The idea of eating food that is good for the body, good for the mind and good for the planet is not lost on local restaurateur Nastasha McKeon.
Ever since she found her grandmother Lola’s copy of a book called “How to Heal Yourself Naturally – What Your Doctors Don’t Want You to Know,” when she was 11, McKeon has made the connection about how eating mindfully is key to longevity.
Now, a little more than 25 years later, McKeon, the founder and CEO of Carlsbad-based organic, non-GMO, holistic and sustainably directed Choice Superfood Bar and Juicery, has released her own book, “Plant Food Is Medicine.”
The cookbook includes recipes of some of Choice Juicery’s most popular items as well as some of her own personal favorites – and offers a look at how food impacts our bodies, emotional health and the earth.
“Plant Food Is Medicine” is also in part autobiographical, offering bits of insight into McKeon’s challenging past, growing up in different areas of San Diego County, with a mother who struggled at the time with addictions and a father who was largely absent. McKeon said food insecurity and home insecurity were always in the background when she was a child.
McKeon said that when other family members were failing her, grandmother Lola was the one person she could always depend on. After she died, McKeon found the “How to Heal Yourself Naturally” book among her grandmother’s possessions and read it to find out “what kinds of things doctors didn’t want me to know.” She said the premise that stuck with her most from the book was the idea of food as medicine.
“I’d never been told that before,” McKeon said. “We’re supposed to eat food with purpose? Like on purpose? I thought food was supposed to satiate our hunger pains. I had no idea. I also had never been exposed to a fresh vegetable. The closest thing to a vegetable that I got was canned spinach.”
Fast forward to the past nearly 10 years, as the San Diego-bred entrepreneur has been serving up healthy food and drinks across San Diego County.
Choice Superfood Bar and Juicery specializes in plant-based foods and drinks that are nutrient-dense with enticing flavors, bold colors and inspired names.
Choice Juicery serves a variety of items, including cold-pressed juices with names like like “Dawn Patrol” made with carrots orange, ginger and turmeric; “Macho Taco Salad” made from walnuts and “Majik Milk” made with coconut and freshwater algae.
It also sells gluten-free bread that uses chickpea flour, rolled oats, chia seeds and flax; raw chocolate truffles made with almonds; “bakon” made from coconut chips, liquid smoke and tamari; and smoothies of all flavors.
After working at a North County juice store, helping develop recipes and building up her business sense, McKeon emptied her savings account and in 2014 opened the first Choice Juicery in Carlsbad.
She later found a business partner and together they raised $150,000 to open the next spot in Solana Beach, but she eventually took the majority of ownership in Choice Juicery.
She gave credit to local restaurant consultant Tom Penn, an investor in Choice Juicery, for guiding her through the early financial processes.
Penn said Choice Juicery is literally “growing organically.”
“I have worked with ownership groups for about 80 restaurants and owners do the same job but with different results,” he added. “The ones that have the most success are the ones who are doing it for reasons not just rooted in financial gain. She’s growing in the right way. Her food resonates with the marketplace.”
Choice Juicery now has six locations across San Diego County. McKeon said she plans to open the next Choice Juicery in the coming months in San Clemente as well as an eighth location in San Diego County later this year.
Choice Superfood Bar and Juicery
CEO: Nastasha McKeon
BUSINESS: Plant-based dining
NOTABLE: Choice Juicery currently has two sites in Carlsbad as well as locations in Solana Beach, Del Sur, Encinitas and Little Italy.