Vancouver's love affair with healthy foods swells with slew of fresh openings and trends

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      We’re not exactly saints here in Metro Vancouver when it comes to diet, with our passion for poutine, Belgian waffles, fried chicken, doughnuts, ice cream, and other trending not-exactly-good-for-us foods. But, overall, we still pride ourselves on our health-conscious, clean-eating ethos.

      Poké, acai bowls, kombucha on tap, green (and blue) smoothies, greens of any kind, tofu, quinoa, and tempeh… Name your wholesome food or beverage and you’ll find it here.

      Here are a few signs that our love of healthy foods is here to stay.


      Getty Images / Baloncici

      Goodly times

      Earlier this year, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank launched Goodly Foods, a social enterprise addressing wasted food in B.C. The pilot program takes surplus produce and turns it into new, nutritious, and delicious dishes and products, then distributes it to GVFB members and sells it to the public via buying partners.

      The goal is to reduce the amount of excess food in the local system and offer members fresh foods by repurposing produce or finding new uses for it when it would otherwise go to waste. (Think surplus or brown bananas used in a healthy banana bread.)

      All of the food is produced by H.A.V.E. (Hope, Action, Values, Ethics) Culinary Training Society at a licensed and certified cooking facility at Commissary Connect’s entrepreneur-focused commercial kitchen. The society hires residents of the Downtown Eastside, who commonly face barriers to employment.

      Celebrated local chef Karen Barnaby developed a recipe for the Goodly-branded soup, which will be distributed via the food bank and for sale to the public later this year.

      The program came about, in part, as a result of a $1-million grant to the GVFB by the Walmart Foundation.

      Heirs Pears.

      It's finally open!

      If you walked, biked, or drove along Nelson Street in the past few years, you probably noticed an empty storefront with papers on the windows for Heirs Pears, those signs eventually saying things like “Opening soon…seriously!” The spot has opened its doors at last, serving “slow food, fast”. Its concept is “hackable” meals made from ethically sourced ingredients; its goal is to “raise the consciousness of our systems with human and ecological well-being in mind”. That all means high-quality products for people who believe they are what they eat, whether they follow a vegan, keto, paleo, vegetarian, or omnivore diet.

      A partnership with Teaja, a global organic tea company, Heirs Pears takes its name from an old English saying: “Plant pears for your heirs.” (Pear trees take several years to mature before they bear fruit; it’s a fitting moniker, since Heirs Pears itself was literally years in the making.)

      Suppliers include the Gluten Free Epicurean (all sandwiches are served on gluten-free bread), Hoochy 'Booch Kombucha, East Village Bakery, and Pallet Coffee Roasters. Menu options are deliciously diverse: cumin-and-black-bean salad with kohlrabi, plum, and roasted yam; harissa-spice cod with carrot, fennel, and cured lemon; duck hash with beet greens; tempeh cabbage rolls in house-made basil-tomato sauce, and more.


      Tractor Everyday Healthy Foods

      Expanding eateries

      Subway used to be the spot for a cheap lunch; now that company has fallen on hard times, and other darlings have stepped in and are taking over. Consider Freshii: described on its website as the fastest-growing health-and-wellness brand in the world, it offers healthy fast food and opened its first location in 2005 before launching its next 100 outlets faster than McDonald’s. At the end of 2017, it had more than 300 locations in more than 85 cities worldwide—including about 20 in Vancouver alone. You’ll find superfood soup, a kale caesar salad and other leafy greens, smoothie bowls, chia pudding, frozen yogurt, quinoa and rice bowls, and many other energizing meals.

      Tractor Everyday Healthy Foods is another business that’s rapidly expanding here. Having opened its first outlet in Kitsilano in 2013, it now has five locations in Vancouver (and one in Toronto). The owners describe “everyday” health foods as a “balance of veggies, lean meats and fish, whole intact grains, and heart-healthy nuts and fats”. Look for bowls with power greens and brown rice with tofu, grilled avocado, seared albacore tuna, or other options; soups (like Thai veggie or tomato fennel) and stews (such as chipotle pulled pork or Moroccan chicken); all sorts of sides, from kimchi and lemon kale to curried cauliflower and mushroom ditalini pasta; and more.


      Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery

      “Healthy muffins”: not an oxymoron

      You know that muffin is a six-letter word for cake, right? Pick these up at the vast majority of grocery stores, coffee shops, and bakeries and you’re bound to help blow your recommended daily intake of fat, sugar, and calories. (The ones for sale at Costco or on B.C. Ferries? Don’t even go there.) Although we could still do better when it comes to the healthiness of these popular on-the-go snacks, healthier options exist and are becoming more prevalent.

      Consider Tartine Bread & Pies’ sugar-free Morning Glory; East Village Bakery’s vegan blueberry-chai muffins and no-sugar-added banana-coconut muffins; Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery’s Hello Sunshine gluten-free muffins; Red Square Bakery’s low-carb cranberry muffin tops; and Railtown Café’s gluten-free tomato-basil-quinoa muffins, to name a few.