Here is your ACN-Approved Healthy City Guide to the best vibrant living Toronto has to offer!
You had to know this one was coming, right? Toronto is our hometown, where our head office is located and where I was mostly raised.
Toronto is considered one of the most livable cities and is consistently rated as one of the top cities in the world. What makes Toronto rather unique is that people live across the city centre in a collection of small neighbourhoods with strong, tightly knit communities, each with its own set of health-inspired, ACN-Approved gems.
This was a tough one to pull together, only because there is so much I love, love, love about this culturally diverse city. You can easily get around by public transit, taxi or one of the bike shares spread out across the city.
Where to Eat
The Goods: They put the green power into green smoothies! Located in the fun and eclectic Dundas West neighbourhood (very close to where I live), it’s a great spot to pop into to pick up a smoothie or salad, or join their lunch club and have your lunch brought to you. The two powerhouses behind The Goods, Lisa Labute and Cat Parker, offer nothing less than fruitful and nutritious goodness. All of the meals at The Goods are organic and the majority of the ingredients (with the exception of a few cooked ingredients) are raw and awesome!
iQ Food Co.: There’s a lot of reasons why iQ Food Co is special – they pride themselves on putting seasonality and sustainability at the forefront of their menus, almost everything they serve is made daily in-house by their teams, they place a large emphasis on local and organic produce and their Executive Chef and Partner, Christine Flynn, is a Culinary Nutrition Expert! The menu at iQ Foods is inspired by what’s in season with a goal of creating food that’s delicious, vibrant and nourishing.
Impact Kitchen: I don’t spend a lot of time in the east end of the city, but when I make a rare visit, Impact Kitchen is on the list. Co-founder Josh Broun was a personal trainer and nutrition expert who noticed a gap in the marketplace for healthy places to eat and drink. They carry health promoting foods with a focus on organic, local, ethically sourced ingredients and I love that you see a list of their local suppliers and farmers right beside their menu. While they have a variety of meals that span breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks, you should definitely try the banana bread no matter the time of day – it’s the best best best!
The Beet: If you happen to venture around the Junction (which you most definitely should), you should put The Beet on your list. Owned and run by a certified nutritionist and homeopathic doctor, you can anticipate the highest quality of their locally sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients. A great spot to bring friends or family who are experiencing their first taste of “healthified” restaurant food or for kids who might enjoy their creamy Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese. They get extra [gluten-free] brownie points for their biodegradable packaging too!
Doug’s Public Kitchen: This is a great spot in uptown Toronto to pick up ready-made vegan/organic lunch or dinner. I’m a big fan of the creamy, gluten-free Mac & Cheese. Be sure to make a reservation if Sunday brunch is your thing. The variety of sweet and savoury brunch options are most awesome. On Saturdays, you’ll often find Doug’s crew at the Brickworks market where I always go for the tofu scramble. And of course, once every few months Doug will host a special dinner – and this is an event you don’t want to miss. Always a great community gathering with delicious food, of course.
LIVE Organic Food Bar: LIVE is one of the few fully organic spots in the city and for that it wins an award in my heart. Their brunch is off the hook and in the summer, their patio is the place to be. Since I’m one of those people that would sooner order four appetizers than one main, I recommend the Raw Combo platter because than you actually get to taste four different meals. Basically, this is the kind of spot you could dine at for brunch, lunch or dinner and order something completely different and awesome each time. Be sure to save room for dessert. The raw vegan cheesecakes? Best. Ever.
Harvest Kitchen: I love that this brunch, lunch and dinner spot focuses on local ingredients (including ethically-raised meat and local produce, sometimes even from their own garden!) and aims to make healthy eating affordable. Their menu items are simple and tasty, and they offer vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and meat options, so there’s really something for everyone.
Flock: When Chef Cory Vitello’s restaurant The Harbord Room closed it was a sad day in Toronto, but thankfully he decided to shift his focus to multiple locations of Flock. Their menus boast rotisserie and greens, with naturally raised, hormone-free chicken, jazzed up salads and delicious sides. Their Harbord location has more of a sit-down vibe, while the downtown locations are perfect for takeaway that incorporates fresh/local/seasonal ingredients to make food that is consistently flavourful and delicious.
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen: We hold this one very near and dear to our hearts for many reasons (like that we LOVE executive chef Donna Dooher), but most especially for its fresh seasonal menu. Though modifications are often tricky for busy kitchens, I’ve found that if I let them know in advance, the staff is in the loop and the whole evening is smooth sailing. They always go above and beyond – and I always love my gluten-free and dairy-free meals. They’re super famous for their brunches as well!
