Shopping for Kale

Healthy foods and where to buy them in Prague: a guide for carnivoris and vegans alike

The arrival of spring is a great motivation for many people to eat better, exercise more and improve their lifestyles. This year I jumped on the health wagon in attempt to shed some winter weight gain. When I discovered how easy it was to get healthy foods in Prague, it became a no-brainer to turn cutting calories into a new outlook on nutrition.

There are many reasons to change one's diet that go beyond weight-loss or body building. Mainstream food production is not sustainable for our growing population and a lot of processed foods contain genetically modified organisms and antibiotics that can be harmful to our health.

It was hard to begin with zero nutritional knowledge so I downloaded My Fitness Pal, a free app for counting calories, keeping track of vitamin intake and exercise. The best part of the app is the bar-code scanner that has millions of foods in it's database, the foods that aren't in the database can be added manually.

The app quickly revealed the truth about a lot of the supposedly healthy foods I was eating. A regular store-bought yogurt is loaded with saturated fats and sugars, egg yolks are filled with cholesterol and miso soup makes sodium levels skyrocket. After a lot of Googling I came up with lists of products, and discovered 100 healthiest foods. Many of these products, however were not available in supermarkets or Potravinys.

Suddenly I found myself at the bio stores that I had previously avoided with the misconception that organic equals expensive. While buckwheat spaghetti at Sapa and millet & brown rice noodles at Bio Zahrada cost more than regular white pasta, they also contain more protein, minerals and vitamins.

Country Life is a good starting point for finding organic and vegan foods such as nutritional yeast, cannabis syrup and chia seeds. They also sell green cleaning and beauty products that are made in a sustainable way without harmful ingredients. It is a great place to buy superfoods, supplements, nutritious snacks and healthier alternatives to popular products.
Marks & Spencer is another great place to shop for unusual healthy foods.

There are many small or family-owned stores around Prague, but there are also many online stores with an even wider selection. Bio nebio offers a lot of information (in Czech) and sells many products at a great price on their e-shop. There are many online stores to chose from: you can even buy some great produce and processed goods on websites that deliver food straight to your doorstep.

For fresh produce however, the farmers' market is probably the best place to go. Prague has several popular markets open on various days of the week selling fresh produce and homemade products from local farmers. Free-range eggs, sheep cheese and the infamous kale are found among the busy stalls.

The markets have a great website with updated information on dates, times and even who is selling what. Visiting the market can teach you a lot about local produce and when it grows. Currently, the stalls are filled with wild garlic, the first spring herb, while kale is not available yet.

While the fruits and veggies are sold at unbelievable prices, processed goods including cheese can be costly. The fresh meats and fish aren't cheap either but their prices reflect the quality. There are many other great places to buy quality meats including small butcher stores that can be found in the most unexpected places including inside the Hradcanska metro stop.

When it comes to cheeses there is a handful of French cheese stores as well as Italian style (but Czech product) Mozzarellart. Fresh cheeses have less preservatives and more nutrients than packed cheese. For weight-loss, mozzarella is the best choice as it is low in calories but high in protein, calcium and more.

Many healthy food forums are filled with debates – kale has been the center of many arguments. It is common for a certain food to suddenly gain popularity and take the health-conscious world by storm. The most current trend is entomophagy: eating insects. While opinions may vary, there are many studies on nutrition that show health benefits and side-effects of popular foods.

Experimenting with food combos and scanning products in stores with my app were a great way plan my meals. After seeing the cholesterol and sodium level in meats I cut down on meat and I had to find other ways to get enough protein – the websites I've listed are great for vegetarians and vegans too. I also discovered that I had trouble meeting my daily calcium and iron levels which I fixed easily with vitamins bought at the pharmacy.

Replacing pasta and potatoes with dark rice and buckwheat is only half the battle. Finding motivation and will-power was the hardest part for me and there is no universal formula. In my case it was going to the gym on a regular basis that kept me on track.

It took many weeks but the foods with scary names that I hadn't even known existed are now a regular part of my life. But a lifestyle change isn't the only way to go: even a small change in diet can go a long way to improve individual health and make the world a better and greener place.

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