When I visit a new city, I like to immerse myself in the local food and culture as much as possible, to get a feel for the local way of life, so in the lead up to my trip to LA for work, I have to admit, I was a liiittle bit sceptical about how well LA and I would gell. I mean let’s face it, LA is more renowned for face lifts and Ferrari’s than the type of down to earth and genuine kind of vibe I prefer to connect with. BUT….after just a few days in the beach side area of Santa Monica, I actually fell in love with so many aspects of this city and was actually able to replicate more aspects of my life back home in LA, than in any other part of the US.
Not afraid to give most things a go, here’s my healthy food and fitness adventure whilst in LA. It’s based mainly around Santa Monica and Venice Beach as I tend to go everywhere on foot, so apologies it does venture too far beyond this 🙂
My text message to my friend who recommended this favourite hang read, “I’ve died and gone to heaven!!’ This place really is my idea of heaven on a stick with it’s incredibly fresh, organic ingredients. Their philosophy is to cultivate relationships with many local small farms, ranches and artisans and the proof is certainly in the flavour and freshness of their food. Tender Green’s serve up some of the best tasting salad’s I’ve eaten and a huge plate will set you back as little as $12! Combining the words FAST, FRESH & ORGANIC all in one sentence would normally be an oxymoron, but these guys have mastered all three and produced some impressive slow cooked dishes. My pick of the bunch – the Chipolte Barbecue Chicken. But beware that at around 8pm a million and one scantily clad yogai’s may descend on the place! Tender Green’s have no less than eight locations around LA, so you’re bound to find one near you!
True Food Kitchen – Organic, whole food cafe
I’m actually composing this post from True Food Kitchen and I can honestly say it’s worth the trip just to check out this impressive institution. The brain child of well known US integrative medicine Dr Weil, his mission was to supply Americans with ‘real’ whole food, aimed at reducing inflammation, whilst catering to a wide range of taste buds. Much like the philosophy I subscribe to in my eating program Eat Yourself Healthy In 28 Days. Whether you’re gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, Pescatarian or Paleo, you will find something to your liking on their menu.
My pick, the mediterranean salad – quinoa, feta, cucumber, olives, cherry tomatoes and Marcona almonds ( a Spanish variety with a more rounded and somewhat softer, almost “wet” texture ). I added a serve of the organic chicken for an extra hit of protein.
If you’re looking for a nutritious, but high energy liquid fill, I recommend the ‘weekend warrior’ made with banana, flax, almond butter, low fat yogurt and apple juice, it’s a meal in itself, or you better be prepared to go for a hike up the Malibu Mountains to burn it off!
Cafe Gratitude – Vegetarian / vegan, raw food cafe
Stumbling on this gem, was a real find as far as getting a hit of ultra fresh, organic greens’! Although I am not vegan, vegetarian or eat 100% raw food, I DO incorporate a hefty dose of these foods into my eating regime, as long as they are free of agave ( which a lot of health foods and cafes STILL use in the US), and gluten and not too heavy on the starchy carbs. I get the impression Cafe Gratitude has a loyal local following from the hard core LA foodies, and I love their quirky tradition of asking if you would like to know their “question of the day’. It’s a great way of reminding you to stop and be present for a moment. Mine was ‘what are you most grateful for today?’. But don’t worry, apart from that they are not too OTT with their new age ways, they just focus on serving delicious food that will leave you feeling totally nourished and full of whole food goodness. The only major down side to this café – and most raw food cafes I find, is that because there is no animal protein on the menu, you will need to order up BIG, in order to feel satisfied. I don’t recommend eating breakfast here though, as the menu is really just a sugar fest. Their fresh cold pressed vege juice combo’s are some of the best though, so I usually started my day with a run along the Santa Monica to Venice beach path, then grabbed my morning vege juice here and then headed on back to my hotel nicely alkalised for the day ahead. Oh and if you do feel like indulging in a little sweet treat, they do make some amazing treats and they are only bite size so you wont tip the sugar scales. All in all Café Gratitude is a real winner if you’re on a detox or just want to access some SUPER clean and nutritious food while in LA.
521 Rose Ave, Venice Beach, LA
Santa Monica Seafood Cafe – Fresh seafood market and cafe
I love my seafood, especially small white fish because they tend to be a lot less contaminated with heavy metals, so this place is a real institution amongst the Santa Monica locals. They offer a huge selection of fresh seafood if you prefer ‘to go’ and cook your own, along with a small fresh grocery section, or you can grab a table or seat at the bench and order off the menu. Their grilled fish is to die for and extremely fresh. My only word of caution is if you are planning to spend an extended period of time in the US, you may have to cut back on your seafood as recent studies, have revealed high levels of mercury and other heavy metal contamination in locally caught seafood, thanks to the Fukushima nuclear disaster! Something that depresses me just thinking about it.