District Eatery: I love eating healthfully, but sometimes clean eating restaurants can have a crunchy granola vibe that isn’t well-suited for a night out on the town. District Eatery, with its tapas-style nutritious menu, large patio and DJ nights, is a great spot to visit for a casual and fun evening atmosphere.
Bunner’s: This organic, vegan and gluten-free bakeshop now exists in both the Junction and Kensington Market. If you can get there when doors open, you’ll thank yourself for it immensely. Their cinnamon buns…oh my! Think sweet, sticky, piping hot and delicately topped with vegan buttercream frosting. They also make the most amazing gluten-free sandwich loaf that we’ve been known to rip chunks out of on the drive home. The Kensington location has vegan ice cream as well. My reco: pick-up a couple cinnamon buns, some bread, a few muffins and enjoy…just not all at once.
Tori’s Bakeshop: East Enders of Toronto are incredibly lucky to have this gold mine of an organic and vegan bakery on their side. With a priority on whole foods, they also offer dairy-free, egg-free, casein-free and refined sugar-free items – and yet, so much wholesome goodness still remains! Their doughnuts are epic, as are all of their little small bite treats. Plus it’s beautiful in this little shop. And Tori? Well she’s just a burst of awesome talent!
Almond Butterfly: Located in Toronto, right by the University of Toronto campus and the always fun Annex neighbourhood, Almond Butterfly Gluten Free Bake Shop & Espresso offers cupcakes, cakes, brownies, cookies and other treats that taste amazing. They make an amazing cake base, though my family often goes for the strawberry shortcake!
The Butternut Baking Co.: This holistically-minded bakery in the Junction is entirely gluten-free and grain-free, specializing in Paleo-inspired, refined sugar-free and low-carb treats. There are dairy-free and vegan options, too. They bake a variety of yummies, from doughnuts to cookies to cakes to savory goodies, so you really can’t go wrong no matter what you try.
Best Juice Bars
Belmonte Raw: Owned and operated by the dynamic Carol Belmonte, this was one of the first cold pressed juice spots to open in Toronto. Located both in Leslieville and in downtown’s P.A.T.H, you can now enjoy these fresh cold pressed juices along with amazingly flavourful and texture-rich salads, which are perfectly completed with a Peanut Butter Chocolate Thimble. Best chocolate ever!
Village Juicery: These beautifully bottled pressed juices moved into our neighbourhood and came by the kitchen for a juice tasting. We love that they offer a juice without any fruit beyond a squeeze of lemon, cause we’re hardcore like that, but also because they have a huge variety that lists the ratio of greens to roots to fruits. Their power shots are mighty powerful. We also love that they always have a nutritionist on duty at their college street shop.
Greenhouse Juice: Based originally in Summerhill, and now with shops popping up in midtown and downtown, it’s so easy (and delicious) to get your Greenhouse Juice on. I love the rainbow variety and some seriously unique blends. Their potent boosters will heal your woes and their blog Terrarium offers endless vibrant living inspiration.
Bolt Fresh Bar: This is the one we are all at most often, as it’s literally around the corner from the kitchen. Beyond just juice, they also offer great raw and cooked bowls, and super smoothies. The Chocolate Thunder Smoothie – woah… watch out!
The Good Press: We love that no matter what corner of the city you are in, you can find fresh pressed hydration. The Good Press has some amazing blends and power smoothies. Located in the heart of Yorkville, you can drink up while you shop (it’s right across the street from Anthropologie!). And if you’re in the West-End, be sure to pop into the sister shop Sunshine Wholesome Market for a fresh smoothie, salad, sandwich or gluten-free grilled wrap.
The Big Carrot Juice Bar: The Big Carrot is the originator for all things organic, holistic and GMO-free in Toronto. Okay, maybe that’s not totally accurate, but it feels that way. The Big Carrot has been around a long time, and is an amazing grocery store, with an extensive beauty care department, dispensary, and of course, the Danforth’s own juice bar. With loads of juice, smoothies and quick grab and go lunches and treats, this is a great spot to grab lunch and enjoy while people watching in the Carrot Common courtyard.
Market days are the best days and I love that in Toronto, from May until October, there is a great, mostly organic market happening every day of the week!
Toronto Brick Works: This is one of our favourite spots to get some grocery shopping done on a Saturday morning. It runs year-round and offers a wide variety of local and seasonal food from over 25 local farmers and producers. If you have some extra time, we highly recommend taking a stroll around the many blooming gardens. No need to get a babysitter either; this place is a nature-packed wonderland for kids! Be sure to try the variety of greens and sprouts from Kind Organics.
