Back in the nineties, if you told people you were a vegetarian, you were probably met with a lot of confused looks, snickers and whys. The healthy plant-based lifestyle that is popular today was a strange and unwelcome concept and mostly reserved to the hippie subculture. So when Ruth Tal, then 25-years-old, told her parents that she wasn’t going to university and would be using her student loan to start a vegetarian and juice bar instead, they were devastated.

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Yet Tal was steadfast in her belief that there was a need for a food-based approach to nutrition. “I could no longer coast on being a young woman. All of a sudden how I was eating was not serving me well anymore,” she says. She began researching the benefits of fruits and vegetables and began self-prescribing foods based on her findings, whether it was in the pursuit of more energy or for better skin.

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In 1992, Tal opened Juice for Life in Toronto, later expanding and changing the name to Fresh in 1999. Since then, her vegetarian restaurants have expanded to four locations in Toronto, two in Moscow, one set to open in Mexico City this summer, and the soon-to-be “LOV by Fresh” eateries in Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal. She also has four cookbooks under her belt and recently launched a collection of cold-pressed juices.

When you meet the now 50-year-old, it’s obvious she’s doing something right with clean eating. Her radiant, healthy glow is the first thing you notice and she looks a decade younger than her 50 years — it’s hard not to be inspired by her appearance alone.

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We asked the gorgeous vegan her best tips for eating well and here’s what she had to say.

1. Try to eat as low on the food chain as possible. Meat sits way on the top of food chain, while lower on the chain are fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, flowers and spices.

2. Make your own juices or buy cold-pressed juices. Why cold-pressed? This particular process of juicing maintains the nutritional integrity of the food, giving you more vitamins, minerals and plant enzymes. A typical bottle of Fresh cold-pressed juice has three pounds of organic produce and approximately 10 servings of fruits and vegetables.

3. Look at food labels and be wary of any ingredient you don’t recognize. That’s how you can clean up your diet in an instant. If it has more than 10 letters, it’s definitely not natural!

4. Try to resist sugar when you can.

5. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s the little things you do every day that make up a holistic lifestyle. So remember to cut yourself some slack.

Three healthy Fresh recipes you need to try

Phytosalad: Phyto is the Latin word for “plant,” and seems perfect to describe this salad, which contains plants in all forms. The soba noodles ground the salad and make it satisfying enough to be a meal on its own. Get the recipe here.

3-6-9 Dressing: Named after the 3-6-9 oil it contains, this dressing is savoury and sweet all at the same time working equally well on salads as on rice or noodle bowls. It provides all of the good fats you need, without any of the bad fats you should avoid. Get the recipe here.

Miso gravy: Sweet potato fries with miso gravy is a classic Fresh combination. This recipe takes hardly any time to make, and keeps in the fridge for a few days. Get the recipe here.