Best healthy lunches in Singapore’s CBD: Where to eat clean with vegan salads, poke bowls and protein plates

Photo: The Daily Cut/Facebook

Healthy lunches – we’ve all tried that (to varying successes) at some point over the course of our working life, be it with salads, trendy poké bowls, or low-carb/high-protein dishes. And rightly so, because we may be on our way to becoming a fat nation, says the Health Promotion Board in a recent study. Apparently, the average Singaporean is 3kg heavier than we were 15 years ago and way more likely to overeat (probably thanks to all the budget buffets popping up around the island).

Even if you’re a gym rat, at the end of the day, abs are made in the kitchen (so we’ve heard). You are what you eat, so leave your cheat days to the weekends and get with the healthy program on weekdays – you could surprise yourself with a decline in afternoon food comas after you’ve noshed on #eatclean dishes that are actually pretty good. After all, gone are the days when healthy meals equated to limp lettuce and bland chicken strips.

Besides standard leafy green favorites like SaladStop and Sumo Salad, Singapore’s got a wealth of options when it comes to healthy lunches – that is, if you’re working in the Raffles Place/Tanjong Pagar/Marina Bay areas. So we’ve rounded up a list of all the CBD cafes where you can get a satisfying bite and feel good about yourself afterwards. Just be prepared to drop a smidgen more cash than you would at a hawker stall, ‘cause being a health buff does come at a cost.


A Poké Theory

Photo: A Poke Theory/Facebook

Hawaiian poké bowls are all the rage these days, especially for advocates of the healthy eating movement who also happen to be lovers of sashimi. These are basically raw fish salads with rice or greens, cubes of proteins like sushi-grade salmon or tuna, and all kinds of toppings.

At this casual Telok Ayer space, you start by picking your base of sushi rice, brown rice, lemon herb quinoa or romaine lettuce, followed by scoops of shoyu tuna, spicy mayo salmon, spicy garlic sesame tuna, or avocado miso salmon. Determine how hungry you are by the size of your bowl ($11.50-$16.50), then finish off with sprinkles of furikake, sesame seeds, and nori flakes or premium toppings like teriyaki edamame, kalua pork, and crispy salmon skin.

27 Boon Tat St. Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-4pm.

Afterglow

raw vegan lasagne
Photo: afterglowsg/Facebook

The cosy Keong Saik Road restaurant is all about raw food, but not the sashimi kind. Raw and vegan plates are its forte, with soups, salads and mains like raw zucchini ‘linguine’ with walnut ‘meat’-balls ($20) and raw crispy lasagna ($22) made of zucchini sheets, macadamia nut cream cheese, spinach, shiitake mushrooms and dehydrated cherry tomatoes. They may sound slightly intimidating to those new to the raw and vegan way of life, but hey, try it out and you just might surprise yourself.

24 Keong Saik Rd. Mon-Sat noon-10.30pm.

Aloha Poké

Photo: Aloha Poke/Facebook

One of the first poké joints to kick start the trend here, Aloha Poké started off as a cheery, Hawaiian-themed café that has since opened up outlets in Marina Bay Link Mall, Chevron House and Citylink Mall. The build-your-own-bowl concept is simple – just pick up an order sheet by the counter and start by asking yourself how much raw fish you’re craving.

Poké bowls range from $11.90 to $19.90, with bases like white rice, brown rice, a rice mix and leafy greens. As for the proteins, glistening chunks of ahi tuna and salmon come slathered in sauces like wasabi mayo – alternatively, you can go for the nutty sesame tofu or kimchi tako. To complete your bowl, toss in add-ons like cherry tomatoes, flying fish roe or cucumbers, as well as superfoods like avocado, chia seeds and quail eggs.

Four locations, including 92 Amoy St. Mon-Sat 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-late.

Dosirak

Photo: Dosirak/Facebook

Eat your fill of DIY Korean bowls ($7.90-$16.90) that you’ll have to shake up for maximum flavor at this tiny eatery tucked away in China Square Central. Proteins include beef bulgogi, soy sesame chicken, avocado sweet potato and seared tuna, while bases come in the form of cold noods, tofu, brown rice, red cabbage and cauliflower rice, and veggie options range from corn and beansprouts to carrots and onions.

#01-02 China Square Central. Mon-Fri 11.30am-6pm, Sat 11.30am-3.30pm.

Grain Traders

Photo: Grain Traders/Facebook

What we love about this hip place is its make-your-own-bowl option chock full of fresh ingredients and hearty portions. It may be a tad bit pricier than a couple other grain bowls on this list, but somehow we keep finding ourselves returning for more.

For $16, you get one grain option from a list that includes brown rice, quinoa and soba, followed by a protein in the form of grilled striploin steak, seared tuna, slow-roasted pork or roasted chicken. Complete your bowl with veggies like bean sprout salad, apple kimchi, and cucumber pickles, before you move on to toppings like roasted nuts and sauces such as coconut curry and beetroot feta yogurt. If you’re pressed for time (or just too lazy to point out what you want), take your pick from the selection of signatures.

