eating, fibromyalgia, Florida, food, health, migraine, places, vegan

Leafy Greens Cafe in St. Petersburg, Florida

leafy greens

One of my biggest worries about switching to a vegan diet was that I would have no meal options at restaurants. I enjoy going out to eat, and although I’m trying to make more of my own food at home, I don’t want to feel like that is my only option.

I quickly began researching local vegan restaurants and restaurants with vegan options in order to ease this worry, and was delighted to come across an app called Happy Cow.  It is excellent, and I’ve used it frequently over the past few months. It was well worth the amount I paid for it ($3.99?). They have a website, too, but I like the app because at any time I can open it and it will immediately show me restaurants with vegan options in my immediate vicinity. It also has Yelp-like features where users can upload photos and leave reviews (although so far I’ve forgotten to do this).

leafy greensA week or so after getting vegan brunch at New Leaf Elementals in Tampa, I drove out to St. Petersburg and ate dinner at the Leafy Greens Cafe. It is a raw vegan cafe I had been to once or twice before. It is on the pricier side and a bit of a trek from where I live, so I won’t be going there often, but I do it enjoy and am glad it exists. Their meals feel super healthy, and I left feeling pretty great.

I ordered carrot ginger juice, which was delicious, soup, and a bean burger that came in lettuce instead of on bread. I liked all of it and felt too full to order dessert by the end.

Leafy Greens

One thing I like about Leafy Greens Cafe is the owner’s story. I haven’t met her, but the restaurant’s website says that she has Lupus and turned to a raw vegan diet as a result, which healed her. All of the food Leafy Greens serves is non-GMO, too. Health is one of the major reasons I decided to adopt a vegan diet–I grapple with fibromyalgia, migraine, IBS-D, anxiety, and other varied symptoms that often accompany fibromyalgia. I’ve found that many people who don’t find health answers from traditional medicine turn to dietary changes, and I like supporting a business owner who has had similar struggles to my own.

From the Leafy Greens website: “After my amazing experience, I decided that I had an obligation to introduce as many people as possible to the delicious vegan food we love and, in doing so, help humanity find a way to heal itself from the life threatening diseases that effect our well being in today’s world.”

eating, Florida, food, health, places, vegan

Vegan brunch @ New Leaf Elementals

new leaf elementals

In March, I went to a vegan brunch meetup at New Leaf Elementals in Tampa. I’d begun eating vegan on March 1st and wanted to do whatever I could to make it stick. I’d been vegetarian for over a year (vegetarian again, I should say–earlier in life I’d been vegetarian for nearly 12 years), and eating mostly vegan (vegan at home, vegetarian in restaurants) for a few months, but I was really afraid that even though I wanted to go vegan, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’ll probably write a post about how and why I made the switch later.

new leaf elementals

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The setup at New Leaf surprised me. It was a small gift shop with many crystals, candles, and other items. At first I thought I was in the wrong place, but after timidly asking the cashier about the brunch, she led me through a door that revealed a second larger room set with tables and chairs. I said, “Oh, I thought this was a restaurant,” then felt kind of bad when she replied, “It is.” The homey setup gave more of a family gathering feel, but the cashier showed me the menu that is available on non-brunch days.

new leaf elementals

I was one of the first people there. I’d found out about the meetup through a vegan singles group that has since closed. The Florida Voices for Animals group posts a lot of vegan brunches and meet-ups too, however, and most of the people I met at this event were from that group. I paid for my brunch (I forget how much it was–$12-ish?), then loitered around trying not to feel awkward while waiting for more people to arrive.

new leaf elementals

I eagerly scoped out the food, partially because I was hungry, and partially because I was looking for ideas for vegan meals to cook at home. The tofu scramble was the dish I really picked up on. It looked exactly like scrambled eggs, so I double-checked with the chef to make sure it wasn’t before taking some. I asked her how to make it and she said just mash up tofu in a frying pan, add turmeric and/or cumin to make it look yellow, and throw in whatever other vegetables and spices I’d like. Tofu scramble is something I’ve made a few times over the past few months–it’s a tasty thing to make that can use up pretty much whatever leftover veggies are hanging out in the fridge and still feel like a real meal.

new leaf elementals

The brunch was good. It was denser than what I usually eat, with potatoes, waffles, and fake meats, but it tasted good. I generally try to stay away from fake meats (they often have soy protein isolate, which can trigger migraines in me), but just this once didn’t cause a problem. I am also trying to stay away from refined flour for the most part (it upsets IBS and leads to sugar cravings, at least for me), but again, just this once wasn’t an issue. I am learning that for me, healthy veganism has a lot to do with moderation.

I enjoyed the company. There were people from many different walks of life there, and most people didn’t know each other, so I didn’t feel left out once the conversation started. We talked about veganism, as I expected, but also politics, traveling, and other things. It was pretty interesting to hear people’s stories. Most of them had come to the brunch for the same reason I did–they don’t have other vegans in their lives and wanted to feel a sense of community and support.


eating, health

Eating food you’re not hungry for is wasteful

Years ago, at least five and maybe up to ten, my friend Erin casually commented to me that eating food you’re not hungry for is wasteful. I can’t remember the exact situation. Maybe we were sitting in a restaurant after eating, feeling totally stuffed, looking at two bites of delicious food left on a plate and I asked who was going to finish it off. Probably something along those lines.

I didn’t grow up in one of those strict families that won’t let kids leave the dinner table before finishing everything on their plates. My parents never made us feel guilty by reminding us of children starving in Africa. Still, my parents also never threw away food, and if there was some left on the table at the end of a meal, someone would eat it in order not to waste it. Because not wasting food was so deeply ingrained into me growing up, Erin’s idea of eating unwanted food as wasting it pretty much blew my mind.

At first, I instinctually knew Erin was wrong. Of course eating food is less wasteful than throwing that food in the garbage, regardless of how hungry a person is. Duh. Then I thought more about it and kept reasoning through it and realized my instincts were wrong in this situation. She was right! It is just as wasteful to eat those last few (unwanted) bites as it is to throw them away. Maybe even more wasteful.

How so? If you eat food you don’t want, the calories are just as wasted as if no one ate the food at all. Your body isn’t going to use that energy to do anything because you already have enough energy. The food is going to sit in your body, wasting away, requiring energy for processing, putting unnecessary strain on your digestive system as it turns into poop. The unneeded food might make you sluggish and lethargic. It might make you fatter and less healthy. It might stretch your stomach and contribute to a future desire to overeat.

Maybe everyone who reads my blog already knew this, but even 5-10 years after learning it, the “eating can be wasteful” idea feels new. I need to remind myself of it regularly, especially when at a nice restaurant and sitting face-to-face with food I’m no longer hungry for but view as unusual or expensive. Of course, I’ll take leftovers to go if it fits the situation, but oftentimes it does not because of the nature of the food or the way my day is planned.

It still takes quite a bit of conscious awareness for me to push away a plate that has food sitting on it. In these moments I have to sit and mentally walk through the logic, reminding myself that I’m being less wasteful by not eating what’s in front of me since I’m not hungry. Once I feel reassured that I’m doing a good thing by not eating it, a less wasteful/more healthful thing, pushing the plate away becomes easy. It’s remembering to do this and break through those old eating habits with conscious thought that is difficult.