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Eating Healthy in Panama

Eating Healthy in Panama

After moving from Florida to Panama, learning to eat healthful, nutritious foods is a bit of a challenge.

The good news is, I’m making progress.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Many of the things I took for granted in the US — a wide assortment of fresh vegetables all year round, for example — simply aren’t available here. They might be in Panama City, but I’m four hours away from the capital in a smallish town and they’re certainly not available here.

This morning my husband went to the store early and came back with a big grin. He’d found some good-looking broccoli and cauliflower for the first time. Up to now, the broccoli we’ve seen has been wilted and almost black on top. And cauliflower? Don’t ask. . .

The only veggies I can really count on finding, consistently, are tomatoes and peppers. They’re available in abundance, and they’re cheap, cheap, cheap. I can buy a bag of plum or regular tomatoes (I’m guessing they’re about two pounds) for $1. Ditto green peppers. Or I can get a bag of mixed tomatoes, peppers and onions for a buck.

The only lettuce is iceberg. There’s no spinach, no other leafy greens. The only corn they grow goes to feed livestock, so if I want corn it has to come from the freezer or the can.

Fruits are a different story, though. They’re plentiful. We’ve been picking papayas from our own tree, and mangos are everywhere. Pineapple and plantains are plentiful, bananas are available if you know where to look. Other fruits — apples, plums, and so on, are easy to find.

There’s a local fruit called a guayaba that’s supposed to be full of anti-oxidants. You have to peel the outside, and inside is a firm-fleshed fruit filled with small seeds. Think blackberry or raspberry seeds, just a titch bigger. It’s quite tasty and refreshing.

Meats and Proteins

The good news is, quality of meats and eggs is high.

We’re on the Azuero Peninsula, and they raise cattle in this part of the country.

Cattle here graze the fields. Chickens run around everywhere, even in our residential neighborhood. We’ve purchased chicken breasts that are very tasty and have a lot less fat on them than what we’re used to getting in the US, and my husband is especially impressed with the quality of the ground beef.

It’s flavorful and lean. Best of all, it’s only $1.92/lb.!

We tried some local bacon. It comes in rounds, not strips (but we’re talking the bacon-with-fat here, not Canadian bacon), and cooks up into a tasty breakfast treat.

But the best protein source here, in my opinion, is the eggs.

Just the regular, run-of-the-mill eggs you get in the grocery store have deep orange yolks, indicating they’re bursting with nutrients.

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