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    Oakland’s Café Crush Will Leave You With a Natural High

    You know a place has to serve up healthy fare when, on any given day, it draws nutritionists, nurses and doctors—some still wearing their work garb. But the patrons of Café Crush also include students, buff bikers, families, and just anyone desiring a delicious vegan smoothie or meal. The café is the vision of nutritionist and Bay Area native Lacey Helene, who has turned this humble spot into a destination for good health and good eats on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. The offerings are diabetic friendly, mostly raw, and are free of gluten and nuts. What the Café does serve are drinks and dishes with ultra bright color and flavor, with most producing a natural high originating from a blast of energizing nutrients. If your body is a temple, Café Crush is the place to honor it.

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    Here, Lacey Helene shares her thoughts about the popular café and how to promote and support good health through diet.

    Bay Times: For readers who haven’t been to Café Crush before, what can they expect? What’s unique about Café Crush that visitors likely won’t find at other Cafés and restaurants?

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    Lacey Helene: We do healthy our way and our goal is for you to eat tons of veggies and fruits! You’ll feel increased energy levels and an increased focus with our whole veggie products. We provide the raw power of micronutrients your body craves to match your unstoppable drive. Our chill, often silly, style of healthy lets you be you while helping you to achieve healthy lifestyle changes.

    Our whole veggie products are proudly made with real ingredients—real fiber, bioavailable micronutrients & whole plant deliciousness. Our green smoothies, our most popular products, are light with refreshing fruit notes. They are made with raw orchard fruits as a “sweetener” and a base of reverse osmosis water. Made fresh daily, our products are designed to be high in micronutrients and fiber while being low in sugar, fats and simple carbohydrates. What is appealing about our products is their simplicity; I develop everything we serve to be genuinely healthy using real food and tons of veggies with the deep understanding of nutrition and people’s desire for something that actually tastes good. Being healthy should be fun, and eating food that is enjoyable is a huge part of successfully reaching your health goals.

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    Bay Times: Your clientele is incredibly diverse. Do you attribute this to your location, the menu, or…?

    Lacey Helene: Why we attract so many different groups of people is simple: we want everyone to be healthier, happier and feel beautiful in their own body. I want everyone to celebrate his or her quirky self because health doesn’t have one size or one face; it is in all of us. As a born-and-raised Bay Area native, I aspired to create a place where everyone could be who they are. Being healthy is about finding the true you and following that inner love. After all, at the end of the day, being healthy is not just for the elite; it’s for everyone.

    Bay Times: Please share a bit about your background, and how that might have led to your present work.

    Lacey Helene: I am a self-taught cook who enjoys pushing the boundaries of the expected and someone who truly believes food should always taste delicious. I received my Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Food Sciences from CSU Chico, where I learned what the power of good nutrition can do for your life. These two paths intertwined to create the vision for Café Crush. As a nutritionist, my goal is to help everyone eat more veggies and fruits. As a cook, I want people to simply enjoy their food. My desire is to put an end to the self-inflicted torture of fad yo-yo cleanses. It’s time to enjoy our lives and our diets.

    Bay Times: So many of us are trying to get into better habits and to live a healthy lifestyle. What is your philosophy on how our diets fit into all of this?

    Lacey Helene: I feel more like a 1950’s grandma sometimes than a nutritionist. I’m not hard-core, and know simple life changes work. I believe that you should eat your veggies, play outside in the sunshine, do your best every day to achieve your health goals, and be nice to yourself & others. (Oh, and don’t forget to be polite and to sit up straight!)

    There will never be a magic health pill. The true goal is to feel good in your body and my advice is to start small. Simple lifestyle changes start by adding 2 days a week of fun physical activity and to sleep a little bit more. Do the same with your diet. Start small by adding veggies or fruits to every meal (our plate method is a great tool to make small healthy changes).  Health is a lifelong journey, not a torture device, and it should be more than a routine. It should be fun!

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    Bay Times: Please mention a few of your favorite dishes and drinks being served at Café Crush now.

    Lacey Helene: Our lunch combos are unique. Only with us can you pair your sandwich with a whole veggie green smoothie! They are the perfect size too. You’ll feel satisfied and energized; no post meal tiredness or fatigue here. Mixing it up is important for a healthy diet. We add new seasonal dishes and feature different drinks through the year to help you expand your love of veggies. Though, if your find a favorite, or want more options, check out our huge online menu at our website.

    One of my favorite things is our Raw Kale Sunflower Hummus. It’s lighter and lower in fat than traditional hummus, but has the same creamy texture and high protein goodness. I also love that we offer Swiss chard leaves as a “bread” option. They add crunch to your sandwich without all of those calories. Other than that?! I love our sauces and spreads, made with a twist to be healthier and boldly spiced. They are truly unique.

    Bay Times: We hear that Ellen DeGeneres is one of your role models. How has she inspired you?

    Lacey Helene: I love Ellen DeGeneres. But who doesn’t? She’s fabulous! I have always admired her ability to carve her own path and that she is not afraid to be herself: a beautiful, quirky and smart woman. I love Ellen’s ability to inspire joy and strength in the people around her. She shows us all that we have something unique to offer the world, that we should be exactly who we are and never settle for who the world thinks we should be. The strength she has given to women and to the LGBT community is nothing short of amazing.

    Bay Times: Please share anything else that you’d like our readers to know.

    Lacy Helene: The habit you can change right now? (No kale required!) It would be to believe in yourself. I truly wish people would be more patient, respectful and kind to themselves. We each have so much to bring to our world. Finding a way to love ourselves more and forgive ourselves more each day is essential to making positive growth happen. Healthy changes happen slowly; keep positive and stick to your goals. Little changes and loving yourself more can change your world in a big way.

    Café Crush is located at 3943 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland. Open M-F, 7am–6pm, Sat, 8am-6pm. 510-788-4278, www.Cafécrush.org/