Wellness in the City: The Healthy Shops I Love in My Toronto Neighbourhood

My favorite healthy shops in my Toronto neighbourhood by alisonsmith.com

I live in a small, Toronto neighbourhood known as the Gerrard India Bazaar. It’s also called Little India, and it only takes up a couple of blocks. The main drag is home to colourful, pastel buildings, bright graffiti murals, and mostly South Asian restaurants, grocery stores, and clothing shops.

When I first moved here, pakoras and roasting corn scented the air; the shops and restaurants were exclusively Indian or Pakistani; and, most window displays were bedazzled with fine, Indian fabrics and saris, or luminescent, gold jewelry.

When we moved to this neighbourhood, I knew it was perfect for us. We’re a 5-minute bike ride from the Lake Ontario waterfront; within walking distance of a grocery store; and, surrounded by amazingly generous neighbours. But, at first, there was one downside…

If I wanted to swoop out for a latte with a friend, or pick-up some health food products or produce, I was out of luck. This neighbourhood only had South Asian shops. But as the years have passed, the neighbourhood has slowly changed. It still is predominately South Asian, but there are new stores and galleries that are starting to pop up.

A Good Life gym opened up on the corner, then a lovely toy store called The Swag Sisters. Then, Furballs Pet Stuff and Lazy Daisy’s Cafe arrived. The Flying Pony cafe followed soon there after. A fine cheese shop called The Pantry emerged, and a trendy housewares and gift shop came on the scene as well. We even have a dance studio called Cornerstone where I’ve taken ballet classes. Then, this year, we got a health food grocery store called Victoria Whole Food, and that was the final piece to my wonderful neighbourhood. I no longer have to leave my area to shop anymore.

I love that every type of store or service that I need is within a 5-10 minute walk. I can also walk to get my hair styled, drop-off dry cleaning, or grab a bite to eat. And, in my opinion, that’s what makes a healthy neighbourhood. All of us should be able to have access to what we need, without driving all over the place. But, typically, here in Canada, we build communities that are just a sea of houses, without any centralized shopping area. There is no choice but to drive from one big-box-store to the next. No thanks!

Since, this blog is all about health and wellness, I thought it would be fun to show you my favourite healthy shops in my neighbourhood. And, I would love to hear what your favourite local shops are too. Please leave a comment below; let me know where you live and what your favourite healthy shops are.

Wellness in the City: The Healthy Shops I Love in My Toronto Neighbourhood

Victoria Whole FoodsVictoria Whole Food: 1450 Gerrard St. East, Toronto

I was very excited when Victoria Whole Food (VHF) opened up in 2015. I was so tired of having to battle downtown traffic, and pay for parking, when I needed healthy groceries or bulk foods. Every 2-weeks I make my own home-made gluten-free bread, and I love that I can walk on over to VHF to pick up organic, bulk chia seeds and brown rice flour. Recently, I also had the pleasure of speaking at VHFs — it was so much fun teaching community members about how to quit sugar.

Why is Victoria Whole Foods Healthy?

This store goes beyond just providing organic groceries, healthy meats & fish, deli meats & cheeses, bulk foods, dairy/eggs, and personal care products; Tatiana Lewicka — the owner — has a passion for sourcing local, Ontario, and Canadian products, and I really appreciate that. Most of the time I eat as a vegetarian, but if I’m going to buy meat, I want it to be from a small, organic farm. Tatiana also carries ‘line caught’ fish, only, and an assortment of organic diary products. She likes to cater to special diets like gluten-free, sugar-free, or vegan, which makes my sugar-free life a lot easier. I like meeting local shop owners who love being a part of the local community; it’s great being able to drop by, have a chat, and buy healthy, local foods.

Lazy Daisy 2Lazy Daisy’s Cafe: 1515 Gerrard St. East, Toronto

Before Lazy Daisy’s Cafe swooped onto the scene, if I want to head out and grab a coffee with a neighbour, we would have to hoof it at least 2 km. There were no cafes in the area — much to our chagrin. Needless to say, when Daisy’s opened, in 2011, everyone was stoked.

Why is Lazy Daisy’s Cafe Healthy?

