PLANTA Restaurant | Courtesy of Chase Hospitality Group
Eating healthy and going out for a delicious meal are not always compatible, but health food options are booming across North American cities – and Toronto is no exception. Whether your version of healthy means going gluten-free, raw vegan or chowing down on a thick grass-fed steak with an organic craft beer, here are 10 of Toronto’s healthiest picks.
Feel Good Guru
Cafe, Healthy, $$$
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For high-quality plant-powered food, Feel Good Guru has you covered. Offering office lunches on delivery, custom vegan catering, and plant-based cooking workshops, this small venue has become a favorite of local businesses. Founded by self-taught vegan chef Moira Nordholt and located in Liberty Village, Feel Good Guru focuses on local and organic ingredients, following their motto that “health is wealth.” Among the kale salads, wheatgrass shots, and green smoothies, you can also find delicious and nutritious desserts like the unforgettable “Sexy Raw Carrot Cake.”
Since 2005, Urban Herbivore’s mission has been to provide local and organic food “without any preservatives, additives, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” While their three locations tend to have limited seating, Urban Herbivore is a great lunchtime option. Everything is made on the spot when you order, and there are a variety of “breadwiches,” savory soups, and hearty salads and bowls from which to choose. Their Possum and Tiger bowls are notable, along with the tempeh, avocado, and pesto sandwich. Also, try their deliciously indulgent gluten-free and dairy-free cupcakes, cookies, and muffins.
Raw Combo and Cheese Plate | Courtesy of Live Organic Food Bar
Started by brother-and-sister team Jennifer and Christopher Italiano, Live Organic Food Bar was one of the first raw-based restaurants in Toronto. They have since expanded their menus to also include cooked options, but their commitment to sustainable farming and offering creative, organic meals remains steadfast. Popular options include the assortment of bowls and salads, as well as inventive burgers, wraps, smoothies and juices. Their primary location is at Dupont and Spadina, but now they also have a more compact, takeout-oriented spot in Liberty Village. Their plant-based products are also available at health food retailers around Toronto.
Fresh started off as a traveling juice bar in 1999, long before clean-eating trends like veganism and green juicing became Toronto’s new normal. Fresh expanded as clean-eating trends evolved, and they now have four busy locations across the city. The menu is brimming with inventive vegan and vegetarian options. Try the quinoa onion rings or sweet potato fries with the rich house BBQ sauce – people swear by them. While not quite “diet food,” Fresh creates satisfying, inventive meals with quality ingredients free from hidden chemicals or preservatives.
Cocktail Bar, Gastropub, Restaurant, Pub Grub, British, Canadian, $$$
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Located in the trendy King West neighborhood, Marben is a restaurant that completely transforms itself every few years. Currently offering British-inspired fare, in its previous incarnation, Marben was a Spanish-styled restaurant with tasty seafood and tapas options. But whatever the menu, Marben’s chefs remain committed to creating meals from locally sourced, farm-to-table ingredients and pouring hand-crafted cocktails for its well-heeled after-work clientele. Meal options range from the 7 Spice Duck Duo to the Heirloom Beet Salad, so while it might not appeal to the strictly raw vegan crowd, health-conscious omnivores are guaranteed a meal made with flavourful, high-quality ingredients.
Upscale plant-based restaurant Planta opened in 2016 in the heart of Yorkville. The latest brainchild of the Chase Hospitality Group – well known for some of Toronto’s most elegant dining spots, including the Chase, Colette Grand Café and Kasa Moto – and the acclaimed chef David Lee, Planta offers variations of pizza alongside inventive “small plate” options like smoked beet pastrami, carrot hot dogs, and coconut ceviche. They even re-design cold-pressed juices as delicious cocktails and carry a variety of biodynamic and organic wines. With a funky yet elegant vibe, the décor is also noteworthy – with its high ceilings, jungle-plant wallpaper, leaf murals, couches, and striking light fixtures.
Herbivores and carnivores, unite! Owned by certified Nutritional Practitioner Michelle Vella and Homeopathic Doctor Heather Osler, The Beet basically comes doctor-approved. Supporting local farmers, The Beet buys fair trade wherever possible and claims to be 99 percent organic. Menu highlights include spicy tempeh tacos and the mac n’ cheese bowl (both have gluten-free and vegan variations, too) or delicious burgers that can be either carnivorous or vegetarian. Their drink list includes everything from fresh juices and smoothies to detoxing teas or local craft beer. Their location in the Junction has a cozy neighborhood feel.
iQ Food Co. might be the perfect answer to the takeout vs. clean-eating dilemma. With a mission to celebrate health and wellness plus vibrant whole-food options, iQ has multiple locations across the city. Paying as much attention to design and aesthetic as to balanced nutrition, iQ takes seasonal, healthful ingredients and offers you the chance to create your own nutritious takeout box. There are also pre-constructed boxes that come in gluten-free or vegan options – such as the “5-Star” box that mixes avocado, double sweet potato, broccoli, napa cabbage slaw, a power seed mix, and more with a coconut-orange dressing. You can also get smoothies, coffee or tea, or indulge in baked goods made without refined sugars or oils.
The Goods goes right to the root of the health food movement, focusing on crafting healthy takeout and fast food options. Founded by raw chef Lisa Labute, The Goods provides on-the-go lunches all over the city. Located in Little Portugal, the shop will deliver salads, bowls, smoothies and soups right to your front door – or office. Teeming with superfoods, the menu is based on daily meal plans that are mostly vegan- and raw-based, and 100% GMO-free. You can even get a shot of ginger while you’re at it.
Offering a range of vegan “cross-cultural comfort foods” like quinoa mac n’ cheese with crispy kale chips, the “beef” banh-mi sandwich or the Japanese curry vegetable bowl, Grasshopper’s menu features hearty meals, snacks, sides and fresh juices. With two locations – one in the Junction and the other on College Street – Grasshopper also does delivery and takeout and is considered to be one of the more budget-friendly meatless dining options in Toronto.