Perth’s Healthiest Restaurants

It’s never been easier to get a healthy breakfast and restaurant lunches are typically lighter and brimming with salad options. But when it comes to date night, catching a friend or a group event, dinner is a time where good intentions can be derailed. I love going out, exploring new venues and drinking a good glass of wine – my fitness routine is never going to stop that! But I don’t want to undo all my efforts at the gym by overindulging when I’m dining out. I don’t feel good after I eat greasy or carbohydrate-heavy meals (hence the lack of pizza or pasta in my posts – gnocchi with lots of tomato sauce excepted!) and too much wine makes my 5.30am alarm a struggle. 

While the definition of healthy food is subjective, I consider it as anything that’s minimally processed and eaten in moderation.  I try to avoid anything from a packet and instead eat a variety of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables daily with nuts, wholegrains and proteins. Dark chocolate and occasional home-baked treats like banana bread are all the sweetness I need. Thankfully, perhaps in reaction to fast-food and convenience meals, restaurants are increasingly focusing on fresh, seasonal produce. Whether you have specific dietary needs such as gluten free, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or simply want nutritious yet delicious meals, these restaurants are for you! Options range from casual to special occasion, and all but one venue serves meat and alcohol.

1. DeJa Vu tapas restaurant, Northbridge

Comprising a rooftop venue and a restaurant, a first glimpse of Dejavu‘s menu reveals cocktails, sliders, and pizza  – where’s the healthy you ask? Look closer. The pizzas are on activated charcoal bases. The hummus is made from carrots and served with vegetable sticks. Slider options include free range chicken and shredded jackfruit (vegans rejoice!) on house-made buns. There are also distinctly Australian flavours – think lemon myrtle, macadamia and damper. As for the cocktails Dejavu uses essential oils and coconut sugar syrups, and you’ll again find activated charcoal… in its tequila! The romantic rooftop setting and stunning service make this a magical night out. 

Cost: Tapas plates $8-16, sangria $8 and cocktails from $17.
Address: 2/310 William St, Northbridge | Website 

 Dejavu Rooftop: charcoal damper, sriracha hummus and vegetable sticks with a cocktail. 
Dejavu Rooftop: charcoal damper, sriracha hummus and vegetable sticks with a cocktail. 

2. New Normal, Subiaco

From the outside, this venue doesn’t look overly healthy. You’ll see wine, a rooftop bar and waitstaff with plates of delicious looking food. But on closer inspection, New Normal completely embodies my idea of healthy eating. The focus is on fresh, seasonal produce and it’s entirely sourced from Western Australia’s South West (drinks menu included). The menu changes so often, they don’t have paper copies (but if you’re shortsighted like me and can’t read the blackboard, you’ll be kindly given a chalkboard at your table). My boyfriend and I dined just before Christmas, choosing plates of tomato, golden beetroot, octopus and rosemary potatoes. I felt like we were in a renovated farmhouse, eating exceptional flavours picked straight from a garden. The atmosphere was intimate, wholesome and just lovely. Don’t wait another minute. Book your table now! 

Cost: Approx. $60 per person, including a bottle of wine. 
Address: 2/23 Railway Rd, Subiaco |  Website

 New Normal: golden beetroot and pumpkin with cranberries (goats cheese on the side).
New Normal: golden beetroot and pumpkin with cranberries (goats cheese on the side).

3. The Raw Kitchen, Fremantle

Remember that time before bliss balls and coconut wraps were widely available in supermarkets?The Raw Kitchen opened in Fremantle eight years ago, pioneering healthy eating in Perth. Today, it’s evolved to beautiful warehouse venue that offers yoga, healthy living workshops and even a zero-waste store. But back to the food. Despite its name, not everything is raw. Think yellow tempeh curries, raw nachos with ‘cashew cheese,’ and a ‘live’ pizza with dehydrated buckwheat base. There’s no dairy, gluten, refined sugar or additives. The wine list has preservative free, organic and biodynamic options too! Eating out never felt so good. 

Cost: Entrees/shares from $7, mains from $19, wine from $36 per bottle. 
Address: 181A High St, Fremantle | Website

 The Raw Kitchen: raw tacos filled with fresh salad and herbs, topped with cashew cheese sauce.
The Raw Kitchen: raw tacos filled with fresh salad and herbs, topped with cashew cheese sauce.

4. Post, Perth CBD

I’ve only been to Post for breakfast but it’s open for lunch and dinner, so it’s going on this list. Set in the city’s stunning State Buildings, the menu features several dishes designed by its Como Shambhala spa, aimed at being light and nutritious. Enjoy dishes such as quinoa spaghetti, salads with carrot top pesto and plenty of local seafood in a beautiful heritage setting (how long can you stare at that ceiling for?). I’ll be returning for Post’s Champagne brunch served Sundays from 11.30am – nut seed ‘real toast’ with avocado, buckwheat cannoli cacoa dessert and a glass of champagne of course! Post perfectly captures indulgence without excess and you can even get a spa treatment before or after, if you wish. 

Cost: Starters from $18, mains from $24. 
Address: State Buildings, corner of St George’s Tce & Pier St, Perth | Website

 Post: Dining feels like a spa experience with its nut and seed 'real toast' with avocado.
Post: Dining feels like a spa experience with its nut and seed ‘real toast’ with avocado.

