The Cause. Nneka became a vegan about 15 years ago when she was having consistent stomach issues after eating. Initially, she did not know what was going on with her system. She visited a holistic doctor who told her that her body did not break down food compounds optimally. her poor digestion was caused by low levels of digestive enzymes.
The Effect. Digestive enzymes are created naturally in the body and her body just was not producing enough to properly break down the food she was eating; like dairy products, meat, and fried foods. Also, her body was not getting the energy and nutrients from the foods she was eating because the digestion process was incomplete.
Doctor’s Recommendation. Her doctor recommended that she change her diet to a “raw” diet. Nneka remembers, “I did not know what that was at the time. I was like, “raw what?” The doctor stated that this enzyme deficiency had been going on for years and unless she changed her diet her digestive distress would continue to worsen.
No meat-Introduction. Nneka was not keen on being on a raw diet, so the doctor suggested that she at least aim to remove meat from her diet. Because meat is not only the hardest to digest; undigested proteins can lead to a host of additional health problems. “That was hard for me at the time,” says Nneka, “because I loved meat, all types of meat– cow, goat, pig, you name it, I probably ate it. This “no meat” idea was farfetched to me.”
My way. Instead of removing meat, Nneka decided to eat meat prepared more healthily. She would bake her meat instead of giving it up entirely. Surely, this would be better than her regular take-out which consisted primarily of fried foods and cheesesteaks.
No meat-Acceptance. After a time, Nneka realized that after she stopped eating the “bad stuff,” she did not like it. I thought, “if I cannot have it fried or the way I want it, I don’t want it.” Nneka then started attending community meetings at local health food stores and started meeting hardcore vegans and vegetarians. “They educated me on everything. I would go with them to the supermarket. They showed me how to make tofu, how to make my vegetables tasty, with different seasonings. It was like I was in school with them because that was the world, they lived in.”
Three to six months after that clinic visit, Nneka had transitioned fully to veganism. She cooked, was a regular at the farmer’s market, and she did a lot of meal prepping. She had to work to get her meals prepared because Baltimore did not have readily available vegan options at the time. “I packed food, always had nuts in my bag; I had to be proactive about it.”
The Happy Los Angeles Vegan. During Nneka’s three years of living in LA, she was spoiled by the vast vegan and health-conscious culture. There was a vegan smoothie spot on every corner, she recalls. “I did not have to always pack my lunch. There was always a vegan option. I, again, became dependent on eating out–vegan style. I did not cook a lot. I put aside the skills I learned when I was a ‘fresh’ vegan in Baltimore.”
The Vegan-ish Peach. Then Nneka moved to Atlanta from LA. She was working and going to school. Because of time constraints, she became dependent on outside dining sources. Atlanta, like Baltimore, did not have many vegan options, so staying vegan became less of a priority for her. “I was not so strict about veganism. I was still majority vegan and I did the best that I could when I could.”
What is Vegan-ish. “Vegan-ish means that I eat mostly plant-based foods, about 80% of the time. The other 20% consists of cheese, seafood, and donuts, she laughs. The point is not to stress or judge yourself harshly about it.”
Why It’s Okay to be Vegan-ish. I don’t want people to feel like being busy should be an excuse for them to abandon their vegan lifestyle. The goal is to not put too much pressure on yourself. That’s how I have been able to maintain my vegan lifestyle for the most part. I still eat mostly vegan, but I feel like if I would have stressed myself out about it, I may have completely abandoned it.
Vegan Restaurant Options. Nneka finds food fun and interesting and she loves to share information with those who are interested in a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. Those of you who are beginning vegans/vegetarian or are like her, Vegan-ish; below, is a list of some of Nneka’s favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurants in metro Atlanta, Georgia:
Bon Appetit! (Restaurants are listed in alphabetical, not ranking order).
Avocado Vegan Café & Juice Bar
Avocado Vegan Café & Juice Bar
Specialty: Caribbean Vegan Cuisine
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Faves: Avocado Sandwich
“This is a great place to dine. It is vibrant, peaceful, and the food is delicious.”
Dulce Vegan Bakery & Café
Specialty: Vegan cakes, cupcakes, and cookies
Faves: Lemon pound cake and Scones
“My absolute favorite is the cinnamon buns. They are huge. I love them.”
Specialty: Vegan/Vegetarian Caribbean
Location: West End
Faves: Curried un-goat; Un-fish Cakes-comes with a special homemade sauce; Collard Greens
“This restaurant is a must-try for those who enjoy Caribbean food.”
Lov’n It Live
Specialty: Raw, organic, vegan food
Location: East Point
Faves: Stuffed avocado
“Nothing is cooked here. You must experience this restaurant, at least once. Amazing backstory.”
Plant Based Pizzeria
Specialty: Vegan pizza
Faves: Hawaiian and Vegan Meat Lovers Pizza
“I am a pizza connoisseur. I guarantee that you will love this pizza. (They also offer amazing burgers).”
Note: There is only one size and they only have carry-out.
Specialty: Vegan Burgers
Location: West End
Faves: Sloppy Toppy
“The burgers are delicious, and I like the vibe. I enjoy seeing everyone standing in line.”
Tassili’s Raw Reality Café
Specialty: Raw vegan cuisine
Location: West End, Atlanta, GA
Faves: Punany Wrap, Spicy Kale Wrap
“I would go to festivals just because Tassili’s would be there. The food is consistently delicious, served with a nice amount of fresh, raw vegetables.”
Remember to try new things, try new foods, try new flavors. If you want to cook your own vegan meals, there are thousands of vegan recipes available to you:
Do you have a favorite vegan restaurant or questions about the vegan/vegetarian/vegan-ish lifestyle? Please leave them in the comments, below…
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