Alchemy Juice Bar & Cafe's on-site nutritionist on plant-based diets, indulging and ingredients to avoid

Last winter, Alexis Joseph got a text message that changed everything. "I have a business proposal for you," wrote her friend and local restaurateur Abed Al Shahal. As undergrads at Ohio State, the two had loosely dreamed up plans to open a healthy food cafe. And now, Al Shahal, who also owns The Crest and The Market Italian Village, was ready to get serious. Alchemy Juice Bar & Cafe opened in October inside Fitness Loft gym on Parsons Avenue. It's a quick-service cafe with fresh whole foods like naturally-sweetened smoothies, anti-oxidant packed acai bowls, light sandwiches and cold-pressed juice. As director of nutrition and communications, Joseph, 24, guides the menu to ensure Alchemy is somewhere people can come for food that they know includes healthy benefits.

Alchemy Juice Bar + Café, 625 Parsons Ave., Columbus;

On her favorite dish
The banana cacao acai bowl. It's really unique. It's creamy and tastes so decadent, like a dessert that's good for you.

On what she wanted to do
I never wanted to work in a hospital. I wanted to work with people who wanted to change. I really wanted to be in an environment that embraced it all. When Alchemy came about, it was so fitting.

On the goal
We wanted to make nutrition accessible. Anyone can come and set up an appointment with me for personalized nutrition counseling. I can do anything from grocery store tours to pantry makeovers.

On what to nix from the pantry
Anything with partially hydrogenated oil. You'll see it in taco shells, popcorn, processed foods. Focus on whole foods versus packaged foods, like beans, lentils, grains, tomatoes and stock.

On smoothie shops
Smoothie places traditionally use these gross mixes with tons of sugar. It's almost like people don't know that a healthy smoothie can taste good and not be loaded with all that stuff. Our pumpkin pie smoothie is almond milk, pumpkin puree, banana and pumpkin pie spice. That's it. It's really healthy and tastes really good.

On sweetening things up
If you freeze a really ripe banana it will sweeten your smoothie up naturally. We use things like dates and pure maple syrup.

On her mantra
Use real ingredients. I always say count ingredients, not calories.

On her meat-free diet
I ate meat growing up, but in college I went to Israel and got really inspired by their diets. Vegetarian diets aren't as abstract over there. I embraced a plant-based diet as a challenge. When I got back, I was vegan for a year. I learned so much. I love nourishing myself with plants. (Now a vegetarian, she works eggs and seafood into her diet.)

On eating out
Northstar is my favorite place on the planet. I love Mazah in Grandview. I love anything ethnic. And I love Harvest Pizza.

On indulging
I'll indulge when I want to indulge. A huge part of being healthy is not being super restrictive all of the time.