5. Hanami, Mt Lawley

With a focus on simplicity and minimal cooking times, Japanese is a great option when looking for healthy dining options. But I specifically keep coming back to Mt Lawley’s Hanami because it’s always so fresh. Sure, there are spring rolls on the menu and you could choose fried chicken with a pile of white rice. But there’s also edamame, endless seafood, cold tofu, and the option to have 5 or 10 pieces of sushi (thumbs up for portion control). The ambience is lively and casual, the food is delicious and you can’t beat the prices. Japanese is also the perfect opportunity to skip the beer or wine and drink green tea all night too. 

Cost: Starters from $6, sushi from $6, mains from $17. 
Address: 685 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley | Website

Want More Healthy Dining?

If you’d like breakfast or brunch ideas, check out Perth’s Healthiest Cafes! There are so many new venues opening, I’ll be doing another post soon showcasing the latest additions. Subscribe to my e-newsletter to get an alert. 

QUESTION: Where do you go for a healthy dinner out? 

My 15 Minute Rhubarb Compote

I visit my local farmers’ market most weeks and I love wandering between the tables of fresh produce. I buy staples like leafy greens, tomatoes and apples and then choose a few seasonal items to inspire my meals for the week. It might be a bunch of beetroot for salads or Tuscan cabbage to put in a stew. I can fill a box for around AU$20 and love the sense of community on a Saturday morning. 

A few weeks ago the rhubarb at looked irresistible but it’s hardly a fruit you bring to the office. Instead, I created this basic compote to add to breakfasts or sprinkle with granola for an instant rhubarb crumble. It was such a hit with my boyfriend, he asked me to make it again the following week.

I like the simplicity of this recipe which can be easily prepared while cooking something else. Rather than refined sugar, this compote uses cinnamon and vanilla to mimic sweetness. It’s a great, low-calorie treat that’s good enough to enjoy anytime of the day! It’s also gluten-free and vegan.

 Rhubarb compote: it looks like red celery at first! 
Rhubarb compote: it looks like red celery at first! 

Ingredients

Serves 6  

600g rhubarb, chopped into 1.5cm (half-inch) pieces
½ cup water
1.5 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sultanas

Method

1. Put all ingredients except sultanas in a medium sized pot.
2. Bring to a boil (about 5 minutes), then turn heat to medium-low.
3.  Add the sultanas.
4. Cook for a further 10 minutes or until rhubarb is soft, stirring occasionally.
5. Serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate.

Notes

This keeps in the fridge for at least a few (3-4) days. Add an extra tablespoon of maple syrup if needed, for sweetness. Serve compote warm with oatmeal, homemade custard or on top of pancakes. Or enjoy it cold with yogurt, granola, or scones. I like to mix mine with vanilla protein powder for an instant smoothie bowl – then just sprinkle with nuts, seeds and fresh fruit. Delicious! 

NUTRITION
54 calories | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin C: 13% | Calcium: 13%

QUESTION: Where’s your favourite place to get fruit and vegetables? 

Easy Muesli for One

I’ve always had a reluctant relationship with muesli. Unlike its sweet, roasted cousin granola, muesli has mild flavours and goes soggy far too quickly for my liking. And as opposed to oatmeal, a serve of muesli is over just a few mouthfuls after it begins. 

However when I returned from China last month, I was craving something fresh and light. After three weeks away, my cupboard was bare and it was too warm for porridge. I had some frozen bananas but didn’t feel like a smoothie. I stared at my pantry, summoned the scant ingredients on hand and created this recipe in 60 seconds.

The rolled oats provide a high-fibre, low GI and low-calorie base while the walnuts add a rich, caramel-like flavour with the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. The cocoa nibs are like nature’s chocolate chips and a good source of iron and antioxidants. They won’t get soggy either! The sultanas add a little sweetness and bulk while the coconut flakes are just plain YUM.

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup (30g) rolled oats (*use gluten-free oats if needed)
1 tbsp (40g) walnut pieces
1 tbsp cocoa nibs
1 tbsp sultanas (raisins)
1 tbsp coconut flakes (optional but delicious)
Fresh fruit to serve (blueberries, banana, or strawberries)

METHOD

1. Combine all ingredients in a cereal bowl
2. Add fresh fruit and serve with your choice of milk (soy, almond, dairy)
3. Enjoy! 

notes

You can easily scale the recipe up by multiplying ingredients by 10 and storing in a large container to have during the week. I enjoyed my muesli with fresh blueberries and soy milk – there’s something about the combination of fruit, cocoa nibs and coconut that makes this taste luscious! Check out my post Perth’s Top Health Food Stores for where to buy ingredients in bulk.

NUTRITION
292 calories | Carbohydrates: 32g | Fat: 15g | Protein: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Fibre: 6g | Iron: 13% RDA

QUESTION: What do you crave for breakfast when you return from holidays? 

 

A Night at Crown Towers Perth

When you think of a family vacation, what jumps to mind? A camping trip or a week away in Bali, Florida or Spain? In my family, we can barely meet for dinner without a month’s notice. It was therefore a rare and special treat when my family and I stayed at the brand new Crown Towers in Perth, Western Australia. Granted, it was only for one night in the middle of winter. But we were going on a family holiday!  

