Eating Healthy in Panama Without an Overpriced “Whole Foods”

Last Updated on July 3, 2020 by Retire in Panama

I have always been a healthy eater, or at least I would try. It was not always easy in Canada, with a 4 month growing seasons, there are just not a lot of options for fresh vegetables and fruit in the winter, besides imported ones, which you know are full of chemicals.

Since I have been living in Panama, I have had to travel to the states every couple months for a business I had there, and my employees would always joke about the store Whole Foods, but they would call it “Whole Paycheck”. It was absolutely crazy, $5 for a pineapple, $7.50 for a dozen free range eggs, who could afford on a basic salary to eat healthy, when eating junk food would cost ½ as much.

This is one benefit to living in Panama, been able to eat healthy on a budget. In Panama city, this is a bit more difficult, as I lived there myself for 2 years, and I had to drive more than a ½ hour to a good farmer’s market that was held only once a week. The big supermarkets had lots of fruits and vegetables, but from mass growers, and a lot imported, and in my opinion, use way to much chemicals in growing. But outside of the city, there are fruit and vegetable stands almost everywhere you look, and full time farmers markets, in many of the expat communities.

You will even have pick-up trucks driving up and down the neighborhoods, yelling over loud speakers what they have in the back of their trucks (this is a good time to learn your food words in Spanish), and you go outside to meet them and make a purchase. I have purchased large freshly picked pineapples, 2 for $1, bananas, 20 for $1, large freshly picked avocados, for a $1, some trucks even are full of a variety of vegetables from their own personal greenhouses.

You also get the pick-up trucks that drive up the mountain with the daily catch, your pick of tuna, snapper, marlin and other fish.

Eating healthy, and for me is locally grown fruit and vegetables, pasture raised grass fed beef, and free range chickens and eggs. We do have large supermarkets, just like north America, but I seldom have the need to go in them, except for a few staple items. 95% of my diet is grown or raised by small producers within 50 km of where I live, and that I call a healthy diet.

You can even go fully organic, with farms like Finca Santa Marta, a certified organic grower in Chiriquí, which delivers their fresh product all over the province.

Along the highways in the Province of Chiriquí, where 85% of the countries vegetables are grown, you will find individual vendors selling large bags stuffed with a mix of vegetables for $7.

I find it a bit sad, in a country full of fresh fruit and vegetables, that the local Panamanian population, just do not eat that healthy. You can go to a Panamanian restaurant for breakfast and not see a piece of fruit in the buffet, just fried everything. In no way is the population here as bad eaters as in North America, but I am afraid it is heading that way.

You will also find a chain of Organic stores, called Organica through out Panama, where you can purchase a wide variety of organic products.  Also the very well know Cloud Forest Botanicals, is located right in the mountains near Boquete, Panama, offering a wide variety of organic tinctures and creams for healthier living.

As you can see a very healthy, inexpensive diet, can be achieved living in Panama, if you buy from the right places, and stay out of large grocery stores for your food. Come join us on a Retire in Panama Tour, and we will show you many of these local vendors, and talk to the operators running them.

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