Two locations, including #01-03/04 100AM Mall. Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat & Sun 11am-8pm.

Kitchen by Food Rebel

Photo: Kitchen by Food Rebel/Facebook

This café believes in offering organic, unprocessed food that caters to vegans, vegetarians, and those with allergies or dietary restrictions. You may be spending a little more than you’d like on lunch, but hey, it’s all in the name of good health.

The lunch menu includes Buddha bowls ($19) such as the chicken or sweet potato and chickpea options, as well as salads, sandwiches, soups and mains like zoodle bolognese (it replaces spaghetti noodles with zucchini spirals) and a sweet potato pie with minced meat. If you pop by for a weekend brunch, you’ll get to try fusion dishes like rendang egg Benedict and the gado gado Buddha bowl.

28 Stanley St. Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 9am-3pm.

Loloku

Photo: Loloku/Facebook

Here’s another poké place that’s probably the newest space on the list. The funky fresh Loloku offers up medium and large poké bowls ($12-$18) with menu signatures like The Koa Wagyu with braised beef, kumbu rice, mixed veggies, fried shallots, slow-cooked egg and almonds, as well as The Ono Hamachi piled high with kumbu rice, hamachi, edamame, seaweed salad, pickled ginger and tobiko.

For those of you who’d rather customize your own bowl, create your version with everything from tofu and tuna to brown rice and mixed veggies to kimchi and jalapeños.

1 Keong Saik Rd. Mon & Tues 8am-9pm, Wed-Fri 8am-10pm.  

MOJO Singapore

Photo: MOJO Singapore/Facebook

If you’re in the mood for Japanese grilled protein bowls, head to this Telok Ayer space for healthy bites by day, and yakitori skewers paired with boozy drinks by night. Starting from $10, the DIY bowls offer carb options like brown rice, quinoa and cha soba, proteins such as Norwegian salmon, Japanese tilapia fillet and beef steak, as well as veggies like miso eggplant, charred corn and Thai papaya salad.

204 Telok Ayer St. Mon-Sat 11.30am-midnight.

Ninja Bowl

Photo: Ninja Bowl/Facebook

The always-crowded Ninja Bowl (sister café to Ninja Cut on Seah Street) is an ideal compromise when you’re on the healthy trail and your colleagues refuse to get with the programme. With grain/veggie bowls ($14-$16) offering different proteins like tuna, braised beef, honey chicken leg, salmon confit, pan-seared scallops, and roasted pumpkin, you can have your healthy lunch and eat it with great satisfaction.

Just don’t be tempted by the other all-day brunch plates on your table (the eatery whips up a mean fig jam French toast — just sayin’). Also, try to resist the addictive bacon tempura bites… if you can.

15 Duxton Rd. Mon-Fri 9.30am-9.30pm, Sat & Sun 9am-6pm.

Omnivore

Photo: Facebook

A popular favorite with the Raffles Place crowd, Omnivore serves up standard protein bowl offerings with a slightly lower price point ($9.90-$15.90). Choose your portion size wisely – this place is known for its humongous servings – and start with meats like lemongrass chicken thigh, smoked duck or sirloin steak, before moving on to bases like pasta, brown rice or sweet potato. Continue filling up your bowl with three toppings from a list that includes pickled cucumber, sous vide egg and roasted capsicums, before you drizzle it all with a splash of honey mustard, pesto or Thai spicy green chilli. 

Three outlets, including B1, Chevron House. Mon-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10.30am-3pm.

Pololi

Photo: Pololi Singapore/Facebook

This poké chain from Hong Kong has plopped itself nicely in between fellow poké joints Aloha Poké and A Poké Theory in the CBD area, with a casual takeaway concept and a simple menu. The bowls come in two sizes ($15.99-$17.99), with base options like white rice, brown rice or salad, poké flavors such as yuzu salmon, wasabi mayo ahi and Thai-style ahi, as well as toppings like spam and egg musubi, creamy sesame tofu, and seaweed salad. It’s an easy, grab-and-go stall for those who can only spare a couple minutes at lunch.

51 Telok Ayer St. Mon-Fri 11.30am-9pm, Sat 11.30am-6pm.

RawBar

Photo: RawBar/Facebook

Fresh, wholesome ingredients are what this café specializes in, with salads (from $9) that toss together everything from broccoli and cucumber to avocado and tuna. If you want a carb-filled meal, try the saj (flatbread) wraps (from $7.50) with options like smoked salmon, falafel, and chicken mushroom. Soups ($7) such as chickpea vegetable, roasted red capsicum and tomato basil are also available, should you feel like a warm broth on a rainy day.

#B1-08 Republic Plaza. Mon-Fri 9am-7pm.

