The wellness trend is one of those strange phenomena. It’s intrinsically linked with food, often with restrictive diets such as vegan, raw, grain free, sugar free, gluten free or dairy free lauded as the cure to all ills.
While I do believe in the restorative power of good food, I’ve always been skeptical about kale smoothies, protein balls and cutting out entire food groups without a medical reason to do so.
So, when I was invited to attend Eat. Move. Thrive. Urban Wellness & Food Festival – a festival dedicated to wellness, promising healthy street food, a market, exercise tasters and a line up of speakers – I was keen to check it out. I headed down to The Bond Company in Digbeth on a rainy Sunday to see what was going on.
Unfortunately we had to queue outside in the rain to get in, but once inside there was plenty of cover. I headed straight inside for the first speaker session with Plant Based Pixie and Laura Thomas, on whether “Wellness” is actually making us well.
As qualified nutritionists, it was really refreshing to hear some of the more dubious wellness myths being busted.
The headlines were:
1. Only people with diagnosed coeliac disease need to cut out gluten
2. Cutting out gluten tends to lead to weight loss, not because gluten is bad, but because you’re eating less (i.e. less bread, less pasta etc)
3. Anything labelled “detox” is a myth. The only thing that detoxes your body is your liver, and if it’s not doing it, you’ll be very unwell!
4. Products like juice cleanses and skinny teas can propagate the unhealthy binge purge cycle associate with disordered eating
5. Sugar is sugar. All sugar comes from plants, your body processes it all the same way regardless of whether its from a date, a coconut, or regular granulated sugar, and none of them are a good source of nutrients (even the supposedly “healthy” ones).
Ultimately, the message was to develop a healthier relationship with food. Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan or meat eater, the best way forward is to stop using phrases like clean eating and cheat meal, stop feeling guilty about foods, and strike a good balance between nutrition and tastiness. I found it informative and inspiring!
Next I headed outside to check out the food offerings. The street food area was small, with a select few traders.
Natural Healthy Foods had lentil dhal, bean chilli and South Indian vegetable curry on offer for main meals, White Rabbit had gluten and dairy free pizza but at £7 each for a small pizza I thought it was a little pricey. The rest of the traders were centered around breakfast, with a toast station, breakfast bowls, smoothie bowls and protein shakes.
I was hoping to see some of the more innovative street food traders like Vegan Grindhouse there, but I tried some lovely things nonetheless.
I had a smoothie bowl from Soulfuel, which was thoroughly enjoyable. They had three varieties, I chose one with cacao, banana, peanut butter, granola and coconut yoghurt. It had a lovely, rich chocolate flavour and the yoghurt was thick and creamy, despite being dairy free. I also sampled some delicious vegan cake from Pourboys Coffee Co and Natural Healthy Foods.
After that I headed inside to the market area and stopped off for a Rude Health mylkshake. I’ve been wanting to try a turmeric latte for a while, so when I saw their Dirty Turmeric mylkshake with turmeric, coffee, almond mylk and honey, I had to give it a try.
I really enjoyed it, the turmeric had an earthy sweetness, and although you could taste the coffee, it wasn’t an overpowering flavour, and actually complemented the turmeric.
As I made my way around the market hall, I got to try loads of new things. Fermented foods seemed to be a big trend, with lots of traders offering kombucha, kefir and kimchi. I love kimchi, so I headed over to Barrel & Bone to give theirs a try.
Spicy, sour, the kimchi was absolutely delicious, so I grabbed a jar to take home, though admittedly it was because it was so tasty, rather than because of its health benefits!
Next I headed over to the Purearth stand to try their water kefir. Unlike the dairy based ones sold by Barrel and Bone, Purearth make water kefir that’s a sparkling probiotic drink, suitable for vegans.
They had lots of different flavours, including a potent blue concoction made with spirulina, and a range of kefir shots. The apple mint flavour was my favourite, it was tangy but refreshing, and it certainly tasted like it would do me some good.
In a similar vein, I tried some Kombucha next. I’ve seen a lot of buzz around this fermented drink in particular, so I couldn’t resist seeing what all the fuss was about. Wildbare and Natural are a Warwickshire based company offering nutrition coaching and products inspired by ancestral food principles. They make Kombucha in three flavours – Hibiscus, berry and green tea – so I gave all of them a go. The hibiscus flavour wasn’t to my taste, as it was the tangiest of the bunch and actually reminded me of fruit vinegar, however the berry had a lovely sweet and tangy flavour, while the green tea was almost floral.
Lastly I had a sample of Onist avocado chocolate pots.
Made from only six organic, fairtrade ingredients, these little pots taste good and do good. The texture isn’t the same as a dairy chocolate mousse, but the flavour was really good, especially the chocolate orange. Every pot purchased also means a child in need gets a healthy breakfast. Truly guilt free indulgence.
I didn’t get to any of the fitness tasters as they were all sold out, and unfortunately didn’t spot Rebel Recipes doing their food demo in the market hall, which I had hoped to, but I still enjoyed the event. I grabbed a goodie bag on the way out which was packed with snacks, but a bit of a shame that there were no samples from the traders exhibiting, as I was secretly hoping for a mini bottle of Pourboys cold brew coffee!
It was a shame the weather wasn’t better, as it would have been fun to get involved in outdoor yoga or hula hooping, and a wider selection of street food would be awesome. The speaker programme was really impressive though, and I think would have gone some way towards making wellness a healthier place for everyone.
Hopefully Eat. Move. Thrive. will return to Birmingham next year for an even bigger and better event.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Thrive Festival as a guest and my press pass was complimentary. All food and drink items were purchased by me on the day.