Withrow Park: If you’re in the Riverdale neighbourhood (1 block south of Danforth Ave), you must visit the Withrow Market, which was born out of a project on behalf of the Centre for Local Food Initiatives. You can count on the fresh organic produce from the local farmers along with various food entrepreneurs who pride themselves in using sustainably and equitably produced ingredients. Prime time to visit is from 9-1 pm every Saturday starting on May 23.
Dufferin Grove: This is where you’re most likely to find me on Thursdays through the summer. Though the timing might not be ideal for all (3-7 pm every Thursday), this market is optimal for those in the West end. It’s open all year round (fancy a little ice skating in the winter?) and only contains local organic food vendors – ideal for those who might want to skip out on the crafts and knick knacks. My favourite vendors include Sosniki Organics (best kale, corn and heirloom tomatoes!) and Chocosol (chocolate!).
Sorauren: This is another of my fave summer markets (though it is open all year round). My husband and I bike here after work to have dinner and pick up some veggies and meat. Seasonal vegetables, freshly baked bread, sustainably and pasture-raised meats, eggs and delicious sweet treats (aka locally-produced chocolates!) are just a few of the many goodies residents of the Sorauren, Roncesvalles, High Park and Parkdale neighbourhoods have to look forward to every Monday from 3-7 pm. You’ll want to arrive hungry for this one. Be sure to check out the latest and greatest from Earth + City– love these ladies. Try their kale pesto and onion bread. A staple for me.
Trinity Bellwoods: Join the cool kids in this park any day of the week (seriously – what do these cool cats do?). From slack-lining to hula hooping, picnic-ing and playing, this park is the unofficial backyard of everyone who lives within a six block radius. I love it! You could really spend a whole day here whether you’re basking in the sun, diving into a good read or kicking around a soccer ball with pals. But for us health-food-loving-peeps, you’ll have a hoot just perusing the food-focused farmers market. Pick up some locally grown agriculture and locally sourced ingredients every Tuesday from 3-7 pm, rain or shine!
St. Lawrence Market: The market of all markets! This market is a joy and experience to wander through. So many sites, smells and piles of goodness. There are a couple of organic vendors that are there Tuesday-Saturday and if you’re looking for something special, ask for it. They may just have an extra special bushel ready and waiting for you. Saturdays are the magic days at the market. Head across Front Street to the North Building where there is a hustling and bustling weekly farmer’s market full of the best raised meats, fish, produce, eggs, honey and a few herbal treasures too. Have fun!
Yoga and Fitness
Misfit Studio. This place is nothing but pure magic. Amber J – the charismatic-dancer-artists-gem of a woman owner – has created a blessed space where all are welcome. This studio takes a unique approach to fitness by breaking the mould of yoga and pilates and introduces seamless, joyous sequences that are both challenging and expressive. After being graced by Amber’s presence, you’ll leave feeling empowered, strong and light. Try out a Fusion, reformer, Essentrics, or dance class, or test your balance and endurance with Get Sweaty (a step class on a bosu ball). There is seriously no place like it.
Octopus Garden Yoga Centre. We love this centre, especially for their ongoing commitment to making regular yoga practice accessible for everyone including those new to yoga, expecting mothers, and current mothers and their growing babes! With a community of health-based practitioners and teachers, this centre is a welcoming, safe place for all to engage in self-discovery, healing and mindful practice.
Yoga Space: If you’re around the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood, you’ll want to squeeze in a little bend-and-stretch time at Yoga Space. This studio has been kicking for over 18 years and is also known for its 200 and 300 Hour Yoga Alliance Registered Teacher Training. We also highly recommend checking out their wide range of wellness services from massage, acupuncture and reflexology. Could you imagine a more perfect day?!
Downward Dog: This was one of the first studios in the city and has had a legacy of amazing teachers. With loads of classes throughout the day, plus an amazing line-up of special workshops for both adults and kids and teens- this is basically the yoga spot for the whole family. Their special evening events are awesome community gatherings and the addition of live music and chanting with some of the classes is also a nice shift from the busy neighbourhood.
889 Yoga: Whether you’re new to 889 or returning, everyone is welcomed as family. There are no requirements for fitness or flexibility, only the commitment to open and create space in your mind and soul. 889 also has a fantastic yoga teacher training program and has equipped a crew of incredibly talented individuals with the skills to go out and lead practices on their own. Did we mention that the owners, Christine and Emily, are also absolute gems?!
Breathe Yoga: With the abundance of yoga studios in the Toronto area, it might be easy to wonder what sets each apart. For Breathe Yoga Studio, the warmth and community spirit make this west end Junction spot a local gem. They’re always up to something new, like hosting a movie night with fellow yogis (wine is welcome!) or sharing their exciting array of the latest yoga fashion at their Boutique Breathe.
