Optimization methodologies based on the Brigham Young University OPTDES code are used to determine the minimum per capita crop area required for Controlled Environmental Life Support Systems (CELSS) needed for self-sustaining space colonies and long duration space flights. Various food crop productivity values and nutritional requirements are integrated with numerical optimization algorithms to determine the types of crops which best meet nutritional needs, subject to various constraints, and have minimum growing area. Eleven candidate crops, selected from NASA and other sources, are combined with a nutritional code and selected nutritional requirements. Soybean, tomato, potato, and peanut crops are found to be the best providers of energy nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats), and other vegetable crops (e.g., carrot, chard, and lettuce) provide relatively higher amounts of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A and calcium in a smaller area and are therefore beneficial under certain constraints. Mushrooms are also found to offer good nutritional value and high productivity, but the amounts that can be grown are limited by the available inedible and waste biomass. The OPTDES code, coupled with crop production data and nutritional requirements, was determined to be a rapid and effective means of assessing CELSS options and offers a promising approach for determining the optimum means of providing food for space colonies. The approach presented here may also be beneficial for analyzing terrestrial crop systems.