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Delicious and Nutritious - Ada’s Natural Market offers healthy and tasty choices

Jun 22, 2015 07:38AM, Published by Kevin, Categories: Shop+Dine, Health+Beauty

For decades, Ada’s Natural Market has been one of the best-known places to go in Lee County for health-food items, even through the shop’s many relocations and management changes.

In 2013 the store moved once more, under the ownership of Heather and Dan Creighton, with Heather at the helm. The new space at the corner of College Parkway and US 41 was no ordinary move; it has been an epic resurrection of a trusted brand during a time when more and more people are conscious of their health and the environment.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Creighton was exhausted and frustrated by having to visit numerous stores for the variety of wholesome products she wanted for her family. Looking back, she says, “I think our town was really ready for a local one-stop place to feed their healthy lifestyle, and that’s what we provide.”

BJ Merket, a medical skin specialist and a longtime Ada’s shopper, says about the new store, “I’m totally blown away. I’m here all of the time.” Not only does she come for produce and supplements, but also her favorite fresh smoothie, the Piña Kale-ada, made with kale, pineapple, coconut water and coconut oil. Then Merket adds spinach and green apple for extra flavor and antioxidants.

“We are the only place around that offers a 100 percent organic juice bar,” says Creighton. She calls the juice bar a “key feature” of the store, along with the produce. These are first two areas shoppers see when they walk through the door.

Adas-11Most of the fruits and vegetables are organic. Because produce is seasonal and customers demand certain items, the bins do have some conventionally farmed items, and they are labeled as such. “We try to hold the line with local and organic,” Creighton emphasizes, “and we do a pretty good job at that.”

That’s one reason why Dan Sinclair shops at Ada’s. “I like the fact that almost everything here is organic,” he explains, “so when I walk in the door I don’t have to try and find the organic section or worry about whether it has GMOs in it or what’s going on with the food.”

Organic products are labor intensive and tend to cost more. Creighton’s response: “Food is medicine. If you spend money on good nutrition now, you’ll be spending less on doctor visits, medicines, chasing the symptoms and the illnesses.”

The working mom knows how challenging it can be to feed a family every night, Creighton says, so “the fast healthy idea was interesting to me.” The deli therefore has dozens of prepared dishes, made with the best ingredients from the store.

Executive chef Winfield Lentz explains his goal is to provide “items to fit just about every dietary restriction, whether gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian or vegan.” The kale salads are the most popular.

A salad and soup bar offers meals to go or for eating onsite. The market’s Green Leaf Café has table service and features delicious burgers made from grass-fed beef, black beans or mushrooms.

Lentz is particularly proud of the beef. “More marbling means greater flavor, only ours doesn’t have the hormones, grains and traditional things used to get that,” he says. Ada’s has a good selection of it in the butcher’s case, along with other free-range meats and house-made chicken sausage.

The store puts its own brand on market-fresh meal kits, prepackaged bulk items, supplements, raw honey and goat’s milk soaps, among other items. It also carries many locally made products and literally thousands of gluten-free options, along with everyday household products that are kind to the environment.

Ada’s does more than sell healthful products; the staff completes the circle by providing recipes and health tips, found mostly online and in monthly newsletters. There are also cooking classes, nutritional seminars, fundraisers and wine tastings on Ada’s calendar.

Stores like this can be exciting but intimidating at the same time. Creighton says, “I see a lot of people who’ve been told by their doctor to lose weight, get healthy, so they come to a health-food store and think it’s a good place to start, but then they walk in and don’t know where to start.”

The staff is knowledgeable and helpful to the healthy-eating novice, often allowing the customer to sample the merchandise such as kale, gluten-free cookies and raw macaroons. “We’ve got lots of gourmet, delicious things,” Creighton says. “Everything is clean (real food, sourced mindfully). That is our number-one line we will not compromise on.”

Just because it’s healthful, doesn’t mean it tastes like cardboard. And eating consciously doesn’t mean you have to swear off treats such as wine, ice cream, chocolate and cheese. Besides finding products that are good for your health and easy on the environment, that delicious discovery is one of the best parts about shopping at Ada’s.

7070 College Parkway, Fort Myers 239-939-9600 Hours: 8-8:30 Monday-Saturday, 9-8 Sunday

Written by Gina Birch, a regular contributor, a lover of good food and wine, and a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.

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