What do you eat in Panama?

We are having the most wonderful food here!

Dinner last night

Dinner, David Chiriqui, Panama


Fresh tuna from the Boquete market ($6/lb, and it was amazing),  fruit (melon, pineapple), salad (tomato, cucumber, onion) and beer (Balboa, good stuff! $.53/can)   I don’t usually drink beer but I really like the Panamanian beer here – light, cool and tasty. The fresh produce is always amazing. The fish was a real treat, but when we find the markets south of us we can bypass the middle man and get all kinds of fish for less.

Breakfast, David, Chiriqui, Panama

Breakfast today

Scrambled eggs ($2.09/dozen), soft white Panamanian cheese – really good stuff $2.15/lb), real butter (4.79/lb – I know, margarine is a lot cheaper but this is really good), fruit – pineapple ($1/each for large one), banana (gift from the produce guy), melon and papaya (will have to check exact prices). Lentils ($1.06lb I think at the supermarket, less at the produce stand), coffee (really good specialty coffee from Boquete $8/lb. Supermarket coffee is about $3.50-5/lb, and also good)

I am tracking our expenses and it will be interesting to see how it all works out. Right now things are higher because we have to get the basics on hand in the kitchen, and Ma’s American treats will probably be an ongoing extra but I think in general our grocery bills are going to improve. The more you eat like a Panamanian and shop at the produce markets, and the less you buy imported products from the US, the better you’ll do.

The quality of the food has definitely improved! Those of you who have known me for a while know I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last year, and I watch it closely because I don’t want to gain anything back. I have had some trouble maintaining in the past and have learned to be very very careful.

When I first arrived in Panama I stayed with friends, and I wasn’t about to dictate what they served in their house. I ate fruit, a LOT of fruit, rice, beans, pasta, bread, things I  generally avoid because that many carbohydrates causes me to gain weight. We had seco (a sugar cane alcohol product, similar to rum) and fruit juice every afternoon, and wine with dinner and with the evening movie or video.

When I got into my own house, not much changed. I ate mainly chicken, rice, beans or lentils, fresh vegetables, and fruit at every meal. There was often beer or wine in the evening, a couple nights a lot of beer and wine with a friend!

Through all this, to my amazement, my weight remained totally stable!! It definitely was not lack of stress. Moving is stressful at best, and I was alone in another country, in an unfamiliar city, with a language barrier, charged with finding a house, car, and setting everything up for the family, and most of it without internet access for communication and support with people back in the US. (my weight has definitely been affected by stress in the past) It wasn’t extra sleep because dogs and chickens and bird and neighbors wake up at sunup here (in the past I had been affected more than I thought possible by sleep, or lack of). What else could it be but the food?!

An aside, my hot flashes have also improved considerably, I’d guess by 75% or more.

Then, I go back to the USA. I arrived on Monday the 29th, made it back to Panama on the 2nd, so that was about 5 days of US food, none of it home cooked. Again, when I was with friends I ate what was provided – pizza one night, hamburgers another. The rest of the time it was fast food. I tried to get better quality food – Subway, broiled chicken (not that I ever eat fast food and know what is better or worse, but I tried to get what looked “healthy”).  In those 5 days, I gained 5 pounds. I was still stressed, not sleeping enough, etc. but the main change was the food.

Now that I have been back in Panama for 12 days, I am again stable. I have lost about half of the 5 I gained, and I am again eating fruit at every meal. I also eat veggies, chicken, some beef, beans, lentils, cheese, fruit juice, beer with dinner, fruit juice/seco at night. How can this work with so much fruit and carbohydrates? We still have a lot to do and are working hard at it every day. Ma is living with us, a new experience for all of us. We still get awakened by the neighborhood at sunup. I’m just now starting to feel less stressed as we get more settled in, and a little more rested.

Again, my hot flashes have subsided a lot. I feel generally very good. The food tastes amazing. I cannot explain in words the difference of a pineapple, a tomato, even an ordinary banana that is raised without chemicals (the farmers can’t afford them here) and picked ripe in the field rather than shipped green to a US supermarket near you. It’s a whole different experience.

I think, and my recent experiences have confirmed for me, that we know very little about food and the effect on our health. What are we doing to our food supply in the US? Why do we have increasing problems with weight, diabetes, heart disease and a multitude of other problems? Why, when our food companies come to other countries, do those people also start having these same problems? Are we screwing up our food and killing our people in the process??  This has always been a concern of mine but I never expected to see such dramatic evidence in my own personal experience. I think I will stay in Panama and buy the local food!

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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5 Responses to What do you eat in Panama?

  1. indacampo says:

    I agree everything tastes better here, like real food. The only complaint we’ve had so far is that the beef is kind of hit and miss. This has caused us to cut back dramatically on eating it but we eat a lot of chicken and of course living on Panama’s Tuna Coast, fish. I don’t think I’ve had to buy any yet though it’s mostly given to us. And in six months of living here I’ve only had two days where I’ve suffered from hot flashes. I think you’ve got a point it’s likely the fresh produce and lack of chemicals that are helping. Looking forward to reading some more about your discoveries!


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  3. bebs1 says:

    Once you have gotten used to everything, going to the wet market like the locals do, things definitely will be cheaper and you will see a far more variety of produce that you will want to try. Eating organic food simply is better for you and that is the advantage of living in a country like Panama or the Philippines, everything is grown without insecticides. Any deformity in a produce is looked at as a natural product of nature.


    • kristc99 says:

      Oh yes! The supermarket produce is not appealing after going to the many little produce markets around town, and everything definitely tastes wonderful. When people see I want to try new things too, they are very helpful explaining what they are and how to prepare them. We are definitely enjoying the fresh food here.


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