awesomeness: Buy local, organic produce (or produce from local farmers who don't use pesticides)

An Improvement

I rank avoiding the dirty dozen at the top of my list because avoiding pesticides is most important to me.  The side effects of these are terrible and my top priority with food is limiting the toxins I feed my kids.  The produce listed on the dirty dozen is the most offensive.  It got there either for its high pesticide content or for having pesticides that were especially terrible.  If you aren’t familiar with these lists, check out my post on the EWG’s ranking system here.

Small children are especially sensitive to pesticides (and toxins in general) so we never buy conventional produce from the dirty dozen list.  Since you don’t have contact with the farmer in a grocery store setting, anything that isn’t organic should be assumed to have pesticides on it.

If you need to buy conventional produce, look for items listed on the clean fifteen.  You can even get an app for your phone to use until you're familiar with the items on the lists.  Also, make sure to soak and rinse your produce with a veggie wash, you can see my homemade recipe here.

 Getting There

The next step you can take toward more healthful produce is looking for local, seasonal produce.  There are lots of reasons to eat local- supporting your local economy, less environmental impact, fresher food and the health benefits of eating seasonally. 

Many grocery stores will promote their local items so look for signs or displays.  You can also read the produce label to find out how far your fruits and veggies had to travel to make it to the store.  The longer the produce sits after harvesting, the more nutrients that are depleted. 


The best option in the grocery store is to choose local organic produce.  At a minimum, you know that the veggies and fruits have been held to organic certification standards.  You’ll be supporting ethical farming that has the least impact on the environment.   This is also a great way to find out about local farmers and can be a stepping stone to purchasing directly from local farms.

Organics can be more expensive however choosing items that are in season will greatly reduce this cost.  In season, I've found that the organic options are very similar in price.  I've come to realize though, that the extra cost of clean produce is worth it for our family.  Compromising here leads to too much exposure to toxins for me to be comfortable.

I encourage you to read the labels on your produce, something you might not have thought to do before.  You can tell a lot about your fruits and veggies that way.  Being conscious of our food is the first step to making changes!

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