What does it take to have a healthier body and mind? Well, let’s start by putting down the processed foods and stepping away from the preservatives. Easier said than done, right? What if I told you it involves eating green and overcoming external obstacles, things like stress, time, money, lack of confidence and motivation? What if I told you I am here to help, would you listen now? OK good! So now that I have your attention, let’s start this year off right by talking (and eating!) fresh and organic. Why not even go as far as making it your New Year’s resolution. I mean, don’t you think that you at least owe yourself that much? Let me preface by saying I am not an expert on what to eat and what not to eat, but I do know a few people who are; therefore, I have chosen three different locations and three different people who all have different healthy eating options that can help you along the way.
But first, what does it mean to “eat green”? Essentially, it’s for anyone and everyone willing to make a change, not only for health but also in the world. Why? Because according to the United Nations, eating less meat can help reduce global warming, which is predicted to increase by as much as 12 degrees by the end of the 21st century, and raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems,” as it produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the planet’s cars, planes and other forms of transportation combined. In fact, 30 percent of the Earth’s land mass is used for raising animals (which include growing feed crops and grazing), only later to be killed for human consumption.
Now that you know some of the benefits of eating green and what you can do to help yourself and the environment, let’s begin by putting a little love back into the soil and visit Vegas Roots, a local nonprofit community garden.
Located just west of downtown, I sat down with the director and owner of Vegas Roots, Rosalind “Roz” Brooks, where she told me about her healthy lifestyle and how she went about changing her eating habits to become vegetarian. Born and raised in Vegas, Roz says she’s always been interested in maintaining her well-being and wanted to spread the word throughout the community. With a little help from family and friends, she successfully began a community garden to share with the rest of the valley; and since 2010, local businesses, volunteers and families from all over have added a tremendous amount of culture and character to the garden, helping it grow its roots far beyond where the seed first began.
As a nonprofit organization, Vegas Roots’ mission is to create a caring and productive community for children and adults who are interested in building a sustainable food system and eco-friendly environment. The garden’s overarching goals are to produce fresh foods, build youth leadership, create community connectedness and promote healthy minds and bodies.
In an effort to get people from all age groups involved, Roz has created curated events, such as the Sunset Garden Stretch, the U-Pick U-Pay Garden and the Adopt-A-Plot Program, which allows families and businesses to either purchase or donate 50-square-foot plots of garden space to harvest fresh, organic produce year-round. In addition to individual and family activities, Vegas Roots also has children-centric happenings, including the HEART and Farm-to-School classes and programs for teens and schools of underprivileged kids, which help develop character, leadership skills and knowledge on how to plant their own garden.
So the next time you’re in the area — whether with your family or by yourself — stop by Roz’s Vegas Roots to learn and experience everything urban gardening!
Now, if you’re not much of a green thumb and prefer to have food already prepped and cooked, then let’s head to Downtown Container Park where I met with Stacey Dougan, owner and chef of Simply Pure.
Fifteen years ago Stacey became a full-time vegetarian while residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Young, single and making a lot of money in the music and entertainment industry, Stacey decided to invest her money into bigger and better opportunities, which would later lead to the opening of her own restaurant. Having never attended culinary school, Stacey picked up her skills through instinct and trial and error. From there, she became a pro at coming up with recipes to die, and live, for! After three years of running her own business Stacey decided to move to Las Vegas and change her career, where she began working as a temp at the Wynn. Not more than a year later, Stacey said she saw herself as “not a very good employee, and never will be,” and went back to the kitchen and opened Simply Pure.
During my visit, I met with Stacey’s manager and assistant, Derrick Lampkin, who introduced me to many of their dishes and shared with me the various places her ingredients are purchased, which include Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Sprouts. Simply Pure has many options on their menu to choose from — the “Nacho Grande,” in particular, is one of their top selling plates, and my personal favorite. With vegan protein (aka soy), vegan cheddar cheese, pico de gallo and sliced avocado, all I can say was this was beans, meat and sour cream in disguise. After this taste test, Derrick allowed me to end the night by savoring the “Raw Almond Agave Truffle” for dessert. Leaving the restaurant I felt very well fed and, well, simply pure.
Have you ever wondered what’s at the end of a rainbow? If you think you know, think again (hint: it’s not a cauldron of Skittles). At the corner of Almond Tree Lane and Sahara Avenue, where the rainbow reaches its end, is just that: Rainbow’s End Natural Foods and Café.
Since 1977, Rainbow’s End has been known for its great variety of vitamins and supplements, organic and natural whole foods, and its vegan café. Although atypical to other mainstream retailers and much smaller in staff, the grocer’s employees more than make up for it with passion, confidence and a vast amount of knowledge relating to their products. According to Sara Friedman, daughter of owner Sam Friedman, many of Rainbow’s End’s products are distributed directly from similarly sized vendors, including Quail Hollow Farm located in Overton, Nevada.
After scouring through the defined marketplace, next I wandered through the café and sought out a couple of dishes from the menu that sounded absolutely delicious. The roasted portobello burger, marinated with raspberry balsamic ginger dressing and topped with caramelized onions, Vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise), vegan cheese, romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, sundried tomato aioli, and Dijon mustard all stacked atop a gourmet organic wheat bun, immediately caught my eye. And if that doesn’t wet your appetite, the raw tacos — made of red cabbage filled with nutritional yeast, flax meal, avocado, carrots and sprout — definitely will, and should not be overlooked.
Upon uncovering some background information of Rainbow’s End, I also got to know a little more about Sara as well. As a long-time vegan, Sara says three key points are the main influencers to her vegan lifestyle: humanness, the environment and her overall health. Moreover, on Friday’s Sara and other staff members get together and participate in “Get Alkalized Fridays” — meaning they stay away from acidic solids and liquids, all while maintaining a raw food diet, exercising, and drinking plenty of water to keep the body energized throughout the day. To stay in-the-know of other Rainbow’s End upcoming events, check out their website at www.RainbowsEndLV.info. You can also read informational blog posts, print recipes, and brush up on the latest vegan terminology to help you transition into your new lifestyle.
So what do you think? Have I convinced you to start eating organically? Great things are sure to come this New Year, but only if you’re willing to put in the time, dedication and everyday hard work. Just think of all the kinds of impacts you will make if you do, and if Stacey, Roz and Sara can make a few changes in their diets, so can you! After all, I did say let’s make this your New Year’s resolution. You will love eating green. I know I have!