Whole Foods Market
This is America’s national health food grocery chain. You will find them all over the States, including LA, and they are great for picking up healthy lunches or snacks on the go as well as your morning Green Goddess juice. So no matter where you are in LA or the US, there is no excuse not to eat healthy, organic food thanks to stores like this. Just be sure to read your labels though, as some products sneak in the old sugar and gluten, so when in the US, it’s especially important to know what’s in your food and where it came from, especially as GMO crops are becoming the rule in the US, rather than the exception.
Kreation Kafe – Organic whole food cafe & juice bar
If you like a rustic atmosphere, then you will enjoy Kafe Kreation’s decor as much as their fresh organic menu. I only managed to grab some of their fresh vege juice combinations and turmeric shots to keep the inflammation at bay while in LA, and if you just so happen to feel like doing the ‘strip back and alkalise’ stage of my eating program – Eat Yourself Healthy In 28 Days, Kreation cafe offer a variety of cleanses to choose from. But I highly recommend their menu, packed with healthy protein choices, low starchy carbs and lots of greens to keep you glowing on the inside and out!
1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Santa Monica
Rawvolution – live and raw food restaurant. 1023 Montana Ave, Santa Monica
My friend Jas who has made LA her home for the past 7 years, introduced me to this cafe. It’s great if you want to experience authentic raw whole foods with plenty of imagination and flavour to boot! They make delicious fresh pressed vegetable juices also, so if you need to alkalise your temple, then eating here will do the trick! Like Cafe Gratitude, they also have some tempting raw food treats on hand, but remember to steer clear of anything made with agave as this is 90% fructose!
The Santa Monica Farmers Markets
Santa Monica actually has four local Farmers markets, but I only made it to ‘Down Town; market, which happens to be the largest one, every Wednesday. If you’re after some local, organic produce, then you will find plenty on offer to tempt your taste buds to whip up a home a cooked meal, should you have access to a kitchen during your stay!
Venice to Santa Monica beach Trail
I walked, sometimes ran, the beach path that connects Santa Monica to Venice beach every day while in LA, but you can also hire bikes or all shapes and sizes if you prefer peddle power. The walk is a great way to view the many sights and scenes that make this part of LA so famous. You’ll also get a healthy dose of vitamin D by getting out and about to enjoy LA’s sunshine and when you’re done with your walk, you can enjoy a hearty meal at any of the cafes I recommend above and take a dive in the rather crispy ocean! A word of warning though, even when visiting in summer, the ocean temperature is not like it is in Oz, thanks to the currents that make their way down from Alaska.
SUP – Stand Up Paddle Boarding in the Santa Monica
If I could only SUP as my mode of transport, I don’t think I’d complain too loudly, so if you’re wanting to get out on the ocean while your in LA, then head on down to Poseidon SUP shop and rent a board. Ok so LA’s beaches aren’t up there with Australia’s but when in Rome…..you gotta make do with what’s on offer. Any thing to get you into the ocean I say!
Hiking in the Santa Monica / Malibu Mountains
I love my hiking, nearly as much as my a SUP – stand up paddle boarding, so if you are planning on hiring a car when your in LA, I definitely recommend heading out to the Santa Monica Mountains or Malibu Mountains for a hike or two. Less than an hours drive, depending where you are in LA, this is a great way to see LA from up high and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Just be sure to pack a lunch or at least a few snacks.
These guys have yoga studios all over LA, so you are bound to find one near you. Cheeky as it may be, I chose this studio not just because of the various yoga styles on offer, but because they offered a free week of yoga, and hey, lets face it,when you’re travelling, every penny counts! But I will definitely choose this studio when I return for a longer stint in LA.
Pilates Platinum – 1255 2nd St, Santa Monica
If you’re like me and love your pilates, then this is the ‘it’ studio in Santa Monica for reformer classes. But a word of warning the classes are small so my advice is to book in advance if you know when your going to be in LA or you risk missing out!
LA’s version of ‘spin’ classes, Soul Cycle is an intense, full body workout, if that’s what you’re after, combining indoor cycling and hand weights to tone and work the core and upper body. Soul Cycle have 4 studios in LA with more scheduled to roll out soon!
If you are planning on heading to LA, you will find it super easy to stick to the eat yourself healthy program, with so many great cafes and restaurants offering clean, organic food to boot. The only thing left to do after that, will be to enjoy the endless sunshine so make sure you get out and about! Oh and if you discover any other healthy haunts, be sure to let me know so I can add them to the list!