Real Food

Photo: Real Food cafe grocer books/Facebook

It’s not the easiest thing to hunt down tasty vegan food in meat-obsessed Singapore, but this eatery is a real gem of a find. Push aside your meat cravings for a day and jump aboard the vegan train for organic, freshly-made offerings such as the lentil and quinoa burger ($13.80), gluten-free fried rice ($8.50), whole wheat penne with vegetables ($15.50) and, our favorite, steamed dumplings with organic noodles and homemade chilli paste ($10.80).

Four outlets, including #B1-52/53 Clarke Quay Central. Daily 11am-11pm.

Salad Lab

Photo: Salad Lab/Facebook

Salads ($10.80-$11.80) and smoothies ($4.80) are the main stars of the menu, with green combos such as the Detox Journey of salmon, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, blueberries and bell peppers, and the Beauty Blessing made with sweet potatoes, tofu, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and avocado. DIY options are also available, and you can add smoothie mixes to complete your meal, with blends like apple, banana and yogurt.

#B1-26 Clarke Quay Central. Daily 11am-8pm.

Salmon Samurai

Photo: Salmon Samurai/Facebook

Singaporeans are pretty addicted to salmon, judging by the number of poké places and sashimi joints in town, so here’s a salmon specialist for you. First, create your bowl (from $9.90) by choosing your salmon garnish from options like marinated salmon poke, seared salmon with spicy codfish roe, or garlic shoyu salmon with onsen egg. Step two involves picking out a base from a choice of yuzu-ume brown rice, udon and salad greens, then finish off with add-ons (for extra cost) like mixed nuts, prawn roe and broccoli.

Two outlets, including #B1-08 Ocean Financial Centre. Mon-Fri 11am-8pm.

Sarnies

Photo: Sarnies/Facebook

Popular with the office crowd, this lunch spot features a menu of salads ($15-$17.50) and sandwiches ($14.50-$16.50) that come in heaping portions. If you’re on a leafy green diet, you’ll find yourself deciding between choices like tandoori chicken, fried haloumi, tuna tataki and smoked salmon. For those of you who want a more carb-y oomph to the meal, get the white/rye bread sandwiches with proteins like chicken schnitzel, kurobuta ham or grass-fed steak.

136 Telok Ayer St. Mon & Tues 7.30am-10.30pm, Wed-Fri 7.30am-midnight, Sat & Sun 8.30am-4pm.

The Daily Cut

Photo: The Daily Cut/Facebook

Reminisce about your school days of OAS pencil shading exams at this no-frills establishment, where you can customize your bowls, which range from petite-sized ($9) to extra-large ($18).

Here’s where you’ll be rubbing shoulders with gym rats and fitness freaks — we’ve been put to shame by standing next to one too many buff bods — as you pick out your proteins (chicken/salmon/steak), carbs (brown rice/sweet potato/whole wheat pasta), supplements (broccoli/egg white/zucchini), toppings (almond/coconut/furikake), and dressings (ginger-ponzu/pesto vinaigrette/mango-habanero).

Three locations, including #B1-31 One Raffles Place. Mon-Fri 11am-2.30pm, 6pm-8.30pm; Sat & Sun 11am-3.30pm. 

The Populus Coffee & Food Co.

Photo: The Populus Coffee & Food Co./Facebook

Serving up indulgent treats and healthy plates, the buzzy bistro is a warm and pleasant space favored by the café-hopping crowd. Prices tags of donburi rice bowls and grain bowls here may fall on the steep side ($18.50-$24), but the flavorful ingredients and lavish portions make up for your wallet’s cry of help, with options like truffle wagyu beef, teriyaki salmon, pulled pork and roasted chicken.

If you happen to visit on a cheat day, go ahead and splurge on a plate of spring onion pancake and fried chicken, or satiate your sweet tooth with buttermilk waffles and ice cream sundaes.

146 Neil Rd. Mon & Wed 9am-7pm, Tues 9am-4pm, Thurs & Fri 9am-10.30pm, Sat 9.30am-10.30pm, Sun 9.30am-7pm.

Wheat Baumkuchen

Photo: Wheat Baumkuchen/Facebook

For a fuss-free lunch, hit up this eatery in the ever-bustling basement of One Raffles Place. Choose from a menu (from $9.80) of soba noodles, red rice, quinoa and salads, with main meats like salmon sashimi, salted egg chicken, ribeye and foie gras, grilled salmon and more.

Six outlets, including #B1-23 One Raffles Place. Mon-Fri 10.30am-9pm, Sat & Sun 10.30am-4pm.

Workspace Espresso

Photo: Workspace Espresso/Facebook

Munch on ‘Super Bowls’ ($13.80-$15.80) and ‘Pita Pockets’ ($8.50-$10) tinged with Middle Eastern flavors, or go for a light lunch of soups such as Moroccan spiced carrot, spinach goji berry and chicken noodle. The bowls offer fillings like flank steak, spiced falafel and tamarind chilli sea bass, while the pita wraps come stuffed with veggie patties, Moroccan chicken and pulled pork with guac.

#01-08 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3. Mon-Fri 7.30am-8pm.

 

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