Healthy Food in Toronto That Doesn't Taste Healthy



There was a time when healthy food was synonymous with rabbit food. There was also a time when people wore pearls to go grocery shopping, but times, they are a-changing. The new Toronto food revolution elevates healthy food, making it the preferred choice. Buzz words are everywhere, from Instagram to storefronts: local, plant-based, fresh, unprocessed. Health is becoming cooler and cooler and as far as we can see, kale and cauliflower aren't going anywhere.

The seven most famous words in the healthy food movement are arguably from Michael Pollan from his book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." The top 10 restaurants that we have chosen fit this model well. Some are as pure as you can get, with the raw vegan movement on full display in restaurants like Live Food Bar

Others are not what you would expect in a healthy menu. Hibiscus Cafe in Kensington makes crepes and ice cream health food (trust us) and you haven't lived until you have tried the carrot cake at Fresh Restaurants. There are many ways to support a healthy lifestyle without having to give up the pleasure of dining out (or icing, for that matter).

Once you get the right menu, there is no need to ask for dressing on the side or flavourless mains. Let your hunger build, choose one of our top ten picks and dig in.

Bon appétit!



10
Queen West
Feel Good Guru
Photo courtesy of Moira Nordholt


 

Feel Good Guru may have hippie written all over it (hyper-local, super-awesome organic plant-powered food, thank you very much) but it is not just for the granola crowd. Local businesses have become addicted to the plant powered juices, inventive desserts and out of this world salads. The dressings are so flavourful, you may be tempted to lick the takeout container (luckily, tongues don't usually grow that long so our dignity is safe). Feel Good Guru only does delivery and catering at this point but makes it easy to get fast food without the regret. If you snap a picture of your beautiful eats, make sure to use the hashtags #luckyofficemates or #fggcatering. It is some of the best "plant-powered food," hands down, and will refuel lagging energy for a long day of city navigating.


9
Live Food Bar


 

Gourmet, gluten-free and sugar-free, the restaurant Live will allow you to feel more "alive" upon exiting. Although it caters to the raw and vegan subset of the population, you certainly don't have to be either to enjoy the inventive food of head chef Jennifer Italiano. There are warm dishes such as burritos or soup for the coldest of days, but it is amazing how much you can enjoy raw vegan poutine. Raw vegetables fused together through dehydration or blending become an entirely different animal (no carnivorous joke intended). Live's two locations are both flooded with light and have minimal decor, making the aesthetic as clean as the food. Go here right after you have uttered the phrase "I need to detox."


8
the Goods


 

Raw chef Lisa Labute and Catharine Parker were frustrated that "crap food" seemed to be the only choice for takeout and fast food options. When you want a change to come to the world, the best way is to do it yourself. That is exactly what they did, and their Roncesvalles spot The Goods is filled with everything that is good for you. Whether delivered through UberEats or ordered in person, salad bowls are piled high with everything from mung beans to noodled beets, with creamy dressings and healthy fats that will fill you up for hours. Served in a brown takeout box and sealed with a sticker, it almost looks too good to eat. Almost.


7
Downtown
iQ Food Co.


 

When it comes time to pick up lunch, choices can seem worse for the wear when you are trying to stay in reasonable shape. Should you cross your fingers and hope that the item in front of you will not erase your hard work in the gym? Going to iQ Food Co takes wholesome ingredients and puts them in front of you in their simple glory. A cardboard takeout box awaits decoration of greens or grains with toppings ranging from avocado to sesame seeds to tempeh. You can discover your inner chef without having to wield a knife or wear an apron. There are also pre-constructed boxes with gluten-free or vegan choices, such as the Evolve brown rice bowl made with salmon, edamame, roasted sweet potato, apple, pickled cucumbers and more.


6
Kensington
Hibiscus Cafe


 

Hibiscus cafe in Kensington market is cozy like a warm hug. Even if the only thing gluten free about you is the fact that you occasionally indulge in a cup of soup, you won't be disappointed. Speaking of soup, the soup and salad combo gets rave reviews with a daily soup offering and an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad (some of the ingredients include quinoa, tofu, kale and okra). Hibiscus cafe has also been brave enough to tackle the normally glutenous crepe and come out as a strong contender. Silky and light crepes are filled with toppings ranging from brie to dark chocolate. If you go the savory route, you can always get your sweet fix in the form of incredible dairy-free ice cream.


5
Kupfert and Kim


 

The general mathematical rule is that the more kale a Toronto restaurant has, the more expensive it will be. Healthy doesn't have to break the bank because Kupfert & Kim is right in the heart of the financial district (with five other locations) and wheatless, meatless, delicious takeout. Breakfast and lunches are served in hearty portions as substantial fuel for long days at the office (or exploring Toronto by foot). A hearty breakfast option is the sweet quinoa with cashew butter, bananas and cinnamon. (Take that, oats!) Lunches come in charming takeout boxes and are filled to the brim with good stuff like brown rice, beans and chia seeds.


4
The Beet Organic Cafe


 

The Beet is owned by certified Nutritional Practitioner Michelle Vella and Homeopathic Doctor Heather Osler. Whether you want to eat well when you eat out, or you have a specific dietary preference, the Beet has you covered. The Beet supports local farmers, buying fair trade when possible and it is proudly 99% organic. You will not have to read labels to be certain that you are getting your daily intake of pretty much everything that matters. Highlights include poutine made with miso gravy and goat cheese curds, or incredible burgers that can be carnivorous or vegetarian, cheesy or lactose-free and regular or gluten-free. The drink list is also extensive, from healing teas to wine and local craft beer.


3
Planta


 

Take the "a" off of "Planta" and you will realize what this restaurant is all about (and it's not the hokey pokey). Marketed as plant-based cuisine rather than vegan, this fresh and airy restaurant specializes in delicious food from around the globe that any meat-eater would be proud to chomp. Planta burgers have mushroom bacon, pickles, and spiced fries. Carrot dogs with a carrot in the place of pork come loaded with sauerkraut, dill pickle and mustard. Once you get over the oddness of eating a carrot in a bun, it is surprisingly good. The creative and innovative dishes are plated beautifully. Get your Instagram feed ready.


2
Urban Herbivore


 

If you are looking for fast food made of ingredients that you can pronounce, in general, you are out of luck. However, chef Stephen Gardner foresaw a need and in 2005 opened up Urban Herbivore in a small restaurant in Kensington. They now have two locations, one in Kensington and one in the Eaton Centre's food court. Expect vegan, local and organic food that is made entirely from scratch. Custom build a salad or grain bowl on a bed of quinoa, lettuce or black and brown rice (among other options). Toppings are substantial, from artichokes to kimchi cabbage to marinated mushrooms. Or indulge in a hearty stew or soup, with exotic curry spices or subtle vegetable flavour. Sandwiches are also phenomenal, and you will be in and out of the door in no time.


1


 

Fresh restaurant opened its doors in 1999, way before "clean eating" and "vegetarian" were on the lips of every second Torontonian. As the times changed to make healthy choices mainstream, Fresh grew along with it, opening five locations around the city. Tables are always packed and there is almost always a wait, but the food delivers on every count. The quinoa onion rings are some of the best onion rings in the city and pair beautifully with the house BBQ sauce. The sweet potato fries have a following, and the miso gravy feels as decadent and rich as if you had used all the drippings from a Thanksgiving turkey. This is not always diet food, but Fresh will inspire you to live well.


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Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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