We had the good fortune of connecting with Nichole Dandrea-Russert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nichole, how does your business contribute to your community and make a difference to others?
Through purely planted I share plant-based nutrition tips, recipes, kitchen tricks, and ideas to hopefully inspire the community to try more plant-based meals. I share through social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter), my blog, and through local and national television segments. I hope that people will add more plants to their diet, swap out one meal a week, try Meatless Monday, or maybe even go fully plant-based from what they learn through purely planted. My philosophy is that every little bit counts so even if they take small steps towards eating more plants it’ll make a big difference in their health. And, if every single person took small steps toward eating more plants it would make a huge impact on the environment and animal welfare. That’s my goal—to inspire people to eat more plants so that they feel their best and spread the word so that we are all collectively making an impact on communities and the planet.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been a dietitian for 25 years and have experienced a variety of career paths in nutrition and have worn many different hats. One of the cool things about nutrition is that there are so many different paths you can take. I spent the first 15 years in clinical nutrition and learned so much during that time where I specialized in women’s health, diabetes, heart health, and sports nutrition. Then, in 2009, I launched a dark chocolate company called nicobella organics. I LOVE dark chocolate and also love plant-based foods. Chocolate is a plant so creating healthy dark chocolates made sense to me. I added whole plant-based superfoods to dark chocolate like blueberries, green tea and pumpkin to make them into little healthy indulgences. It was so much fun! The company was in business for almost 10 years when I closed the door in 2018. That’s when I started purely planted. Through nicobella, my interest in plant-based education was growing — I posted a lot of recipes and plant-based education resources on the nicobella blog. Purely planted is now an extension of nicobella — it’s basically the nicobella blog without the chocolate. But I still write lots about chocolate, its benefits, the best chocolates on the market and more. I can’t let the chocolate totally go.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I actually did this last year when my best friend, Carla and her daughter, Megan, came to visit Atlanta from New Jersey. Megan was (and still is!) looking at Emory for college. I went to Emory for my dietetic internship and really want Megan to move here so I was, of course, selling her big time on Emory. When they visited I had a Fox TV segment scheduled so I brought them to the set, which was fun. My husband and I live in Reynoldstown, not too far from the Beltline. When Carla and Megan were here we took long walks to the Beltline and scheduled a day dedicated only to the Beltline, which I’m sure is a go-to for most people hosting out-of-towners in Atlanta. We always do the same circuit with visitors because they seem to have so much fun and really get inspired by the contagious uplifting energy of Atlanta. We start by stopping at Muchacho, our favorite little 70’s-style coffee shop, then head to Krog Street. I always take people to Xocolatl and make them buy chocolate (after they taste it I don’t really have to twist their arms!). Then we go to Jeni’s ice cream for vegan ice cream (because chocolate and ice cream are allowed in one day when you have guests in town!). We then head to Ponce City Market where my husband, Ricky gives an awesome tour, talking about the history — he’s actually a great tour guide because he knows so much about Atlanta’s history. Then we head to Piedmont Park and hope for a festival (pre-COVID) or find some scooters to ride. I’m really proud of this city and all it has to offer! Although, I will say that my favorite part of people visiting is having them experience my own neighborhood. I love Reynoldstown and the community here. It feels like a little neighborhood might have felt in the 50’s with people on their porches, neighbors playing games in their yards, and just so much life. Friends that visit really appreciate the Reynoldstown vibe.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I used to think that success was a vanity metric—having a lot of followers, seeing posts shared, or getting a certain amount of engagement. But my perspective has changed over the past year. I don’t have a large following, but purely planted has an incredibly kind, inspiring, and positive community. Friends, family and even people I don’t know will very proudly send me photos of their plant-based meals saying “I’m trying!” or “Look what I made tonight!” These private messages and photos, along with their enthusiasm, are what inspire me. There are days when I feel tired or doubtful, wondering if the message is really reaching people. But when I think of those moments I know I need to keep creating content and sharing because I’m not going to do any good keeping it to myself. Even if what I’m sharing changes one person’s life it’s making a difference. Also, my husband, parents, and sister have always been incredibly supportive. My mom is funny — she’s so supportive that I kiddingly call her a stalker since she’s constantly perusing my website. She’s also my official taste tester—I have her recreate all my recipes to make sure they make sense and to offer any suggestions. She’s a huge help!
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