Over-indulged a bit over the holidays? Have no fear. While our country is overflowing with pizza joints and gut-busting burger spots, there is also an abundance of vibrant healthy eateries ready to serve you a dose of goodness for the new year. For this list of great healthy restaurants in SA’s big cities, we used a broad definition to include eateries that focus on vegetarian and vegan food; cater for strict gluten-, sugar- and dairy-free meals; or use organic, seasonal and locally grown ingredients. It’s all in the name of eating better in 2017.
At this seafood favourite, health-seekers can get their protein, vitamin D and omega 3 all in one meal. Their light and fresh dishes include teriyaki salmon or freshwater trout with wilted greens. If you’re looking at the sushi, try the glorious fresh salmon and tuna sashimi from the sushi bar.
This nationwide Italian restaurant offers wheat-, yeast-, sugar-, dairy- and gluten-free pizza bases for health-conscious diners as well as wheat- and gluten-free pastas and a wide range of salads. Low-carb dieters will be happy to see the selection of banting-friendly options throughout the menu, including banting pizza bases and zucchini noodle pastas.
Well-known for its wide selection of salads, wraps, sandwiches and smoothies, Kauai also offers low-GI or rye bread as well as low-carb wrap options. Superfoods also feature strongly in many of the dishes. Enjoy a Grass Roots wrap with kale, roast beetroot, roast butternut, radishes and goat’s cheese, or a classic Princess Wrap with free-range chicken and mayo made with free-range eggs. Finish it off with a flu-busting superfood smoothie.
This bright eatery and takeaway spot prides itself on serving wholesome meals that are bursting with superfoods and fresh ingredients. Try one of the chopped salads like the Iron Kick with chickpeas, lentils, curry spice, feta, avo and coriander, or gluten-free baked tuna cakes with ricotta, lentils, sweetcorn and broccoli. Wash it all down with one of the many green juices, smoothies or super boost drinks on offer.
This stylish franchise offers a wide variety of healthy dishes, from wholesome breakfasts and lunch to light tapas dishes and vegetable-rich dinners. Tuck in to a quinoa breakfast tart packed with linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds with a delicious combination of ginger, banana and peanut butter. For something a little heartier, try the gluten-free chicken brown rice salad, or the lettuce-cup burgers with beef patties, brown mushrooms and sweet potato chips. The Food for Thought section on the menu lists the health benefits and calories for each dish.
Arbour Café (Birdhaven)
A very attractive spot, with its own cute Paris-cafe courtyard in which to relax for breakfasts, lunches and in-betweens. Gluten-free (and many other) eaters already love Arbour’s well-known signature offering, the buckwheat galettes. There’s a wide choice, and the flamed chorizo, mozzarella, tomato and basil version is exceptional. Exciting salads are another pull. The really hearty main dishes are between R130 and R190 but the beautiful galettes average at R88.
Fresh Earth Food Store (Greenside)
This place has fans from all over, be they vegan, vegetarian or intolerant to certain ingredients. Owner Matthew Ballenden is a chef and oversees the signature drawcard: the eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet full of vegetarian and vegan choices. It costs R120 or R19 per 100g but there is an à la carte menu as well. The grocery shop is irresistible and caters to all with healthy eating concerns.
Great Eastern Food Bar (Melville)
What’s prepared here is really fresh food made from scratch from midday to night, with dew-fresh ingredients, fully and naturally tasty. The food is a mix of Asian and Asian-inspired dishes, steamed in bowls, ramen or salads. Even the spices are fresh. As for protein there are fish elements, some egg and vegetable proteins, but no red meat. There’s a signature version of the kimchi-and-ginger ramen noodles with freshly chopped cucumber salad that changes with every arrival of available fresh produce. The menu mains run from R60 to R140.