The 500-room hotel opened in November 2016 at a cost of $650 million. It’s reportedly the most expensive hotel ever built in Australia and is the largest in Perth. It’s strategically located in Burswood alongside the greater Crown complex, about 10 minutes drive from Perth’s CBD and 15 minutes from Perth Airport. 

Our stay at Crown was devised months in advance by my youngest sister (a travel agent) and her boyfriend. We sat around the Christmas tree last year and they gave us mysterious gift wrapped packages with our names on them. We took it in turn to open our gifts, revealing cardboard clues with images of keys, some numbers and a crown. After 15 minutes or so, we solved the puzzle. We were having a night at Crown Towers in July 2017! A week before our booking, my sister and her man sent an an elaborate email detailing room inclusions, dinner reservations and breakfast. My first staycation was looking exceptional!

arrival & check-in

My boyfriend and I caught an Uber from our city apartment and arrived at Crown Towers within 15 minutes. Like most West Australians, we’d been to Crown complex before but driving up to Crown Towers’ entrance was distinctly different. Perth’s humble skyline looked world class alongside the sweeping Swan River views. Equally as striking was the Crown Towers’ building itself. It was tall, glistening and commanded your attention. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in my own city. 

We arrived at 2.30pm for a 3pm check in but it wasn’t exactly smooth. Reception were confused as my sister had booked four rooms but we’d arrived separately (albeit within an hour or so of each other). I didn’t think this would be an uncommon situation but the issue was resolved within a few minutes. I was surprised when we were told our room wasn’t ready. It may have been because of our request for adjacent rooms but it was only 30 minutes before the official check-in time. Staff told us they would call or text when the room. Again, confusion arose about whether to call me or my sister who’d made the booking (and already had her room). I was beginning to doubt whether Crown could live up to world class standards. 

 The Waiting Room: my underwhelming cocktail ($18).
The Waiting Room: my underwhelming cocktail ($18).

The delay provided a perfect chance to head to the The Waiting Room for a cocktail. It was a beautiful, art deco style space adjacent to the lobby that would’ve fit neatly in The Great Gatsby. Tables of mostly women were enjoying afternoon drinks, and I spotted a few people enjoying the bar’s signature “High Coffee” which consists of a coffee-based cocktail and four matching desserts for $35. I’m not a coffee drinker but I made a note to take friends. 

I ordered a spiced winter cocktail ($18) while my boyfriend had an expresso martini ($20). His drink looked and smelt wonderful, but the presentation of my drink was underwhelming. It tasted fine though. A moment of redemption came when I inquired about one of the ingredients in my drink, Lillet. The waiter explained it was a French aperitif, mostly made from white wine and some citrus. I was happy with the information but then he returned with the bottle a few minutes later so I could see the label. My afternoon cocktail had become a liquor lesson! I was very grateful (and I’ll be buying some Lillet for my liquor cabinet too). We got a text that our room was ready at 3.15pm. As we left, I noticed one of the television screens was showing live football. The 1920s ambience was suddenly very 2017. 

the room  

Memories of the awkward check-in and my average cocktail were washed away the instant we walked into our room. The Perth skyline and river views filled the floor to ceiling windows. I felt as far from home as you could with a 15 minute drive. My boyfriend and I spent at least 10 minutes staring out the window. A family holiday had never looked so good! It was time to crack the complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, which was included with our booking. Except it wasn’t there. I made a quick call to the front desk and it arrived 10 minutes later. It was another slip in customer service, but the view was so good I didn’t care. 

 Crown Towers: Perth skyline and the Swan River from our Premier King room. 
Crown Towers: Perth skyline and the Swan River from our Premier King room. 

It turns out we’d been upgraded to a Premier King room (hence the view) although we only discovered this later when speaking with family. I explored our abode for the night, which featureda huge bathroom (with a television by the bath), an iPad to control room settings, and thick, luxurious bathrobes. The mini-bar was excellent and showcased local goods, including Hippocampus gin and a wide range of Koko Black chocolates. There was time for a quick soak in the tub and if it wasn’t for our dinner reservations, I wouldn’t have left the room! 

 Crown Towers: the bathroom was spacious and had a television by the bathtub.
Crown Towers: the bathroom was spacious and had a television by the bathtub.

facilities

 Crown Towers: the mini-bar is perfect for chocaholics.
Crown Towers: the mini-bar is perfect for chocaholics.

Crown Tower’s outdoor pool is as much about striking aesthetics as it is about leisure. However, it was a cloudy 17 °C (62 °F) during our winter stay so I didn’t make it out there. The fee for renting a pool-side lounge started at $65, and rose to $375 for a luxury cabana on weekends. The pool is strictly for guests only, so no chance of making a day visit in warmer months. It was taunting us from our room!

I didn’t have time to check out Crown Towers’ gym, despite it being open 24 hours. I didn’t visit the day spa on this occasion either, although I’d previously been for some birthday pampering over summer. I used the Aqua Retreat area for about 20 minutes before my treatments, which consisted of a Wild Kashmir Purifying Facial ($200, 1 hour) with turmeric and lavender and a firm relaxation massage  ($180, 1 hour). The facial was soothing yet detoxifying while the massage was calming but also addressed tight spots. I felt liked I’d had a full night’s sleep when I left! While hotel spas can be known to take advantage of their captive market, Crown Spa truly stands on its own. 

dinner  

Our family had booked a table at Crown’s premium Chinese restaurant Silks. I’d dined here a few years earlier with my boyfriend, but we’d both agreed it was a venue better suited to groups so you can try more of the menu. Silks was about 10 minutes walk from our hotel room and it was much more ornate than I’d remembered. Our party of seven included chilli lovers and chilli haters, a vegetarian, some serious carnivores and my mostly vegan self. We were promptly seated at a round table with a lazy susan in the middle – my favourite setup for group dining. 

 Silks Restaurant: Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt, marinated cucumber and three serves of Signature Dim Sum. 
Silks Restaurant: Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt, marinated cucumber and three serves of Signature Dim Sum. 

We ordered white wine (Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc $65) and some beers while we looked over the menu. We decided on a few small dishes to share and each chose a main, making sure there were no duplications. The feast that ensued was incredible. The Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt ($18) was devoured by all. My Sweet & Sour Gluten Dumplings ($28) were a delicious, chewy main that had all the flavours of childhood takeaway elevated in mock meat. My vegetarian mother declared it her favourite dish. The carnivores were seriously impressed with the tofu, and also said the Signature Dim Sum ($25 for three pieces) was a highlight. The Fried Egg Noodles with Barbecue Pork ($28) and Peking Duck ($11) received praise too, while the Stir-fried Chicken with XO Sauce & Cognac ($48) was reportedly satisfying but not sensational. There was a second bottle of wine (Plantagenet Riesling $55) and some spirits and cider as our chatter and chopsticks continued. There was no room for dessert.

The bill came to $625 for the seven of us ($90 a head), although the final total was closer to $550 once we used our Entertainment Card discount. Would I return to Silks a third time? I find it hard to separate Chinese food from memories of plastic takeout containers and pyjamas, but I’m yet to find anywhere in Perth that can rival Silks’ crispy tofu. Combined with the lure of sweet & sour dumplings, I’ll likely revisit with my mum in another year or so and truly tackle that wine list.  

casino

Half my family went back to Crown Towers to enjoy their rooms while the rest of continued our night at the casino. Crown’s gaming area is much like any casino in the world (I’ve been to several in Las Vegas and oddly enough one in Zimbabwe). It’s a labyrinth of bright lights, felt-covered tables and slot machines without a clock in sight. I quickly lost $20 in Blackjack and my boyfriend had a few wins before losing at the same table. My sister and her partner were on a winning streak but lost shortly after. It was an expensive hour but a novelty. By now, we were full of food and alcohol, and some of us had work the next day. It was time to say goodnight. 

turndown service 

My boyfriend and I returned to our room to discover two boxes of Koko Black chocolates and breakfast menus on the bed. A pair of slippers had been placed on a small mat each side of the bed too. It’s the most attentive turndown service I’ve ever seen. We took some time to enjoy the night time views before sinking into the luxurious bedding. I slept until our alarm at 8am, a reluctant but necessary measure to ensure we made it to breakfast. 

 Crown Towers: the turndown service included two boxes of Koko Black truffles (one set was dairy-free too!).
Crown Towers: the turndown service included two boxes of Koko Black truffles (one set was dairy-free too!).

breakfast  

Our family met at 8.30am in Crown Towers’ buffet restaurant Epicurean. This venue has been on my list of places to try since the first photos from its opening day flooded Instagram. The space itself is at ground-level and it’s light, bright and airy. The combination of marble and rose-gold features is fun and classic. It wasn’t very busy but it was also a Monday morning. I was excited. 

 Epicurean: Hot section on the left, fruit in the centre and a chocolate fondue tower to the right! 
Epicurean: Hot section on the left, fruit in the centre and a chocolate fondue tower to the right! 

I’ve had buffet breakfasts at five star hotels across Asia and Europe, and Epicurean is up there with the best of them. Even at breakfast time, you could choose from antipasti, cheeses and an extensive salad bar to fresh pretzels, tortilla chips and guacamole. The continental section included sweet and savoury breads, bagels, crumpets, cereals, yogurts, four types of poached fruits and even healthy bliss balls worth several dollars at any cafe.

 Epicurean: The hot section had an array of Indian dishes and breads, along with Asian and Western options.
Epicurean: The hot section had an array of Indian dishes and breads, along with Asian and Western options.

Epicurean’s hot section boasted multiple Indian curries and breads, noodles, and Western options such as Tuscan potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs and baked beans. There was a dedicated meat section too, with delicate individual pieces lined up in a window. Then there was desserts! The standout was a chocolate fondue tower (both milk and dark varieties) with bowls of churros and an entire cabinet of fresh fruit. You’ll also find trays of croissants, cakes, pastries, donuts, pancakes and muffins.

 Epicurean: you'd need to stay a week to sample all the breads and pastries! 
Epicurean: you’d need to stay a week to sample all the breads and pastries! 

