Over the past few years, Auckland’s health and wellness scene has taken off and we are loving it! From the juice cleanse companies to the healthy cafes, from the wellness warriors to the hip yoga studios sprouting up all over town, Auckland has got it going on. To gain an insight into all this health magic, we’re chatting to Auckland’s healthiest cool cats who will share their tips, tricks and a whole lot of inspo to help you live your healthiest life ever. Yesss!
Heard of The Unbakery cafes? We recently chatted to the fabulous woman behind the brand, Megan May, to find out how she came to set up the business, her daily routine and her fave Auckland spots.
Can you tell us what spurred you to create such a healthy lifestyle?
I was born into a family whose passion was organics—we had an organic market garden when I was small, so I spent my days roaming around picking strawberries in nappies and gumboots and playing on tractors.
When I was young eating organic wholefoods was not a mainstream way of eating—in the early 80s the more processed and less organic the better! So in order to feel one of the pack (and because sugar is incredibly addictive) I did snub my roots for a while and ate a lot of processed crap whenever the opportunity arose…. Which left my sensitive system unwell a lot (I’m a coeliac and lactose intolerant)
It wasn’t until I was sick yet again in my mid 20s after working as a chef (this time it was really serious: adrenal fatigue, hormone troubles, melanoma and parasitic infection) I reconnected with the food I grew up on and started taking my health seriously—taking my wholefoods roots one step further by focusing on incorporating an abundance of raw foods into my diet and going vegan—two years of debilitating illness eventually turned into a healthy vibrant me and those dark times turned into a business and a blessing.
Tell us about your businesses
We are in the business of getting people to eat their fruits and veggies and live a healthier happier life! I love food and it’s my way of communicating a message that I’m passionate about. Whether it’s through an incredible meal at one of our Unbakery cafes or the little bird organics range of crackers, macaroons and granola that you can get at your local health foods store, we want to inspire and educate people to eat a more plant based wholefoods diet. This will not only have a positive impact your own health but the health of the environment as well. Eating more plants is for everyone, it doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach. Adding a green juice or smoothie into your day will have a positive effect no matter what else you’re doing.
My business is a culmination of my love for food and the environment as well as my upbringing—being both a chef and an environmental scientist gives me my own take on what should end up on your breakfast, lunch or dinner plate.
And the new app you’ve just launched?
We have just launched a recipe app which is a follow up from our Unbakery Cookbook. It has more than 100 new recipes that are mostly raw but with some of our favourite plant based cooked recipes in there as well. They’re all packaged into this incredibly user-friendly app for the phone or tablet (currently its only available on Apple devices—android hopefully coming soon….. )
I love it—Lottie Hedley has done a stunning job of the photography and it just all works so well. I’ve become a real fan of recipe apps because when you have a good one you don’t need to waste time trawling the internet for recipes from a blog where the recipe may or may not be tested, In a good app you have all these well-tested recipes at your fingertips. You can use the search function to look for an ingredient you might have lots of to use up, there are timers and instructional videos as well as ingredient tips. It’s an exciting platform to work on.
OMG I could go on about this forever! But it’s because I’m very proud of this project - it was a huge amount of work by a lot of people and after all that work we now we have this beautiful recipe app that inspires people to eat better.
People can get anywhere in the world for just $7.49
What does a regular day look like for you?
My days are often quite varied depending on what’s happening in the business. We always have a lot of projects going on which I love! I like doing a good variety of things and constantly challenging myself (as well as everyone around me… mostly I think in a good way).
Then it’s juggling that with having a child—between those two things I pretty much go where they take me.
I get up with my daughter Pepper (although I do share that with my husband—epic dad that he is!) My current goal is to get up before her to do some meditation and breathing exercises but her wake up time keeps changing…. that’s probably the most crucial exercise I do each day to keep me grounded and focused, if I don’t do that first think I will at least do some breathing exercises while I’m showering.
I’m getting really good at making the most of those in-between moments to do things that nourish me. I realise that I’m never going to have more time, so I just need to get smart with it and make the most of the moments I have.
Pepper has some porridge with cinnamon on, and then we make a juice and a big mess in the kitchen together with whatever veggies are in the fridge. I then head out to one of the cafes for a matcha tea with almond milk and a green smoothie over staff catch ups and menu planning.