The Grove Green Café (Parkhurst)
No sugar and no carbs here. In fact, the café lays claim to the ‘fittest food’ in Gauteng, with high-protein meals that suit active lifestyles. The thing is healthy breakfasts, lunches and surprisingly plentiful guilt-free desserts. The latest signatures are a bowl of berry-infused cold oats with Cape gooseberries and strawberries, flaked coconut, chia and honey, and a main of organic chicken breast with sweet-potato mash with pecans, steamed broccoli and basil pesto. Find your mains between R70 and R100.
Jackson’s Real Food Market (Bryanston)
Low-carb, low-sugar, gluten-free and vegetarian food seekers will be pleased with the selection here. The signature Nutty Professor is a very thick Greek yoghurt with low-carb and grain-free granola and a dollop of yummy berries. Another winner is the Breakfast Surprise, consisting of a slice of diabetic-friendly sourdough bread, a layer of avo, pasture-reared scrambled eggs, topped with strips of smoked salmon. Breakfasts vary between R45 and R99 and main meals between R69 and R165.
Simply Divine Vegetarian (Blairgowrie)
Much of the food has an Indian influence, like the delicious samoosas, the paneer and vegetables and rice, but there are also lasagnes, burgers and burritos. The signature dish is the gourmet burger with beetroot, mushroom and pineapple. Mains are between R40 and R85 – all bargains. Much of the offering is vegan, as marked on the big boards.
Uncle Merv’s (Maboneng)
This is the spot for wholesome food and over-the-top healthy and huge smoothies crammed with whizzes of dates, berries, tropical fruit, tahini, coconut, many other nuts, honey and non-dairy milks. The signature smoothie is still the famous Macci-Porter, designer sandwiches are swollen with healthy fillings of your choice, and true-to-roots coffee is made by a hotshot barista. Pig out very wholesomely for about R70 a head.
Under the Trees Garden Café (Lyndhurst)
At Schaffler’s Nursery the view is fresh, with home-style dishes made with greens from the organic garden. A signature salad is the one with Roquefort, apple, pecan-nuts, yoghurt dressing and pan-roasted pumpkin seeds. Another delicious favourite is the salad of masala chicken breast cubes in a creamy cinnamon-ginger dressing with flaked almonds and topped with avo or mango. Main dishes vary between R69 and R80.
Voodoo Lily Café (Birdhaven)
This is a banting hangout, with good build-your-own breakfasts, build-your-own burgers and hot dogs. Order a bunless beef burger with jalapeño and feta topping and cauliflower mash as a side (for R105) or another of the mains for between R95 and R142.
Afro-boer (Die Wilgers)
Start or finish with baked cashew-crusted cheesecake (wheat-, gluten- and sugar-free, for R35) or simply pop in for some take-home chocolate macadamia cake (wheat-, gluten-, sugar- and lactose-free, for R35). Apart from banting bread, you could also try the butternut flatbread made with coconut and psyllium husks with herbed leaf mix, chopped pistachio nuts, avo, fresh chili and mint (R65). Afro-boer rises to diet challenges in many creative ways, such as using soya milk in lattes; frying tofu with spring onion and chilli salt on special order; and, for the ancient grain fans, offering a quinoa salad with red onion, avo, pistachio, shaved toasted coconut, a citrus dressing and a blood sorrel leaf mix to kick up the health factor a notch (R75). The chocolate brownies and apple almond cakes are also wheat- and gluten free, and their crustless take-away quiche should also appeal to dedicated banters.
Carlton Café Delicious (Menlo Park)
For those looking for a wheat-free, gluten-free, low-calorie yet scrumptious meal, head directly to Carlton Café for a salmon burger (R110). Made from Norwegian salmon and salmon trout, the burger is served on rye bread with ginger-and-sesame mayonnaise, salad greens and fermented green apple. There are loads of other items specifically for the health conscious, such as the Menlo breakfast (named for Menlo Park, the suburb where the Café is located) consisting of two poached eggs, steamed tenderstem broccoli, wilted spinach and sautéed mushrooms with a spicy cashew-nut-and-yoghurt dressing flavoured with dried coriander, cumin and cinnamon (R75.50).
Cocovanilla Foods (Pretoria North)
The young and energetic Lorraine Swanepoel has mastered a banting chocolate cake that will satisfy any chocoholic’s cravings, dripping with ganache made from dark cocoa and double cream, with no sugar. The cake itself baked with almond flour, desiccated coconut, butter and her weapon of choice, xylitol. You can also order coriander-and-sesame flatbread with various vegetarian pâtés: roasted butternut and black garlic hummus; smoked beetroot and feta dip with black pepper; and roasted red pepper, sunflower seed and macadamia pesto.
DK Burger (Waterkloof Ridge)
Who says that heathy food should preclude delicious flavours? Head over to DK Burger for the free-range beef fillet strip salad (R56 for a small and R98 for a large). The beef is sourced from a small family-run farm outside Delmas, and many of the ingredients, like the lettuce, rocket and tomatoes, are grown in the garden on site. For those who have no issues with home-baked bread, their burgers are delicious and worth every cent.
Isn’t it nice to know that even serious, high-end restaurants offer special menu items for those concerned about their diets? Options for delicious, filling yet super-healthy meals include the totally vegetarian saag paneer with ginger and aubergine (R125); palak paneer with homemade goat’s milk cheese, beetroot pickle and spinach purée tempered with mustard seeds (R125); or beetroot, potato and ricotta gnocchi in a makhni gravy (made from black lentils), garnished with dehydrated beetroot dust (R125).
Plated Convenience (Montana)
This new delivery company offers convenient dining for those concerned with their diet. The well-designed and user-friendly website allows you to choose various single items or packaged meals made with the likes of grass-fed fillet (150g) with fresh thyme in healthy coconut oil, a touch of pepper and Himalayan pink salt, served with 130g of sweet potatoes on the side (R69.95); beef-and-pumpkin cottage pie (R46.95); or panko- and parmesan-crusted chicken breast with roasted cauliflower and butternut (250g for R47.59).
In a departure from the previous crisp green and white look, Pure’s newly renovated light blue ombré walls and dark grey awnings signify a fresh new year with exciting new undertakings. Pure continues to serve great food for a healthy body and mind. The paleo and banting sections on the menu promise such delights as Bananas in Pyjamas (R71), a banana-and-almond flapjack served with crisp bacon, two poached eggs and berry coulis. Even the main courses cater for carb-conscious diners, such as the Thai-inspired chicken dish, with coconut and red curry paste, mushrooms and red pepper, served with veggie rice.
Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient (Elandsfontein)
Even at the extreme high-end of restaurants, speciality menus for the health-conscious are becoming a feature. Chantel Dartnall’s ever-changing seasonal selection of set menus always includes a vegetarian menu that may feature the likes of an oriental beetroot terrine with punchy wasabi and avocado for balance; First Growth, which consists of shimeji mushrooms, asparagus and tender shoots; Sunflower Spring, a celebration of carrot and orange blossom; or rooibos-tea risotto with seaweed and tomato powder, to name a few. Of course, The Alchemist’s Infusion, a table-side magic show of tortellini, hibiscus consommé and heirloom vegetables, will also stimulate the sense of wonder that should accompany any plate of delicious food.
A vegan restaurant, Chilliplum offers diners a range of exciting and flavourful organic, unprocessed, plant-based dishes as well as dishes that are wheat-, gluten-, yeast-, soy- and nut-free. The seasonal menu offers options such as the Macho Tacos filled with black bean chilli and slaw and topped with fresh guacamole, tofu sour cream and pico di gallo salsa, or the saucy Thai coconut curry made with cauliflower, sweet potato, green beans and butternut, and served with basmati rice.
This popular coffee shop serves only gluten-free and wheat-free dishes that are both good for you and tasty. Try the banting-friendly crustless quiche with spinach, butternut, caramelised onion, mature cheddar and black olives, or the gluten- and wheat-free carrot cake. The team also bakes wicked gluten-free brownies for a guilt-free treat.
Delish Sisters (Salt Rock)
The offering at this popular café is an abundance of wholesome and beautiful food. For lunch, dish up healthy items like quiches, zucchini fritters, vibrant salads, sugar-free date balls or gluten-free lemon cake from the harvest table. Wash it down with an Asian blooming tea or a freshly pressed juice.
Earthmother Organic (Windermere)
Vegetarian, organic, ethical and gluten-free options abound at this breakfast and lunch spot. Try one of the fresh fruit salads, gluten-free omelettes, or raw oats bowls for breakfast, or head over for lunch and enjoy gluten-free spaghetti with vegan pesto. Refreshments include fresh juices and superfood smoothies with pawpaw, pineapple, mango, orange and banana. They also do vegan pasta feasts with sauces like lentil Bolognese or black bean and cashew nuts. Check out the deli for take-home goodness.
It’s All Good Organic Grocer & Café (Durban North)
This health shop’s philosophy focuses on good food for a healthy lifestyle, with vegetarian and vegan options and treats for those with strict dietary requirements. The juice and smoothie options include a mix of carrots, beetroot, celery, apple and spinach, or pineapple, dates, coconut milk, vanilla and cardamom. As for food, there are healthy breakfast and lunch items such as make-your-own omelettes, gluten-free wraps and a vegetable-based pizza.
Loaf Café (Ballito)
This Ballito farm-to-fork gem offers several healthy items on a broad menu. Health nuts can enjoy smoothies, health breakfasts and salads, plus almond milk as an alternative to dairy in coffee. Try the banana smoothie with fresh banana, nut butter, cinnamon, coconut, milk and honey, with an order of the breakfast salad of kale dressed in olive oil and red-wine vinegar, with avocado, toasted seeds, poached free-range eggs and crispy bacon. For lunch, enjoy a salmon salad with smoked salmon, sour cream and fried capers.
The menu here offers both vegetarian and meat options, and all produce is organic and locally grown as far as possible. For lunch, tuck into hearty yet healthy options such a sesame-lentil burger with beetroot and house-made mayo, warm hoisin plum shredded duck salad with tropical segments, red cabbage and mixed leaves, and sweet-potato quinoa with grilled prawns and minted plums.
Prep Room (Glenwood)
The Prep Room’s small but playful breakfast and lunch menu caters both for health nuts and pleasure seekers. On the ‘salubrious’ section you can look forward to dishes that are free of gluten and wheat and low in carbs, such as the breakfast of garlicky wild mushrooms on mustard rye, or local avo with buttered bacon for the banters. For lunch, try the coconut oil fish and courgette chips or the coconut-crumbed chicken with creamy cauliflower purée.
Tree Natural (Umhlanga)
This café and yoga studio is dedicated to serving health-filled grub made with natural and organic ingredients. For breakfast, tuck into the gluten-free crêpes with almond butter and natural sweetener or the acai smoothie bowl with seasonal berries, almond milk and coconut. The lunch menu features options like the zucchini wrap with feta, sunflower seeds and a lemon-thyme dressing, or the salad bowl of cauli-rice, cabbage, hemp seeds, sprouts, mint and a lemony dressing. Wash it down with a cold pressed juice of grapefruit and pine or a soy milk coffee.
Café Frank (City Bowl)
Health-conscious city dwellers can stop by for a range of interesting salads and freshly squeezed juices. No preservatives or artificial flavourings are used. The menu changes daily, but usual options include the likes of rotisserie chicken or pork-and-apple pie with sides of barley, herbs and cranberries, crunchy broccoli and sesame seeds, or beetroot salad with pear, feta, mint and sunflower seeds. Cool off with a refreshing orange juice.
At this grown-up canteen only three options are available: a meal containing meat or fish, a vegetarian meal, and a lighter meal. All you need to do is arrive at Chefs between 12pm and 4pm, choose your meal and beverage and pay at the counter. Dishes might include gluten-free barbecue orange wood-roasted chicken with a butternut-and-boerenkaas salad with sweet-potato crisps; smoked beef carpaccio with root veg crisps and a parsley mayo; summer Israeli salad with pomegranate, halloumi and avo; and buttermilk panna cotta with fresh mango salsa.
Dear Me (City Bowl)
Whether you’re celiac, diabetic, lactose- or wheat-intolerant, vegetarian or vegan, Dear Me will have an option for you. The menu is cleverly laid out with icons indicating the dietary adjustments to each dish. Try the trout poké bowl with raw marinated trout, cold sushi rice, avo, pickled ginger and sesame, or the falafel buddha bowl with butternut, brown rice and herb yoghurt.
The General Store (City Bowl)
This stylish lunch hatch serves up fresh, seasonal salads daily with a choice of protein. Must-tries are the rare roast fillet, lemony chicken and pesto-crusted salmon, paired with veg options such as beetroot salad, roasted butternut and kale with almonds, or grilled zucchini tossed with feta.
Honest Chocolate Café (City Bowl)
Being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean skimping on the good things in life. Wale Street’s cosy organic chocolate bar offers sweet-tooth health nuts a taste of cocoa indulgence with many vegan and gluten-free chocolate treats. Teas and coffees can be made with a milk substitute of your choice, including almond milk, and treats include vegan and gluten-free macadamia-nut chocolate cups and the truffle-tasting board. The nachos with chocolate guacamole deserve a special mention, as does the glorious buckwheat chocolate tart. For something even richer, try the vegan double-chocolate brownies with a scoop of dairy-free ice cream.
Inside & You’re Out (City Bowl)
When it comes to burgers that are good for you, these guys have got it down. The grass-fed beef is locally and ethically sourced and all ingredients are local and organic. Try the vegan Health Nut burger with a curried lentil, flaxseed and sweet-potato patty filled with cashew nuts and topped with pickled butternut and hummus. If you’re wanting some red meat, try the umami barbecue burger filled with boerenkaas cheddar and topped with pickled cabbage, toasted sesame seeds and peanuts, and served with a hoisin-barbecue sauce and miso mayo. For an extra healthy option, order your burger bunless on a big bed of fresh greens. Powerjuices, kombucha and coconut water are also available.
The Kitchen (Woodstock)
Salads here are an event in themselves, so you won’t feel that you’re missing out by eating veg. The selection changes daily and can be made up into lunch boxes to go. Add some grilled chicken or bacon if you’d like a little more protein or try falafels thrown over your favourite greens.
Maharajah Pure Vegetarian Foods (Rondebosch)
Around 90% of this vegetarian menu is also vegan, and there are wheat- and dairy-free options available. Most of the ingredients used are low-fat, and the cream is fat-free. Dive in to a Durban-style butter bean curry, or mushroom korma cooked in cream and coconut sauce. For dessert, enjoy vegan muffins or the eggless chocolate brownies.
Choose from a wide selection of fresh salads and vegetarian options, prepared daily. The harvest table of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern-style food offers healthy, homemade options like rare roast beef fillet, quinoa and garden veg salad; roasted mushroom and pepper salad; and stewed chickpeas with turmeric and coriander. End off with a date ball and a coffee.
Orchard on Long (City Bowl)
Apart from the impressive range of cold-pressed juices, smoothies and health shots, Orchard on Long’s selection of fresh meals is enough to make any health fundi swoon. Try the Orchard fresco sandwich on 70% rye with avo, hummus, sunflower sprouts, basil and a French dressing, or the Manhattan salad with green leaves, rocket, lentils, cabbage, cucumber, strawberry, radish, basil and croutons with a green hummus dressing.