I chose Indian dahl and paratha for starters, plus hummus, guacamole and crispy wafers. My second bowl was poached figs and granola, which were both packed with cinnamon and spices. I was tempted to have a fresh pretzel but my buffet strategy told me no. Instead, I rounded out breakfast with a churro, dark chocolate and fresh pineapple for good measure. I was impressed by not only the extraordinary range of food, but also the quality. My sisters adored the jaffa cake, while my mum said the super fluffy scrambled eggs were an unexpected highlight. 

 Epicurean: cheese, assorted crackers and fresh pretzels.
Epicurean: cheese, assorted crackers and fresh pretzels.

My sister had pre-paid breakfast when booking our room for $36 (it’s usually $42 Monday to Saturday). Given this includes endless cups of coffee and tea, it’s exceptional value. I left for work very full, but very happy. I will absolutely be returning to Epicurean for lunch and dinner. 

departure

We delayed check out as long as I could, but by 10am I had to get to work. One night wasn’t enough to feel fully refreshed or appreciate all the services at Crown Towers but it was a luxurious way to hit ‘pause’ on life and make some lovely family memories. I’m already dreaming of my next staycation! If Crown Towers can raise all guest experiences to the heights we saw, this hotel will be strong a drawcard for international tourists and locals alike. 

 Crown Towers: the view from our room as we reluctantly checked out. 
Crown Towers: the view from our room as we reluctantly checked out. 

more details

Crown Towers

  • Cost: A Deluxe King starts from AU$268 per night on Sunday and Monday nights, but I’d highly recommend the Premier King room for the dramatic city views (from $322). Access to Crown’s Crystal Club with breakfast and evening drinks and canapés starts from $448 in a Deluxe King room or $508 for a Premier King. Prices climb mid-week and hit a peak for Friday and Saturday nights. 
  • Address: Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood | Ph: +61 (08) 9362 8888
  • Website: www.crownhotels.com.au/crown-towers-perth

Dining & spa 

QUESTION: Have you had a staycation? If so, share below! 

Breakfast with Benefits

I have a new love in my life. It’s putting a spring in my step every morning and I’m glowing for hours when I get to work. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt so satisfied! It’s enough to start rumours. Who exactly is my newfound love affair? 

STEEL CUT OATS.

I was already an oatmeal addict. An effortless and comforting breakfast, it’s full of whole grain goodness and fibre for only 120 calories a bowl. Irresistible! So when my naturopath suggested I try the steel cut variety, I was keen. Also known as Irish or Scottish oats, steel cut oats are oat kernels which have been coarsely cut by a metal blade. Because of this, they have a lower glycemic index (GI) than their rolled counterparts (which are steamed oat kernels rolled into flakes). Why is low GI good? The carbohydrate in the food breaks down slower, therefore having a slower response on your blood sugar levels and helping you feel full longer.

I ordered a kilo of steel cut oats from my favourite bulk food store 2 Brothers Foods and a few days later, my future love arrived. First surprise – steel cut oats look like RICE. Second surprise (or shock) – they take 25 minutes to cook. It was nearly a deal breaker! That was NEVER going to happen before work. But then I discovered some magic…

Steel cut oats actually improve with time, becoming thicker and creamier unlike rolled oats, which turn to glue. I’ve been making steel cut oats on a Sunday using this recipe from The Healthy Chef, dividing it into bowls and then enjoying heavenly, slow-cooked breakfasts throughout the week by simply reheating in the microwave. Steel cut oats have a nutty taste and chewy texture almost like brown rice, but in a thick, oat cream. They’re so satisfying and nutritious, I feel like I’m in a Swiss alpine retreat with every spoonful.

An overripe orange inspired me to use steel cut oats to make Bircher Muesli, by soaking 1/2 cup overnight with orange juice and soy milk. It was delicious, filling and refreshing thanks to the citrus. However, I don’t think my relationship with steel cut oats is going to be exclusive. For one, you can’t make granola with them or you’ll snap a tooth. Also, the hot, creamy texture isn’t suited to all fruits and for me, cooked oats lose their magic eaten cold. 

So today, I’m sharing my weekday breakfast repertoire and a few favourite recipes. Why isn’t there any boxed cereal on this list? See my explainer at the end. 

ROLLED OATS

A 30 gram (1/3 cup) serve of rolled oats packs so much nutrition! Whole grain goodness, 4 grams of protein, a type of fibre called beta-glucan which helps with cholesterol levels, and minerals like manganese which is vital for bone formation and phosphorus for basic cell function and bone support. At $3 a kilo and 120 calories a bowl, oats are bang for your buck and bite!  

 Rolled oats: ready in three minutes and only 10 cents a serve!
Rolled oats: ready in three minutes and only 10 cents a serve!

I cook rolled oats almost daily in the microwave. It takes just three minutes and I add nothing more than a splash of soy milk, cinnamon and a sprinkle of nuts and raisins. Quick oats have a similar nutrition profile but watch for out for the individual sachets. They’re often packed with sugar, contain milk powder and have dubious flavourings. There’s a lot of controversy about whether oats are gluten-free but as I’m not a doctor or scientist, it’s best to consider this issue yourself if it’s a concern. 

Best for: time poor, budget-friendly, low calorie, cooking at work. Downside? Leftovers turn glue-like.

BUCKWHEAT

Don’t be fooled! Buckwheat doesn’t contain any wheat. It’s a seed more closely related to rhubarb than the cereals it resembles, so it’s gluten-free and paleo. A 45 gram (1/4 cup) serve has 5 grams of protein and is a source of iron (about 6% daily needs for women 19-50 years, 12% for men 19+ years) along with manganese, magnesium and copper. It’s about $4 a kilo. 

 Buckwheat: enjoy toasted like granola or cook with water and milk for a lovely porridge.
Buckwheat: enjoy toasted like granola or cook with water and milk for a lovely porridge.

 Buckwheat: enjoying as dessert at New York's Veselka.
Buckwheat: enjoying as dessert at New York’s Veselka.

You can eat roasted buckwheat groats (“kasha”) like granola, or cook groats with milk and water to make porridge, where they become something like pearl couscous. I love making mine on the stovetop with vanilla, slices of ginger, cinnamon and cloves, topped with raisins. It’s a recipe inspired by The Healthy Chef (yep, again!) and takes about 20 minutes, but you can reheat and eat during the week. Bonus? Buckwheat is a great savoury ingredient too, and can be used for pilafs, salads or sprinkled on roasted vegetables or soups for crunch! 

Best for: gluten-free, reheat-friendly, versatile, source of iron, freezer-friendly. Downside? Longer cooking time and bland on its own. It’s the only dish on this list I sweeten with a little raw honey. 

QUINOA

Quinoa (pronounced keen-WAH) is amazing. A 45 gram serve (1/4 cup) is 160 calories, contains 6 grams of protein, 10% of daily iron needs for women and 20% for men along with manganese, phosphorus and folate which our bodies need to make DNA. Quinoa is gluten-free, with a delicious but unusual nutty texture. For breakfast, I cook white quinoa as it softens much more than the red or black variety with grated apple, cinnamon and vanilla. 

I also cook large quantities in my rice cooker and then freeze it in single serves, so I can make a quick breakfast by adding hot water, milk and spices or mix it with roast vegetables and leafy greens for an easy lunch. Quinoa flakes are becoming popular as a quick-cooking option but I prefer the chewier texture of whole quinoa. One kilo costs about $16, making quinoa the most expensive option on this list. 

Best for: gluten-free, high in iron, eating cold, versatility, freezer friendly. Downside? Price, cooking time.

Click below for recipes:

WHY I DON’T EAT PACKAGED CEREAL

With all these wholesome options, I rarely buy boxed cereal. A quick scan of nutrition panels and ingredient lists is frightening! Yes, packaged cereal is quick and convenient but you lose so much nutrition from the processing. Discarding the obvious sugar-laden products like Cocoa Pops and Fruit Loops, even those marketed as ‘healthier’ don’t cut it for me: 

  • Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain: It’s 25% sugar! One cup (40 grams) has 10 grams. 
  • Kellogg’s Sultana Bran: 3/4 cup (45 grams) contains 12 grams of sugar. Some of is naturally occurring from the sultanas, but there’s still added sugar.
  • Uncle Toby’s Cheerios: Lower sugar, but do you want to start your day with food colourings?

The only commercial cereal I’d consider is Sanitarium’s Weet-Bix, with only a few simple ingredients and one gram of sugar in a 30 gram serve (2 biscuits), or a good quality natural muesli. 

 Homemade granola: easy, healthy and delicious! 
Homemade granola: easy, healthy and delicious! 

If cereal is 100% your thing, have a go at making your own granola. I make a batch fortnightly based on a recipe from The Healthy Chef, using 3 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of flaked almonds and 1 cup of seeds (sunflower or pumpkin). Combine with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, a teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon and roast in thin layer at 120 degrees (fan-forced) for 60 minutes. Add a handful of dried fruit once cooled. It’s so easy, you’ll never get the boxed kind again! It’s a lot cheaper too. 

And of course, my breakfasts aren’t complete without a big cup of Earl Grey!

QUESTION: What’s your daily breakfast ritual? 

Perth Running Routes

Runners in Perth are spoilt for choice and climate. With 300 days of sunshine each year and endless paths along the Swan River and coast, there’s little stopping you from grabbing your sneakers and getting sweaty. I run 10K once a week and pick from one of three routes, depending on my mood and energy levels. Having variety in my running ensures I strengthen different muscles so my body can handle hills, grass and pavement but it also reduces the risk of injury through repetition.

My favourite Perth running spots are all easily accessible from the CBD (and not surprisingly, my apartment). Each of these routes has its perks along with a potential drawback or two. If you’re not a runner, you can walk all of these options or check out my post on Learning to Run

Here are my top Perth running spots: 

1.     Kings Park

 Kings Park: you'll get stunning views of the city and Swan River
Kings Park: you’ll get stunning views of the city and Swan River

Where’s better to work up a sweat than Perth’s premier park? Located 10 minutes walk (up a very steep hill) from the CBD, Kings Park is a West Australian treasure. Watch the city wake up as you run along Fraser Avenue, or power past picnics at sunset. I’m certain my sweaty face has featured in a few hundred tourists’ photos! The trick with Kings Park is knowing where to run because you want to crush goals, not wildflowers. I love that I can divert to the Kokoda Trail or Jacob’s Ladder for an extra challenge or variety. Download a map if you’re not familiar with the park. 

  • Distance: You can run for as little or as long as you like here. I have routes ranging from 4K-9K, depending on how much time and energy I have. All of them start and end at the city entrance, going along Fraser Avenue and past the State War Memorial. Different landmarks signal where to turn around. 
    • 4K: City entrance to Rotunda 2 and back. An easy run for the time-poor. 
    • 7K: As above, but continue on the Law Walk and turn around at the Dryandra Lookout. Stunning views. 
    • 9K: As above, but continue beyond the Law Walk until you reach May Drive. Endurance required! 
  • Terrain: Don’t be fooled. There are hills in this park, most notably what I’ve dubbed “the butt blaster” after Rotunda 2. My 7K and 9K loops include three hills but whatever goes up, must come down right? Therefore you’ll get some occasional relief. 

 Kings Park: View of Fraser Avenue from city entrance
Kings Park: View of Fraser Avenue from city entrance

  • Interest: The Swan River views as you run on the Law Walk (parallel to Mounts Bay Road) are simply gorgeous. The path itself is surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers and once I even saw a bobtail on the trail. 
  • Amenities: There are restrooms and parking at the city entrance near Frasers Restaurant and the Kings Park Café area. There’s a water fountain at Rotunda 2 and all three of my routes are partly shaded, depending on the time of day. I’d still bring a hat!  
  • After your run? Refuel at Mount Street Breakfast Bar or Health Freak Café.

 

2.     Lake Monger reserve

 Lake Monger: you're guaranteed to spot some wildlife! 
Lake Monger: you’re guaranteed to spot some wildlife! 

This spot is an absolute jewel just 10 minutes walk from the heart of Leederville, or a 10 minute drive from Perth’s CBD. The main feature of Lake Monger is, not surprisingly, the huge lake. Back in the day, it used to be an important camping and hunting ground for Aboriginal people. Thanks to land reclamation in the early 1900s, the lake now has water year round and is popular with people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. 

 Lake Monger: lookouts are the perfect place for a warm up, rest or post-run stretch
Lake Monger: lookouts are the perfect place for a warm up, rest or post-run stretch

  • Distance: The paved loop is exactly 3.5 kilometres with every 500 metres marked in blue paint. If you’re new to running, try running one lap and walking the next. It’s perfect for building distance.
  • Terrain: The route is completely flat, which is ideal for focusing on technique but can become repetitive for your mind or body.
  • Interest: The lake is stunning and seeing swans and other birdlife is a highlight. There’s a one kilometre stretch along the Mitchell Freeway where you can’t see the water which can get tedious, especially if you’re fatiguing. 

 Lake Monger: a mostly shaded, one kilometre strech alongside the Mitchell Freeway
Lake Monger: a mostly shaded, one kilometre strech alongside the Mitchell Freeway

  • Amenities: There’s a toilet block on the Lake Monger Drive side, and at least three water fountains. Parking is available at two entrances (Powis Street & Lake Monger Drive) and there’s plenty of shade on the one kilometre freeway stretch. Slather on the sunscreen though – you can cook on the rest of the loop.
  • Refuel: at any of Leederville’s sensational eateries! My favourite is NOOD for the ultimate in health foods or Sayers for breakfast classics done beautifully.

 

3.     Freeway South (perth to canning bridge)

 Freeway South: you'll run across the Narrows Bridge (as viewed from Kings Park)
Freeway South: you’ll run across the Narrows Bridge (as viewed from Kings Park)

The name for this route isn’t glamourous, but it’s accurate. The stretch between Perth’s CBD and Canning Bridge is a one I do mostly out of convenience – I want to squeeze in a workout and I need to be at the other location. It’s also my preferred route for night running as unlike Kings Park, it’s well lit. The hoards of bikers and commuters also make it a busy and bustling route – definitely a place to feel the city buzz. This point-to-point run works from either direction and if needed, you can catch the train or bus back to your starting point.

  • Distance: I start at State Parliament and it’s a nice 7K to Canning Bridge.
  • Terrain: The route is mostly flat but there are some inclines at the city end. Starting at Parliament offers some gentle downhill for your first five minutes, but if you’re starting at Canning Bridge you’ll endure some slight hills at the end. 
  • Interest: A loud, fast freeway on one side and stunning river views on the other. It can be idyllic if you block out the traffic. If you start at Parliament, the 3-4K section (after Mill Point Road and before South Terrace) can be pretty dull as you can’t see the water (that’s 4-5K in the reverse direction).

 Freeway South: restrooms and water at Como Jetty
Freeway South: restrooms and water at Como Jetty

  • Amenities: Mill Point Road jet ski area has plenty of facilities include restrooms, parking, shade and water. There are also newer facilities around the Como Jetty – no parking but restrooms, water and even a playground (in case you run with kids).
  • Refuel: If you finish at Canning Bridge, head over the bridge to the 24-hour IGA for fresh fruits or deli items. If you finish in the city, Mount Street Breakfast Bar or Gordon Street Garage both beckon!

 

QUESTION: Where’s your favourite Perth running spot?

Perth’s Healthiest Cafes

My mum was a health freak way before #rawfood #crossfit and #paleo were trending. She was one of the original lycra leotard, aerobics devotees of the 1990s and had the perm to prove it. As a teenager, my jaw dropped when mum announced she’d made a cake. It turns out this “cake” was zucchini, yogurt and wholemeal flour. There was no icing and it certainly didn’t resemble the cookies and cakes the other kids at school had. I wasn’t impressed.