The owner — Dawn Chapman — wants to serve people farm fresh, wholesome food, in a comfy place that is also affordable. At Daisy’s you’ll find: drug & hormone-free beef, chicken, sausage, eggs, and bacon; from a local, Mennonite shop called Fresh From the Farm. There’s also coffee from a local roaster (Pilot Coffee Roasters), greens grown by FoodShare and the School Grown program (greens grown on the roof tops of local, Toronto schools), and baked goods created from scratch. I love that this place has no problem helping out customers with special diets like vegan or gluten-free. And, the atmosphere is inviting to anyone and everyone; you’ll find students studying, business people working, moms with their kids, and locals sitting in the bright, airy space, reading. It’s been a perfect addition to the neighbourhood.

The Pantry Fine CheeseThe Pantry: 1620 Gerrard St. East, Toronto

In this age of ‘plastic money’, I rarely carry cash. But when I do have an extra fiver kickin’ around in my pocket, I love to stop by The Pantry to snag one of my favorite things — cheese!

Why is The Pantry Healthy?

First and foremost, Jeremy Lago, the owner, stocks 95% of his shelves with Canadian cheeses. Isn’t that incredible? Being healthy, in my book, isn’t just about being organic or chemical-free; it’s also about sourcing local ingredients and products, and supporting our local companies. At The Pantry you’ll find: many varieties of cheese from provinces like Ontario, Quebec, B.C., and P.E.I. There are organic cheeses available, and ‘Farmstead’ cheese as well: cheeses made from the milk produced on the same farm. Some cheeses that standout for me are Gun’s Hill, Montforte Dairy, Crosswind Farms, and Glengarry, which won the prize for best cheese in the world and in North America. I like sampling something new, every time I have the pleasure of stopping in. By the way…The Pantry was voted the best cheese shop in Toronto, in 2015, by Now Magazine.

Furballs Pet StuffFurballs Pet Stuff: 1618 Gerrard St. East, Toronto

Being healthy isn’t just about me; it’s also about my cats as well. I don’t want to feed them just any, chemical ridden, carb crazy food. My pampered kitties enjoy being the carnivores that they are —  and I don’t want them eating weird additives like GMO corn or wheat.

Why is Furballs Healthy?

Furballs, which opened in 2011, carries grain-free pet foods, home remedies, organic cat nip & freshly sprouted cat grass, out-of-the-ordinary pet toys, and natural treats. There are home remedies and supplements for dogs and cats that target eye irritation, hair balls, skin & coat condition, fleas, joint health, anxiety, and itchy skin. They also carry raw pet food by Tollden Farms, a local, Ontario, Canada company, and kitty litter made from corn, pine, recycled newspaper, or grass, and products for other pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, and birds. Eva Eiduks, the owner, has created a wonderful place for Little India pet owners to gather.

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5 Comments on “Wellness in the City: The Healthy Shops I Love in My Toronto Neighbourhood

  1.  by  Mindful Trav

    Hi Alison,

    Love this piece – your neighborhood is really cool! I’m kind of jealous that you got really and had these cool shops build around you, AFTER you moved in ;P.

    I’ve had to move a couple of times recently, and when doing so, I heavily consider the surroundings of the area I move into and the lifestyle I can build around it (I don’t have a car, so commuting is a hassle so I prefer to be in walking/short bus distances of what I need).

    I currently live in Mississauga, right beside Square One, so luckily I have access to a Whole Foods to buy my meats, eggs and sourdough bread from. I also have a low-key, quiet, small gym called Gymify which is 24/7! And there is an organic juice bar not too far from me called The Cold Pressery. The only thing I am missing is a boutique, local coffee roaster (I want this one really badly because I am a coffee-nut! – I love Quantum in Toronto if you’ve ever been there – Spadina & King).

  2.  by  Diana

    Hi Alison, This is my first time visiting your blog. Your profile is very inspiring. I am located in Toronto also. My favorite thing to do in the city is cycle along the river and beaches, and explore the architecture downtown on my bike!

    My favorite places for original, organic, or handmade are the studios in the Distillery, and the market at Evergreen Brickworks.

    •  by  admin

      Wonderful to hear from you, Diana! Hello fellow Torontonian : ) I love that you’re out and about on your bike! Isn’t the beach fabulous?! Thanks for the tips on the Distillery.

  3.  by  Tammy

    This is a great little piece on the neighbourhood. It might have been nice to include some of the South Asian shops, as well. Udupi Palace, for example, is a renowned vegetarian restaurant that also caters to vegan and gluten-free clientele. And the Indian grocers, (i.e. BJ’s) have been stocking lots of organics and fair trade goods for a long time now. Plus, Indian staples are really healthy – ghee, turmeric…

    •  by  admin

      Thanks for sharing your favorite places, too! I love Udupi, myself…best saag paneer on the block.

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