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Where to Eat When You Want to Be Healthy but a Cleanse Sounds Like Hell

Healthy doesn't have to mean boring.
By Imogen Baker
November 20, 2017
By Imogen Baker
November 20, 2017


in partnership with

Healthy doesn't have to mean boring.

It's a well-known fact that cleanse diets were invented as a form of modern, self-imposed torture. The human body is built to eat burgers (that's why we have two hands) and it's surely no coincidence the human mouth is just big enough to cram an entire doughnut inside. But, alas, from time to time we all need to give our bods a break and flush out the grease from our arteries.

Sure, you can limit yourself to homemade meals only, but you don't want to then find yourself one day standing outside your favourite burger joint, breathing deeply every time a waft of burg floats out the door and wailing in agony like a hungry banshee. It can be tricky to eat out and be healthy at the same time, but, thankfully, Melbourne has a smorgasbord of food options.

Instead of signing up to a cleanse, we've teamed up with American Express to give you the best places to eat out when you're trying to be healthy, but also can't bring yourself to suffer through another homemade kale salad with quinoa blobs and sadness dressing. At these joints, the healthiest thing on the menu isn't the blandest, and you can use your Amex to buy some grub that's surprisingly healthy. And, what's more, actually delicious.

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    Transformer is strictly vegetarian so it’s winning the health war from the start. The big, airy venue is worth a visit for lots of reasons. It’s stunning, not too noisy so you’ll actually be able to hear what’s being said around you and most importantly, the menu lives up to its reputation.

    Transformer’s menu is fittingly designed to be family-style; the hearty, wholesome (and genuinely healthy) food deserves to be passed around the table as you’ll want to sample it all. Try the native spiced beetroots served with macadamia cream, finger limes, salt bush and samphire or the crispy chickpea panisse with truffle salt and parmesan. And if you have a big group, the Feed Me chef’s selection is a great way to try the best of the best and avoid the bill quibble at the end.

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    Vietnamese is great for when you’re living the healthy life but also craving meat. So wander up to Mama’s Buoi in the city for a quick, healthy Viet feed. Dishes generally serve up lean cuts and/or seafood, so you can enjoy a nice dose of healthy protein.

    The atmosphere at Mama’s Buoi is friendly and fast-paced — but not too loud — and you’ll find all the standard players on the menu. Fresh rice paper rolls, five variations of vermicelli salad and bowls of six-hour broth pho. The servings are pretty generous, so bear that in mind if your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach.

    For something a little outside the box, try the banh cuon. The slippery rice pancake is stuffed with pork mince and traditional pork sausage, making it a protein-y option and ideal for sharing with a veggie dish to round it out.

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    The vegetarian menu at Trippy Taco means it’s a good alternative for when you’re craving Mexican but don’t want to undo all your good work. The secret is in the beans – there’s lots of ‘em and they’re incredibly flavoursome. Trippy’s menu looks like you’d expect: mouth-watering tacos, burritos, quesadillas and bangin’ nachos, but they all come served with vegan soy cheese and meat substitutes.

    Food comes out super quickly, so there’s no waiting around and questioning your decision for an hour before your burrito arrives. Just make sure you rock up before the crowds rush in. The no-frills cantina can only seat 45 amigos, and it can get a bit squishy.

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    Vegie Bar

    Vegie Bar’s menu is so primo that you will entirely forget that you’re doing the healthy eating thing. There’s also enough variety that even your hungry, grease-lovin’ friends will be satisfied — even without the meat.

    The poké bowl is a light, flavoursome option, with avo, edamame, watermelon, cucumber and carrot served on a bed of brown rice and sprinkled with extra bitties and sauces on top. And for something more filling but non-greasy, look to the soba salad with organic buckwheat noodles, cucumber, baby spinach, avo and white miso dressing and the roti wrap filled with lentil and potato dhal, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.

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    Hunters' Roots - CLOSED

    Nestled in Katherine Place in the city, Hunters’ Roots serves tasty smoothies, simple salads and basic brekkie staples all made with fresh, whole ingredients. It’s a safe option when you’re on a health kick because everything on their menu (apart from the rotating sweets in the cabinet) is a wholesome choice. You can’t go wrong.

    If you’re on the run, try the Purple Rain. A mouthful of pure, healthy deliciousness, the intensely purple smoothie is made up of dragonfruit, local berries, banana, coconut yoghurt, coconut milk and camu camu. The smoothie bowl — a combination of dragonfruit, local berries, coconut yoghurt and coconut milk, topped with peanut butter and granola — is a picture-pretty pink, and tastes as brilliant as it looks. And if you’re hungry, go for the thick cut open toast topped with roasted mushrooms and goat’s feta.

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    Open since 1972, Shakahari is the longest running vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne, and their experience shows in their well-crafted dishes. Hearty meals incorporate Japanese and Indian flavours and feature alongside other famously unique menu items. Try the Hot Pot — a miso broth of tofu, wakame seaweed and star anise served with steamed brown basmati rice, diced daikon, carrot, fresh chestnuts, cucumber and turmeric daikon pickles.

    And while you’re there, you might as well try Shakahari’s signature dish, Avocado Magic. Truly magical — albeit a little naughty and deep fried — avocado and red capsicum come tempura fried and served with a sesame coriander puree.

    Image: Leah Hulst.

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    The Touchwood menu aims to please with familiar brunch and lunch favourites, spruced up with some fancy accoutrements. The avocado toast, served with beetroot relish, burnt lime, pickled red onion, coriander, mixed seeds and sumac salt, is light and fresh. And if you want something sweet, head straight for the wholemeal waffles served with fresh berries, banana, candied bacon crumb, salted caramel mascarpone, freeze-dried strawberries, toasted macadamia and maple syrup. Wholemeal makes it healthy, right? Right.

    Touchwood is also a purveyor of this season’s prettiest trend — colourful, health lattes. See what all the fuss is about; try the pink latte, made with beetroot, soy milk and honey or the golden made with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, soy milk and honey.

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    Loving Hut

    Loving Hut may not be a secret Melbourne find — there are over 200 of them worldwide — but its worldwide success is a testament to their ability to cook great vegan food. The menu is loosely based around pan-Asian cuisine and is loaded with tasty mock meat.

    Now, even though Loving Hut is a strictly vegan restaurant, don’t be fooled and dive into the menu head first. Vegan food can still be deep fried. If you truly want to stick to your healthy eating routine, stick to the noodle dishes and salads. Or if you need something more substantial, go for the Chinese vegetables with oyster sauce and sesame seeds or the green vegetable stir-fry for a veggie-heavy but filling feed.

    Image credit: Jennifer via Flickr


    As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

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