Then it’s wherever the calendar takes me—either head to out to the factory and office to plot world domination for vegetables, or stay at one of the cafes to work on recipes.
I grab lunch when I’m at one of the cafes at that time, so whatever is on the menu that day.
In the afternoons I would often have another juice or smoothie depending on what I had in the morning. Most days I have one of each—life is not the same for me without them, I’m not as clear, focused or energised.
I will try and sneak in a quick walk up one of the mountains before I get home around five for Pepper then do some dancing to Justin Beiber (Pepper’s favourite). Sometimes I get to head out to a class at the gym or go and do a yoga class at a studio or online—that’s a treat for me. Recently I decided that if I wear exercise clothes around during the day I could potentially pop into the gym or go for a walk when there are moment’s in-between meetings or on the way home—I have to say its working!!!
In winter we have a really big salad of different greens for dinner with things like sprouts, radish, sauerkraut, carrot and beetroot served with something cooked like the turmeric fries from the app served with cashew aioli or cashew cheese.
I do a little bit more work while Pepper sleeps or watch something on Netflix and then finish the evening with a raw cookie and a lemon tea, write some notes from the day in a journal and let go of any stresses there might have been for a good night’s sleep and a fresh start to the next day.
What is the best part of what you do?
Hands down the staff at little bird—they are pretty damn amazing, always inspiring and sometimes challenging but always the first thing I think of when someone asks this question. To have people that believe in what you’re doing and work so hard for you is humbling and gratifying.
Favourite form of exercise?
I love dancing but I’m not that awesome at it anymore (although my daughter is none the wiser and thinks I’m amazing!) You will find me at a Les Mills body jam class on occasion looking less than elegant but having a great time!
Walking outside in the fresh air is so uplifting, pre baby on board I used to walk up Mt Eden every morning—it’s very therapeutic. I’m trying to rekindle that habit at the moment fitting it in when ever I can.
Best place to get a healthy treat in Auckland (other than Little Bird Unbakery, of course!)
Janken in Jervois Rd—they make the most amazing GF DF matcha cake.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I really focused on education at the moment, writing recipes and sharing with people how easy it is and just how important it is that we move towards a more plant-based diet as well as the importance of organics. NZ should be leading the way in this movement with all the great organic produce we can grow here. Eating a more plant-based wholefoods diet could have a really positive impact on our health system—with our cancer, heart diseases and obesity stats being some of the worst in the world, change needs to happen. We are all paying for having an unnecessarily sick country. This food should be for everyone and I want to get people excited about it and help make it more accessible for people.
Favourite local spots:
For a Drink?
I don’t really drink that often but when I do it’s a Shrub (a fruit vinegar based cocktail) from Beirut or a one of the incredible sake drinks at MASU—sake, in particular organic sake, is said to be one of the purist alcohol.
For a coffee?
Oh gosh, I sound like such a teetotaller I don’t drink coffee or much alcohol—but if I did it, would definitely be at Kokako. It’s organic, fair trade and the staff are delightful what more could you want. You’ll probably find me at the unbakery having a matcha latte as my coffee alternative.
I usually start with a juice or smoothie, so if I didn’t make my own or grab one from the unbakery I would drop into Ceres fresh market at Ponsonby central.
Meredith’s for the ultimate plant-based dinner—not your ever day dining, but their plant-based degustation is out of this world.
For a quick vegetarian takeaway meal—I would head up to Roops in Mt Roskill for a Mysore masala dosa, but you need to get there before 7!
A more everyday special occasion dining experience would be Café Hanoi—they do a great selection of vegan meals which are packed with fresh herbs and also Scarecrow on the corner of Kitchener Street—I love the atmosphere there for lunch or dinner.
Tonic Room for all my organic beauty and skincare needs in Kingsland. As a shopping destination, Ponsonby Road would be my main shopping destination—or Britomart—the selection of stores just keeps growing and growing. Plus, I’m always around Ponsonby and Britomart with our cafes being there so it makes them my locals. We’re so lucky to have such an amazing number of really good NZ designers—Miss Crabb, Penny Sage, Ingrid Starnes, Juliet Hogan, Kate Sylvester to name a few. We need to get Kowtow to open a store in Auckland (they do beautifully designed organic clothing).
Love health nuts? How about: