Web Exclusive

11 Apps for Choosing the Most Healthful Foods
By Danielle Nierenberg

Choosing the best in-season produce with the lowest pesticide levels or purchasing the most sustainable seafood at the grocery story or local farmers' market can be a challenge for clients. However, the following 11 apps can help them choose what's best for their families this holiday season and beyond.

1. Dirty Dozen: Published by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization, this free app focuses on which types of conventionally raised produce are the lowest in pesticides and which types are the highest. Lists include the Dirty Dozen, such as apples, spinach, and grapes, and the Clean Fifteen, including sweet corn, asparagus, and cantaloupe. The app helps decide when finding an organic alternative is best. The Dirty Dozen Plus, an expanded app, includes a list of hot peppers and leafy greens.

2. Farmstand: This free app lists more than 8,700 farmers' markets around the world and connects shoppers with markets for locally grown food. It supports local communities by linking users to each other, allowing them to take and post pictures of markets and vendors, alert others of great finds, and browse information posted by fellow market-goers. Markets can be sorted by location and opening times.

3. Good Guide: A wide-ranging shopping app that includes everything from produce to pet food, the Good Guide rates products and producers according to their health, environmental, and social benefits. In the case of fresh produce, dairy, and meats, items can be sorted using filters such as organic, vegan, and specific nutrition aspects (eg, low sodium). This free app can be tailored to highlight shoppers' personal requirements.

4. Harvest: This app, which costs $1.99, provides a list of pesticide levels on fruit and vegetables and instructs shoppers on methods for selecting the best and ripest in-season produce, from shaking blueberries to knocking on watermelons. It also provides information on the best means of storage for different kinds of produce.

5. HarvestMark Food Traceability: Participating fruit, vegetable, and dairy brands label their products with a 16-digit HarvestMark code or QR code. Shoppers use the free app to scan the code, retrieve the product's harvest information, and give feedback. The app connects food producers with their customers and offers food production transparency.

6. Locavore: This free app has a large database of local farmers' markets, farms, community-supported agriculture, and vendors selling organic produce and in-season foods. It showcases recipes using in-season ingredients and allows users to tag local sellers, share reviews, and post new finds.

7. Love Food Hate Waste: Produced by the United Kingdom-based organization WRAP, this free app helps shoppers reduce food waste by better organizing their kitchen, cooking, and shopping habits. It helps eaters keep track of what's in their cupboards, posts alerts when there are duplicate items, highlights recipes for how to best use the food that's already there, and cuts down on unnecessary purchases.

8. Seafood Watch (US)/Good Fish Guide (UK): Optimized for use in the United States or the United Kingdom, respectively, these two free apps help shoppers identify the most sustainable seafood options at the supermarket. Seafood Watch highlights best choices and indicates the options to avoid. The Good Fish Guide uses a traffic light-inspired rating system.

9. Seasons: This app, which costs $1.99, lists natural growing season data and local availability of hundreds of types of produce, from herbs to mushrooms to fruits. It also includes the import seasons of produce, photos, and the location of farmers' markets around the world.

10. True Food: Some countries, including the United States, don't require mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This free app, created by the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization Center for Food Safety, helps shoppers identify which foods, including dairy products, meat, and meat alternatives, contain GMOs.

11. What's On My Food?: Created by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), this free app accesses an extensive and up-to-date database of all pesticides used on various types of produce. Pesticide residues remain on some fruits and vegetables even after washing. Watermelon in the United States, for example, can have up to 26 different pesticide residues by the time it reaches market, according to PAN. The app illuminates the health effects of each pesticide, from the relatively benign to the downright dangerous.

— Danielle Nierenberg is a food and agriculture expert and cofounder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank.