It’s just so much easier to be plant-based and healthy in Melbourne these days. There has been a huge shift since I was first inspired to radically change my diet nearly three years ago. And it seems I wasn’t the only one.
You see, with cancer predicted to become even more prevalent, and prescription medications for other chronic illnesses being on the rise, more and more people are realising that diet has a huge role to play, both in prevention and cure. We are what we eat.
Modern medicine is more about sick care than health care and people want to take control of, or responsibility for, their own health. The World Cancer Research Fund International makes these recommendations, among others, to prevent cancer:
*** Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
*** Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks
*** Eat mostly foods of plant origin
*** Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat
And a plant-based diet ticks all these boxes. It can also heal.
3 years ago, when I put myself on my healing regime, I had to eat most of my meals at home. The choices for eating out were really limited and I drove my friends nuts when they wanted to catch up. If they were lucky, I would decide to be flexible. Otherwise, they had to come and join me for Hippocrates Soup and whatever other plants I was having that day.
Fortunately that has all changed. There are so many places now serving plant-based meals that are healthy.
It’s all in the definitions, you see. Last week I saw this post complaining about people who are on plant-based diets calling themselves “vegans.” While there are similarities, I completely get the writer’s gripe: I am plant-based and not vegan, although I admire and aspire to the philosophical underpinnings of veganism – do not harm or exploit animals, no matter what. Don’t eat them, don’t eat anything they produce and don’t wear their skin. And advocate for animal rights. Which I do do, but I’m not vegan.
But often when I’m out, I’ll ask for vegan food because most people in hospitality now know what that means – no animal products at all. Nothing that is derived from an animal or produced by an animal. No meat, no dairy, no eggs and no honey because it’s made by bees.
But there are lots of vegan foods that I won’t eat. There are vegan foods that are highly processed and let’s face it, that are just not that good for you. Yes, there is vegan junk food.
Let’s be honest.
Although I hate the thought of animals being harmed and I’d given up meat, but not dairy and eggs, many times before (i.e. I was classic vegetarian and there is plenty of vegetarian junk food too), what ultimately motivated such a radical shift in my diet was my health.
So what is being plant-based and healthy?
Basically it means eating a diet of only plants. And preferably not foods made in plants. If you get what I mean. It’s a real food, whole food diet. It rarely involves anything that is processed although lots of people on plant-based diets eat crackers, bread, pasta etc.
Refined processed sugars are out. They are substituted with dates, maple syrup, a little raw honey (this is one area where we digress from veganism), rice syrup, coconut syrup and other plant-based sweeteners. Not agave – that has too much fructose for most health nuts, like me.
Taste is definitely in – raw chocolate brownies, berry smoothies, cashew cheeses. Salads the colours of the rainbow. Yum!
And I’ve nearly taken to peganism – paleo and vegan. I rarely eat grains these days. Like a follower of paleo, except there is lots of meat and animal fat on a paleo diet. But no grains or legumes. I do eat legumes and I do eat rice or other grains, perhaps once or twice a week.
So what do I eat? Vegetables including sea vegetables like nori or wakame, fruits (although not too much), legumes, nuts and seeds. I eat coconut yoghurt occasionally. I drink vegetable juice and lots of water.
So you can see why eating out could be a challenge. Well, it was. But not any more!
Here are my favourite 5 places in Melbourne to eat out these days. I’d be more than happy to meet you there and share a plant-based and healthy meal.
Yong Green Food: 421 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Vegetarian and vegan, gluten free and raw are the specialities of the house. Organic produce is used when possible. With a firm ethos that what we eat ought to nourish and satisfy without involving the sacrifice of other beings, the food has a definite macrobiotic feel to it. I love the Rawsagne and Macro Dragon Bowl. And even better they do take away for those nights I’ve done workshops and just want a wholesome meal at home.
Shoku Iku: 120 High Street, Northcote
Shokuiku offers organic raw and living food, full of vitality, love and consciousness. The owner, Yoko, doesn’t even try to replicate so called normal food, which so many plant-based chefs do. Having trained in macrobiotics and holistic nutrition, she just makes her own special salads with dehydrated crackers or breads, and nut based creams and cheeses. There are also great juices and smoothies, supplemented with medicinal herbs and powders. This is where I bought some of the fantastic healing herbs that I used to rebuild my immune system (they are in this post).
Urban Projuice: 315 Montague Street, Albert Park
This wholesome cafe was borne of the incredible healing that Tegan Steele (aka Vegie Girl) and her mother, Katrina, experienced by shifting to a plant-based diet (go here to find out more). Like many of us on healing journeys, they just want to share what they learned, and ultimately experienced, with the world. And this they do very effectively through being committed to fresh produce that is locally grown, seasonal, fair-trade and organic where possible. While there are some eggs on the menu, the rest of the food is plant-based. Juices, smoothies, superfood bowls and delicious treats. A great place for a healthy start to the day.
Supercharger: Emporium Food Court, Level 3, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne AND The Luxton, 22 Chatham St
Supercharger took food court cuisine to a whole new level. It even enticed our family into Emporium to gather for a meal. And you get to choose a range of different dishes. You can either build your own or just select one of their pre-designed meals. But every meal comes with a base, smash, raw, ferment, protein, simmer and sauce. Supercharger makes being plant-based and/or vegan AND in a food court very hip, slick and cool.
Monk Bodhi Dharma: Rear 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava
This place is well worth all the difficulties involved in finding it. It’s very hidden down a laneway next to the carpark on Camden Street. But once you’ve been there, you’ll never forget the way. The food is delicious. There are vegetarian and vegan options – I love the vegan unami mushrooms and corn bread, or their chunky winter soups but the real treat is the dinners, which sell out. At these dinners the food is vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and NGO (no garlic | no onion) with a selection of cooked and raw courses. It is a degustation menu supreme. There is also its sister cafe in Abbotsford that I confess I haven’t visited yet – Admiral Cheng-Ho.
So they are my top 5. There are others I visit regularly as well: The Merri Table Cafe (CERES Community Environment Park, Corner Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East – the vegan pho is excellent), Healthy Self Co (or Heal Thy Self Co – 26 Ballarat Street, Yarraville) and Shakahari (201-203 Faraday Street Carlton) for special occasions.
And then there are those I don’t attend much but are a great introduction to vegetarian and vegan cuisine for those who want to dip a toe into meat-free waters: Vegie Bar, Smith & Daughters, Las Vegan, and southside: Sister of Soul, Combi and Vegelicious.
If you want a more exhaustive list of Melbourne vegetarian eateries, TimeOut did this article recently.
And why didn’t I just share that article? Because as I said at the beginning, my emphasis is good healthy and nutritious food. And a coaching client asked me if I could make her a list of places I would recommend. And this post is the list for her, shared with you.
For those of you not in Melbourne, I mentioned some of my favourite places to eat in the UK and San Sebastien here.
What is your favourite healthy and plant-based place to eat? Do you have one that you think should be in the top 5? If you don’t yet, which do you think you’ll try first? Let us know in the comments and perhaps give a report back when you’ve taken the plunge. Otherwise, please feel free to like on Facebook and share away.
Be happy. Be well.
And so be it.