Long gone are the days when fast food only meant grease-soaked, deep-fried, and calorific dishes. Beginning largely with a wave of healthy eating startups in the middle part of the previous decade, London
now boasts some cracking options for time-short diners who don’t want to sacrifice on the quality, freshness, or healthiness of their food
. So ditch the fries and embrace the well-living age, with our guide to the city’s best healthy fast-food spots.
This fast-food chain has come a long way since opening the doors of its Carnaby Street flagship store — it now boasts 41 stores, and is setting its sights on the European and US markets. Founded in 2004, Leon were one of the first players in the emerging ‘good food on the high street’ movement. They sell a wide variety of meal boxes, wraps, snacks, and sides, sticking firmly to the ethos that it is ‘possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good’.
Popular Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi opened his first London eatery in 2002, and now operates five branches across the city, including one formal restaurant and four deli restaurants, which have an emphasis on takeaway food. Menus change daily, and customers have the option of picking up ready-made breakfast and lunches, or assembling their own from the tempting deli counter, which serves hot and cold dishes. Be warned — this one’s not cheap.
Deli, British, Vegan, Gluten-free
Founded in 2015 by healthy eating blogger Ella Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella) and her fiance Matthew, the Mae Deli focuses on natural, simple foods, with the philosophy that ‘eating well is not about diet or deprivation, but about celebrating what you can do with simple, unprocessed ingredients to help you feel your best’. Alongside Ella’s signature Energy Balls, the menu revolves around bowls packed with veggies, while meat and fish are regarded as optional sides. A second branch is due to open on Weighhouse Street, beneath Oxford Street.
21 Seymour Place, London, W1H 5BH
With the first store opened in Westbourne Grove in 1995 by Renée Elliott, the UK’s first organic supermarket has steadily weathered the economic storms that have battered other retailers. Selling natural, organic, and sustainable products, Planet Organic was also among the first London stores to introduce an organic juice bar. Fill a box with tasty hot and cold food at one of their mouthwatering deli counters, or pick up a pot of warming soup from their wide selection — you’ll be surprised at the reasonable prices.
Founded the year after Leon, Pod was inspired by the ‘fast, fresh food offerings emerging in other parts of the world like the speedy ‘made-to-order’ delis of Manhattan’. Today, Pod is one of the best spots to pick up a healthy breakfast when you’re in a hurry — they serve gluten free porridge, toasted sandwiches, and a range of exotic scrambled eggs on toast dishes — while their wide selection of soups are the standout feature of the lunchtime menu.
Also founded in 2005, salad-concept eatery, Tossed, now operates 13 shops across central London. It was set up by new university graduate, Vincent McKevitt, who was determined to prove that a salad-led company could thrive in the UK as in the USA, despite the relatively high cost of fruit and vegetables here. Besides their house salad boxes, Tossed also offer a make-your-own salad counter, a range of healthy breakfasts, and some delicious hot meals.
Hummus is big business in the health-crazed London of today, but when founders and university friends Christian Mouysset and Ronen Givon first set up their Mediterranean eatery, Hummus Bros, they were something of a novelty. The pair claim their company represents the first in the UK to use hummus as the base ingredient in all their meals. The restaurant’s signature dishes are their hummus bowls; add items such as falafel balls, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese to a base of hummus, salad, and your choice of meat. They now operate six branches across the capital.