In hindsight, my mum was actually about 15 years ahead of the food scene. If Instagram was around in 2000, we could have had a booming franchise across Australia and parts of Asia by now. Instead, she had four ungrateful children telling her what a weirdo she was. I’m sorry Mum.

Putting those teenage years aside, I’m delighted my family, friends and my boyfriend all enjoy the healthy side of life nowadays. And there’s never been more venues catering for the health conscious or people with specific dietary needs. If the thought of zucchini cake makes you salivate, here are my favourite healthy Perth cafes:

  NOOD: Strange Grains toast with avocado and beetroot hummus
NOOD: Strange Grains toast with avocado and beetroot hummus

1.     nood cafe, leederville

It’s hard to beat this Leederville spot  – from the first bite, you know you’re nourishing your body with wholesome food. Everything on the menu is gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free and each meal is designed to be nutritionally balanced. The liberal use of citrus, nuts and makes already delicious dishes shine. There’s no table service but the grab and go boxes can be heated and brought out to you on a plate. The array of smaller goods on display is perfect for snacking or an extra treat to go. Bonus? The take away boxes have full nutritional info on them.

I recommend: Vegan Breakfast Bowl ($12) for post-workout brunch or Cauliflower Nasi Goreng with Satay Chicken or Tofu ($15) for a healthy, pre-movie dinner.

NOOD Cafe: http://www.nood.net.au/ 114 Oxford St, Leederville. 

 Stimulatte: Assorted mushrooms, avocado and winter green
Stimulatte: Assorted mushrooms, avocado and winter green

2. stimulatte, subiaco

My oh my. There’s health food porn and then there’s Stimulatte. This Subiaco café has become so popular, it’s started Sunday trading at a time other businesses are shutting their doors (*). The menu centres around ethical, sustainable produce and the quality of ingredients is sublime. I’ve had herbs and mushrooms so fresh it was like I’d poked my fork in a garden. Where Stimulatte really shines is in their creativity and presentation – the latest winter menu included fried king oyster mushroom “chicken” pancakes (vegan). There are plenty of baked goods and various boxes you can have to dine in or to go, with paleo, gluten-free and vegan choices too.

I recommend: Anything with mushrooms.  The vegan croissant with cashew cheese ($9) is delightful for those whose allergies/ethics prevent pastries.

Stimulatte: http://www.stimulatte.com.au/ 361 Hay St, Subiaco. 

*Unfortunately Stimulatte has closed since this post was first published. But you can visit its sister cafe Someday Coffee Co. in Floreat!

  Health Freak Cafe: Vegan pumpkin spice protein pancakes
Health Freak Cafe: Vegan pumpkin spice protein pancakes

3. health freak cafe, various locations

I visited this franchise for the first time in October at their Applecross location. I was nervous when I entered. The café almost resembled a day care centre – not so much children everywhere, but a lot of toys and tables. But my apprehension eased as soon as the smell of cinnamon wafted my way and a stack of warm pumpkin spice pancakes was placed before me. It was at least 20 centimetres tall, with caramel sauce, berries and stewed fruits dancing around the plate. But I knew this indulgent breakfast was only 380 calories and included a whopping 20 grams of protein! Everything Health Freak Cafe sells is gluten and refined sugar free, and nutritional information is listed for most menu items. You can’t get more health conscious than that! I’m not surprised this concept has boomed, with locations in Subiaco, Jacob’s Ladder, Mt Lawley, Joondalup, Halls Head and more.

I recommend: The protein pancakes ($18.20), hands down! I’ll buy a paleo dish for my boyfriend next time and let you know his verdict. 

Health Freak Cafe: http://www.healthfreakcafe.com.au/ (multiple locations) 

  Jujuberry+Co: cafe exterior
Jujuberry+Co: cafe exterior

4. jujuberry+co, mount hawthorn

My first visit to this Mt Hawthorn store was on a glorious spring day – a perfect pairing with Jujuberry’s casual outdoor seating. Inside, the long, narrow space made me instantly feel like I was in New York. I had to pinch myself when I saw a Pumpkin Spice Latte on the menu! Everything here is gluten free and vegan although they do offer cow’s milk for coffees. Curried sweet potato frittata, breakfast wraps, assorted salads and plenty of baked goods abound. The vibe is homemade and hearty rather than gourmet. It’s refreshing to find a venue that’s so down to earth.

I recommend: The menu changes frequently but if you’re in luck, there’ll be a crispy-edged curried sweet potato frittata with your name on it ($10.50). 

Jujuberry+Co: http://jujuberry.com.au/ 135 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mt Hawthorn.  

a final word…

It’s important to remember there are plenty of buzz words around health food, but their use isn’t well regulated. Something may be labelled paleo, gluten free or vegan but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. For example, sugar, oil and plain potato chips are vegan and gluten free. Bacon and eggs is paleo. A typical raw slice can pack in 500 calories and 30 grams of fat compared to a 200 calorie handful of almonds. Your bliss ball is better than a donut, but be wary of eating four in a day!

QUESTION: Where’s your ultimate health food spot in Perth?