New Leaf Community Market opened last month in Pleasanton, the first grocery store dedicated entirely to natural, healthy and organic products. It also carries locally grown products; sustainable seafood and meats never treated with hormones, antibiotics, nitrates or other chemical additives; and fairly traded, organic coffee.
The store has aisles of vitamins, herbs and natural products for total body care. New Leaf also hosts cooking classes and wellness lectures for customers, plus has a reference library online and well informed personnel.
Manager Mark McKinney said he's pleased, only a few weeks after opening in Vintage Hills Shopping Center, that people in the community make a lot of requests. He is surprised by the number looking for gluten-free.
"People are very knowledgeable -- in a good way, they are challenging us," he said.
When Gene's Fine Foods on Valley Avenue and Hopyard Road changed ownership last year, it began to emphasize organic and premium produce, brought in fresh daily, as well as fresh fish, top of the line Angus Beef and at least 40 salads made from scratch.
Gene's has nutritionist Didi Sindelar in the store from 3-7 p.m. each Friday to answer questions about nutrition or lifestyle, and to guide customers in planning healthy meals.
Trader Joe's offers organic produce, plus antibiotic-free meat and poultry. Anything sold under the Trader Joe's label has no GMO ingredients.
Safeway offers a variety of organic products, recognizable by the big O on the label. They include beverage, dairy, breakfast items, frozen foods, snacks, baby food and more. The big O means the product is grown "the way nature intended without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers." Its organic eggs are from free-roaming hens.
Raleys has several aisles of natural foods, sustainable seafood and organic meats as well as some organic produce. Ranch 99 has a huge array of fresh produce, Smart & Final carries some organic produce, and Fresh & Easy has gluten-free selections. Of course the Pleasanton Farmers Market each Saturday offers fresh produce straight from the farm.
New Leaf's McKinney said his aim is to eat "close to the earth." The first question he asks about food is, "Is it processed?"
"The more processed it is, the more the body has to process it, in most cases," he said. "About 60% of our energy is used for digestion."
Shoppers should check labels and be wary of sugar and flour in the list of ingredients, McKinney said.
"Ninety-five percent of disease is environmental, not hereditary," he added, and we can control part of this.
By eating right, we may only add a few years to our lives, he explained, but for the last 15-20 years we will be healthy, not dependent on medicines.
Each year the Environmental Working Group puts out a "dirty dozen" list of foods after it analyzes Department of Agriculture data about pesticide residue. EWG estimates people can reduce exposure to pesticides by 80% if they buy these 12 foods organic.
EWG also notes that eating non-organic produce is better than not eating any fruits and vegetables. The USDA sets allowable pesticide residue limits it deems safe, and all produce for sales should meet those standards.
Sweet Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers
Sweet peas, frozen