Yoga Sanctuary: Whether you’re in the heart of downtown at Yonge and College or on the east end around the Danforth and Broadview, pop into the Yoga Sanctuary. This was the first yoga studio I ever went to – it was right near my apartment in university. It’s an oasis! The skilled and experienced teachers, wide range of classes and full schedule means you can get your downward dog on at any time of day. A beautiful and safe environment for newcomers or returning members and one of the coziest, welcoming communities ever. See you on the mat!
Fireflow Yoga: This is one of the few purely yoga studios in midtown Toronto. Loaded with a variety of ashtanga and Vinyasa classes. This studio also hosts loads of special guest instructors. Most classes are followed with a solid dose of meditation, which is really the most important part anyway!
Barre3: These classes combine ballet, yoga and Pilates for an amazing low-impact workout. Barre3 suits a variety of fitness levels and the space is absolutely gorgeous, complete with filtered water for clean hydration.
Toronto is full up with awesome studios – too many to list fully. I highly recommend downloading the MindBodyOnline App where you can search for a studio nearest you, or search by classes that meet your schedule.
Park Yoga! There are two things Torontonians love in the summer months: Parks and Yoga. Many studios around the downtown core offer a weekly free or donation-based yoga class in the evenings and/or weekend mornings. Check the local studio schedule for a special summer outdoor class announcement.
Pure + Simple: This spa is simply unlike any other; primarily for the Ayurveda and holistic approach they take to natural beauty and skin care. If you’re itching for a facial but hate to pass up the opportunity for a massage, you’ve come to the right place. The Urban Renewal Facial is a 75-minute service that contains a thorough facial, including two masks, and a relaxing scalp, hand and foot massage too. By the end of it, you’re bound to feel completely renewed and regenerated. You can even scoop up a few of their products to bring the spa experience home with you!
Float: Where’s a bath with 850 pounds of Epsom salt when you need it? Oh right – just around the corner from us on Queen West! Flotation Therapy (better known as Sensory Deprivation) is the simplest way to rest, de-stress and heal. It involves doing absolutely nothing but lying in a float tank filled with salt-water solution for 1-2 hours. We know what you’re thinking, but no, it’s impossible to drown. The idea is to shut your mind off completely and release anything and everything you’re holding onto (gravity included) while your brain pumps out dopamine and endorphins. Don’t knock it before you try it.
Hammam Spa: A Turkish bath or Hammam Spa isn’t your typical spa, but I say that’s all the more reason to visit one. The best part is that you can soak up the goodness that a modern spa would provide while enjoying the traditional rituals of a Hammam Spa. Enjoy the cleansing and purifying benefits of the Hammam steam room followed by the authentic bath in the Turkish Suites where you lay on a white marble table heated to 108 degrees amidst candle light. If you want to carry on with the Hammam rituals, try out the Rhassoul Clay Wrap to really soak up the detoxifying benefits of this experience.
Alma Natural Spa: When people think of spas, they often think of it as a treat or a special occasion, usually because of the price tag attached to it. What I love about Alma is that they look at wellness as an ongoing maintenance and they make it possible to do so by providing a select few of their services in 10 or 20 minutes intervals at an affordable price. Sometimes you just need someone to relieve tension in your head with a good scalp massage after a long day, y’know? All of the products that they use are also all natural, non-toxic, eco-friendly and handmade with love!
High Park: This is one of Toronto’s largest public parks and probably one of the most eventful. With a beautiful lakefront, hiking trails, sports facilities and a mini-zoo, you’ll never run out of things to do. The beautiful white and pink cherry blossoms alone attract thousands to the park each year. Make sure to pack your camera!
Toronto Island: When a sunny day strikes, you can count on finding half of Toronto’s population here (slight exaggeration). But really, it’s the most fun spot to have an economical ($7.25 round trip for adults, less for the kiddos) and faux-getaway without having to trek out of the city. Round up the troops (friends, family, love bugs and all), pack a delicious picnic and a big blanket. Toss around a frisbee, soak up some rays or dive into a good read. The ferry ride is also half the fun!
The Beaches: Where else can you go on a sunny day to partake in various beach sports, dip your toes in the water, rip down the boardwalk by foot, rollerblades or bicycle and soak up some relaxing R&R time? The Beaches are a hoppin’ place to be in the summer! The best part is that it’s also super close to various shops, restaurants and cafes if you want to get a break from the sun. Surely, an awesome place for the whole fam!
