A buyer’s guide to eco-friendly food

Don Gibbon


by Alisa Bauman

To preserve your health as well as the health of the planet, you probably already buy organic, at least some of the time. Yet, buying eco-friendly produce means more than simply looking for foods that are certified organic, says David Joachim, author of Fresh Choices (Rodale, 2004). In designing recipes and advice for his cookbook, he and co-author Rochelle Davis examined many food options, determining the most healthy, eco-friendly choices. “These days, choosing food has become something of a minefield riddled with potential health hazards,” says Joachim. “Sometimes, a locally grown food makes a better choice than a certified organically grown food.”

That’s because when you live on the East Coast and you buy an organic food grown in California, you may save land in California from becoming riddled with pesticides, but you compensate by paying for food that was trucked across the country, which contributes to smog and other types of air pollution. You also contribute to our society’s over-dependence on fossil fuels.

Your best choice overall, of course, is locally grown, organic produce. When organic isn’t available, opt for non-organic, locally grown produce some of the time, especially if it’s a type of produce grown with fewer pesticides. Consult the chart below, excerpted with permission from Fresh Choices, to see which types of conventionally grown vegetables harbor the most pesticide residues, and which harbor the least, according to USDA pesticide data. Each alternative is a good source of the main nutrient found in the high-pesticide food.

High-Pesticide Food

Key Nutrients

Healthy Alternatives


Vitamins A,C, Folic Acid

Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard, Romaine lettuce

Peppers (sweet and hot)

Vitamins A, C

Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes



Broccoli, carrots, radishes, Romaine lettuce


Vitamin C, Potassium

Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, radishes


Alisa Bauman is a member of the Lehigh Valley Group and has served as Group chair and newsletter editor.

Published May 2005