Sydney’s health food scene is not a trend, it is a transformation

A focus on healthy food-habits has arisen in Sydney over the past few years, and it only seems to be growing. As a nation, we are becoming more and more concerned with what we eat and how we eat, with recent data showing 69% of Aussies are cutting down on sugar, and 59% are eating more natural, fresh foods. It is clear we are increasing our focus on nutrition, with a new diet popping up every year, from paleo, veganism, sugar-free, fat-free, raw…have I included them all? Probably not. But clearly, ‘healthier’ diets and a growing concern with the way we eat are well established.

So can we still call this approach to eating a trend?

Trends imply all things temporary, but as we humans learn more about the food we eat and how it affects our bodies, the philosophy of eating is evolving – we are increasingly eating to nourish. This does not limit us to basic salads – let’s break that stereotype. Sydney’s health-food scene is showcasing just how tasty healthy food can be through the abundance of the prospering culinary scene that is harbouring health food cuisines.

Sydney’s Lyndi Cohen AKA the Nude Nutritionist, believes Sydney’s healthy movement has taken off in the past few years, dubbing the city the “hotspot for foodies”.

“There has been a massive boom in the health industry, across Australia, but particularly in Sydney. Across the entire world, we probably have some of the mosts healthy foods that you’re going to get,” offered Cohen.

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Vegetarian and vegan gastronomy is increasing across the Sydney dining scene. This may be because the number of NSW residents who agreed ‘the food I eat is all or almost all, vegetarian’ rose from 9.5% in 2012 to 12.4% in 2016, according to Roy Morgan Research data. People are becoming more aware of vegetarianism and veganism, and the benefits of reducing meat intake. Why? Scientific data and reports such as The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, indicate many health benefits ranging from reducing premature death, cancer and body-fat percentage. Other reports, including one from the World Health Organisation, which listed bacon, sausages and other processed meats as Group 1 Carcinogens, provide incentive for people to start thinking about what they eat. Australia is agreeing with and turning to a more plant-based diet with the demand for vegan food estimated at $168.6 million by 2017.

Sydney is not short of vegetarian and vegan options. A highlight in the Eastern suburbs is The Dandelion restaurant in Bondi – a contemporary vegetarian and vegan restaurant. ‘Vegan’ and ‘vego’ labels should not steer meat-lovers away, because you’ll be missing out on meat-free food on a whole new level. Head to the Dandylion this evening to experience mushrooms stuffed with melted organic brie cheese, red quinoa and white truffle infused oil or/and beetroot tortelli with vegan cheese sauce and baby spinach. And that list doesn’t even cover the mains, which include the Dandylion Pie with shiitake mushrooms, tofu and corn with Kumera chips, and the Pineapple and Kaffir Lime Yellow Curry. Always leave room for dessert, so you can try the tarte-tatin baked with a selection of different fruit fillings, or the Rosewater & strawberry tarte w whipped coconut cream. Vego or not, the choices here will have anyone convinced that healthy and meat-free food is delicious.

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If you cannot make it over to Bondi, the inner city is not short of vegan and vegetarian options. Gigi’s in Newtown is a vegan pizzeria, Yulli’s on Crown Street in Surry Hills is a delicious vegetarian restaurant and Bodhi tucked behind Hyde Park offers epic vegan yum cha and Asian fusion food. Some of Sydney’s best, like Otto, O Bar and Dining and Yellow, are also embracing the vegetarian and vegan movement with exclusive vegan and vegetarian menus.

The East is also home to a new approach to supplement stores. Fit Nutrition Fix in Bondi Junction combines technological innovation and personalisation to provide a service that tailors the product to the individual’s needs. In addition, for those on the go, it has a takeaway smoothie bar providing juices and protein-packed smoothies. Perhaps supplement stores have been considered confusing or unapproachable to you in the past? Or you think they are exclusively for ‘gym junkies’ or athletes? Well, Fit Nutrition Fix has completely re-energised and redesigned the concept of supplement stores.

Upon entry, there is an interactive screen called the ‘Fit Finder’, that asks you some questions about yourself and your fitness goals. If you are unsure, they have a friendly, fitness-savvy team that can help you out. Behind the interactive computer screen are walls lined with numerous products from powder to bars, to T-shirts. Once you complete the interactive program, it provides you with the store’s range of products that will suit you and where you can find them.