Discovery Walks: A lot of people don’t know that most cities offer guided walking tours. Toronto is extra special as it offers self-guided Discovery Walks that take you all around the city to see the many beautiful historical sites along with feature park sites, all while enjoying nature and getting in some healthy exercise. Their brochures are broken down by the specific area you want to explore, too.
AGO: The AGO always has new and exciting stuff going on, hence why many Torontonians decide to invest in a membership to visit frequently. There are loads of workshops to take advantage of alongside the fantastic exhibitions, screenings and art talks. This isn’t just a rainy day activity, you can enjoy it each and every day (except for Mondays – artists need their rest too!).
West Queen West: This is my hood! I have lived/worked here for ten years and every day something new and awesome is happening – whether it’s a street sale, a gallery opening, a new shop, or some sidewalk art. Every time I walk along Queen West, it feels like the first time all over again. The novelty of unique boutique storefronts, galleries, restaurants and cafes never seems to wear off with the refreshingly new spots constantly popping up. A couple of my favourites are Made You Look for their most divine local, handcrafted jewelry and Shopgirls where you can shop for your shape amongst a select number of Canadian designers. You’re bound to pass by a number of art exhibits, installations or galleries and I highly encourage you to stop. It’s always fun to learn someone else’s story.
Top Shops For Smart + Pretty Living
The Detox Market: For all of you green and organic-loving people, the Detox Market is a beautiful and fun place to discover and pick up new eco skin care and beauty products. They have a zero toxicity policy for all of their products and take purity very seriously. You won’t find parabens, phthalates, glycols or synthetics anywhere near here (hallelujah!).
Eco Existence: Torontonians and Guelphites – get excited! This is your eco-everything go-to. They have eco-friendly products (mattresses, pillows, cleaning products, oh my!), various live events and even a wedding and baby gift registry. I’m pretty obsessed with their selection of eco-friendly food storage containers and drinking vessels. There is even a wide selection of personal care products (check the All Over Soap and hand cream from Clinical Luxury – awesome!). I need to stop myself from dressing my home in all of their amazing products!
Big Carrot: This one-stop shop goes above and beyond your average health food store, probably because they were the first certified organic health food store to specialize in organically grown, non-GMO and eco-friendly products in 1983! I love that I can shop for groceries, body care products and supplements all in one place, all while sipping on a fresh juice from their juice bar. Grabbing lunch at their organic vegetarian deli is always a good idea, too.
Logan and Finley: It can be difficult to find an eco-friendly clothing store in the midst of a busy city. I feel so lucky to have this little boutique down the street from the kitchen. All of their clothes and products are sustainably made, use natural materials and are built to last. The owner is a delight – and you’ll love the curated selection of home products, books, clothing, bags and other everyday essentials.
Where To Stay
Gladstone Hotel: This boutique hotel is all about the blend of historical Victorian architecture with the contemporary luxurious downtown culture. Each of the 37 hotel rooms are designed by 37 unique contributing artists, including its many event venue spaces, each of which offer in house catering menus. You might also enjoy the convenience of their restaurant and their local and seasonal inspired menu.
Dunn House Bed and Breakfast: This simple, elegant 1890s heritage home is nestled in our cozy Parkdale neighbourhood and is run by the most gentle-hearted woman, Audrey. With a huge emphasis and priority on providing nutritious and delicious food, you can count on having an experience that truly feels like home.
Le Germaine Hotel: This urban eco-hotel masters a fine blend of cozy comfort and pure elegance. Though it lies at the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district, you won’t be disturbed by the loud cityscape. They are committed to limiting their environmental impact by buying local and eliminating bottled water by offering fresh filtered water instead. Big high fives for these guys!
Air BnB: I am kind of obsessed with Airbnb. I have actually booked trips based around the homes/monolithic domes I want to stay in – and Toronto has some great rental options! Eco-hotels are far and few these days, whereas with Airbnb, you can choose the exact living conditions you want to stay in for a way prettier price, with the added bonus of having a kitchen to use, which I love. Be sure to study up on home owners reviews before staying somewhere – it can lead you to the most beautiful places or the crummiest if you decide not to read them.
Bond Place Hotel: If you’re checking out the city for the weekend and want to be in the heat of it all, you’ve come to the right place. It brings together the best of both worlds where you can experience both unpretentious sophistication and down-to-earth charm simultaneously. It’s walking distance to major downtown attractions, dining and urban neighbourhoods. Or if you just want to keep to yourself, you can lay low, work up a sweat at their beautiful fitness centre and treat yourself to a fresh colourful lunch at their Mediterranean restaurant downstairs.
Are you from Toronto? Taken your own healthy adventures here? What did we miss? What are your favourite health spots?