Your Go-to Guide to Picking Out Produce

The produce section of the grocery store can be the most dazzling; stocked high in a rainbow of colors. Fruits and vegetables are some of the most nutritionally dense foods available to us, making them an essential part of our diet. But eating healthy can be hard, and the produce section can be daunting. How do you know what to buy? What’s the difference between local and organic? The Real Food Grocery Guide helps you figure it all out with some key tips on how to make the best selections in the produce section. Below are some tips to help you figure out the difference in produce buzzwords and what’s in season. 

Fresh produce on a wooden table.

Produce Buzzwords

ORGANIC

Organic produce is grown without the use of toxic or persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, or irradiation. They are never GMO (genetically modified). They’re a smart choice for many reasons. They are typically more nutritious; they’re easier on the environment, and they help you avoid the toxic chemicals commonly used in conventional farming. Many common agricultural chemicals have been linked to serious health concerns, from brain damage to infertility to endocrine complications and even cancer.

LOCAL

Local foods are grown or raised within a small geographic radius, typically within 50 to 150

miles (80 to 241 km) of wherever you purchase them. Because local foods are picked when ripe, travel shorter distances and are sold more quickly, they’re usually fresher. Fresher produce not only tastes better, it’s also typically more nutritious. Local food protects the environment by cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions during shipping and also strengthens your local economy. When you buy farm-fresh, locally grown produce, you can rest assured it’s seasonal. Beyond personal reasons, buying local is better for the environment and the local economy. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find local food that’s also organic.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GMO)

Genetically modified fruits and vegetables have had their DNA altered. In the produce aisles, genetically modified foods include corn, papaya, zucchini, and yellow summer squash, although GMO apples and potatoes were recently approved and will soon make their way into grocery stores. Because GMO crops are so widespread, you can assume any of these foods in their conventional forms are GMO. If you’d like to enjoy non-GMO versions of these foods, always buy them organic.
Fresh blueberries in a basket.

Seasons for Produce

Although some produce is available out of season, it will not be as fresh or as nutritious.

SUMMER

Apricot, Avocado, Bell Peppers, Blackberries, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Green beans, Honeydew melon, Lima Beans, Peach, Plum, Radish, Raspberries, Strawberries, Summer squash, Tomato, Watermelon, Zucchini

FALL

Apple, Beet, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrot, Cauliflower, Cranberries, Figs, Grapes, Parsnip, Pear, Persimmon, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Winter squash

WINTER

Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange, Pear, Potato, Sweet Potato, Turnip, Winter squash

SPRING

Apricot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Green Beans, Honeydew melon, Lettuce, Mango, Peas, Pineapple, Rhubarb, Spinach, Strawberries

Always in Season

Garlic, Onions, Mushrooms

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The Real Food Grocery Guide- helping you navigate the grocery storeThe Real Food Grocery Guide helps you navigate every aisle of the grocery store, clearly outlining what foods are truly the healthiest, the freshest, and the most economical (and which ones belong in the garbage rather than your grocery cart!)  Now you won’t have to question whether fat-free or gluten-free is healthier, what food labels hidden meanings are, or if organic vegetables and grass-fed meat is worth the extra cost.

The Real Food Grocery Guide is the most comprehensive and actionable guide to grocery shopping and healthy eating ever with advice on:

– What to eat for healthy, balanced weight, and longevity

– How to shop to save a significant amount of time and money

– How to decipher food “buzz words” (like natural, grass-fed, wild, organic, gluten-free, etc.): know which to buy and which to leave on the shelf

– How to select the most nutritious and delicious produce, every time (no more getting home with brown avocados or tasteless melon)

– Why the quality of animal-products-such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy is crucial–and how to choose the healthiest kinds

– How to store fresh food properly so it doesn’t spoil too quickly

– Why calorie counting is futile – and what you should look for instead to determine the healthiness of any food

– How to decipher what a food label is really saying

– How to avoid being duped by sneaky food industry claims and choose the best-packaged products every time