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Down the back is a social-media booth, where customers and staff can get a picture with their protein product or smoothie and share it online. The experience of choosing the right supplement or protein product has been simplified and become an enjoyable experience. Did I mention the music station? While you down that smoothie or hang out, there is a range of Spotify playlists that you can choose from to get motivated for your fitness journey. Gone are the days of intimidating and befuddling supplement stores!

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The heart of Sydney’s food-scene may be considered to thrive in the inner areas of the metropolis, but head across the Harbour Bridge and you find an entirely different culinary culture. The health-focused, flavour-thriving café and bulk foods store, Farm Whole Foods, has settled its second flagship eatery in Neutral Bay. If you are sticking to the south side of the bridge you can find their other store in Potts Point. Its focus on healthy fast food and sustainable packaging makes this one of Sydney’s leading healthy destinations. It focuses on providing food that encompasses all diets, with a focus on whole, fresh foods. The café and bulk foods store element provides customers with the opportunity to learn about the food they are eating – as you can buy the ingredients used in the café in bulk yourself, creating the opportunity for customers to try-before-you-buy.

The highlight of Farm Whole Foods is their smoothie bowls, which range from the original acai, to the dragon fruit, the matcha and the coconut. There is a bit of a debate about the health status of smoothie bowls, with some concerned that they contain high amounts of sugar. But it is all about choosing the right ingredients, because smoothie bowls contain antioxidants, vitamins and natural sugars from fruits. At Farm Whole Foods, they ditch processed granolas and added juice in their bowls for buckinis and natural fruits. What are buckinis you ask? They are alkalising buckwheat crunchy nibbles that are packed with protein, magnesium, zinc and iron. Now that summer is knocking on the door, it’s the best way to get a refreshing energy boost, and this food item is becoming a staple across many other locations such as Sadhana Kitchen, Cali Press and Bare Naked Bowls. ‘Acai Bowls’ may have started as a fad, but their presence in the health food scene is only growing.

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Farm Whole Foods is focusing on providing filling nutritious and unprocessed food compared to the food traditionally offered at fast food outlets. They swap traditional treats for healthier alternatives like their Raw Snickers Bar, which provides customers with sweet satisfaction paired with a nutritious snack. If we eat more filling nutritious food, we are likely to stay full and not opt to grab a chocolate bar or packet of chips in between meals, which provide little to no nutritional value.

Like Farm Wholefoods, cafes around Sydney are appreciating the concept of whole foods. AboutLife across various locations including Surry Hills, Bondi Junction and Rozelle, has transformed the concept of take-away food and  organic market stores. It is a 3-in-1, incorporating a cafe, take-away stations and a place to buy groceries and health products. The innovative and significant aspect of AboutLife is that healthy take-away is made quick, accessible, and affordable. You pay by box size not by weight, and can pack it to the brim with a huge selection of either (or both) savoury and sweet dishes, ranging from chicken wings, to chickpea curry and an array of salads. If you have a sweet tooth choose from chia puddings, fruits, yogurt and bircher.

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It is not just Sydney embracing this movement of course, with Australia’s major cities providing a myriad of health food outlets. In particular, Melbourne has made itself an affirmative foodie hub, and it is not short of healthy options. There are countless eateries across Melbourne like A Thousand Blessings, Transformer, and Matcha Mylkbar (which is rumoured to be opening up in Surry Hills soon) that are showcasing the driving force behind the health food scenes nationwide. Both Melbourne and Sydney are continually exceeding in innovative and creative healthy cafes and restaurants.

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But should we always hold testament to the saying ‘food is fuel’ when choosing to dine out?

Lyndi Cohen suggests that for a healthy lifestyle, balance is key.

“We need to be mindful to find the balance. Being overly obsessed with the food we eat isn’t ideal. It’s about having a healthy relationship with food. You do not need to deprive yourself or cut out favourite foods, and this message about eating whole foods is really coming along,” she commented.

Sydney is experiencing a great push towards sustainable, healthy dining options and fitness stores, especially as its populace becomes more concerned about food-habits. This push is no longer temporary; it is no longer a trend. It is an evolution in terms of how we approach food and how we take care of our bodies. Our attitudes to health cannot be temporary – they are an ongoing lifestyle commitment. It can be said with certainty that the stereotype of healthy-eating as ‘boring’ and ‘difficult’ has been broken by Sydney’s health food-scene; a scene that will continue to grow and thrive for our benefit.