This small chain focuses on natural food with plenty of low-cal options, from salads to wraps. Eggs and chicken are free-range, and the restaurant makes allowances for lactose, dairy, wheat and sugar intolerances. The menu also indicates which dishes are fat-free, high-protein, vegetarian, or contain superfoods. For breakfast, try the Warrior Oats with raw oats, Bulgarian yoghurt, grated apple, hemp powder and goji berries, and a nutritious root smoothie like the option with banana, coconut and almond milk. For lunch, crunch on the red root salad with chickpeas, raw beetroot, Danish feta and sunflower seeds.
Recently rated one of the best vegan restaurants in the world, this green food hotspot serves up plant-based food that’s packed with nutrients and flavour. Try the wrap with tempeh ‘bacon’ and tofu scramble with caramelised onions and rocket; the vegan spiralised ramen bowl; or ‘vis’ tacos with nori-encrusted potato steak. Don’t leave without trying the decadent gluten-free fudge brownies with pecan topping.
Rye, health bread and gluten-, salt- and sugar-free bread are offered, as well as low-carb wraps that are sugar-free. Burger patties are made on site and are free of gluten. All eggs and chickens are free-range, and all produce is locally sourced. There are also dairy-free smoothies, health boosters and freshly pressed juices on offer.
Raw & Roxy (Woodstock)
This healthy favourite in Woodies offers raw vegan food, salads, freshly squeezed juices, vegan patisserie, vegetable chips and smoothies. For healthy comfort eating, try the lasagne made up of layered zucchini, raw cashew-nut cheese, green pesto and tomato relish, or try the sweet-and-sour vegetables with green cabbage, carrot, red pepper and spring onion in a raw sweet-and-sour sauce. Top it all off with a peppermint ‘Oreo’ cookie made from almonds, coconut, cocoa, peppermint oil, honey and coconut oil.
Sexy Food (City Bowl)
This vibrant health eatery specialises in trends like alive bowls, probiotics, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and cold-drip tea juices. Try organic offerings such as kimchi-and-kraut salad, savoury lentil burgers with carrot and garlic, or one of their fresh smoothies.
Scheckter’s Raw (Sea Point)
Scheckter’s Raw is a raw, organic vegan and vegetarian restaurant based in the heart of Sea Point’s busy regent road. The matcha flapjacks are a real winner here with vanilla, agave, cinnamon and a strawberry topping. For something savoury, go for the Vietnamese spring rolls made with rice noodles, mixed greens, ginger, mint and red chilli peppers, or the salad of aubergine, sun-dried tomato and pine nuts with caramelised cashews and lime.
Betty Blue Bistro (Hermanus)
This bright gem in the heart of Hermanus offers up a great, wholesome menu to kick-start your year of health. choose one of the healthy breakfasts like the green brekkie with steamed veg, poached eggs, basil pesto, avo and almonds, or Betty’s health tart with muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit and honey. If you stop in for lunch, the courgette with goats cheese and bacon is great for banters. Alternatively, one of the the colourful seasonal salads with beetroot, yellow peppers, or long stem broccoli will do the trick. Wash it down with one of the nutritious rainbow juices like the Popeye with apple, cucumber, spinach, mint and lemon.
Greenhouse at Babylonstoren (Franschhoek)
Fruit and vegetables produced on the farm are the heroes at this garden-inspired restaurant. Sip on a fresh health juice and make up your own health sandwich with a selection of produce and local cheeses from the farm. Sandwiches are made with freshly baked rye bread and served with a bright side salad.
It’s not only about baked treats at this pretty eatery. Begin your day with wholesome rolled oats with toasted nuts and cinnamon, or a seasonal fruit bowl with seeds and honey. For lunch, go for one of the power bowls filled with protein-loaded grains, veggies, nuts and cheeses, or try the summer produce plate with tomatoes, summer fruits, honey and ricotta. There’s also a range of classic salads and wraps and a quinoa burger for vegetarians.
While we take care to ensure all the information in this story is correct, please note that some items may change without our knowledge.
Have we missed out one of your favourite healthy restaurants? Let us know in the comments section below.