Vegetarian lifestyle touted by Augusta group

Sunday, March 2, 2014 7:48 PM
Last updated Monday, March 3, 2014 1:45 AM
  • Follow Health

Vivian Johnson acknowledges she would not have considered herself a good candidate to promote vegetarian eating.

Back | Next
Eating vegetarian in the meat-heavy South should not be hard, lifestyle trainer Beverly Scarlett (left) said. "It is not more difficult," she said. "You just have to plan ahead."   MIKE ADAMS/SPECIAL
Eating vegetarian in the meat-heavy South should not be hard, lifestyle trainer Beverly Scarlett (left) said. "It is not more difficult," she said. "You just have to plan ahead."

Raised on meat-rich “traditional soul food Southern cooking” in a family with a history of heart disease and diabetes, she began taking blood pressure medication at age 18 and watched as four of her siblings developed diabetes. Even after her blood pressure got shockingly high and she was introduced to eating a plant-based diet, it didn’t take right away.

“I came into it kicking and screaming,” Johnson said. “I didn’t volunteer.”

With the help of lifestyle trainer Beverly Scarlett, however, she has come to embrace eating less meat and going vegetarian with more of her meals.

“Actually, it saved my life,” she said as she patted Romaine lettuce leaves dry in a kitchen at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library. Scarlett and Johnson were among seven people gathered for a weekly meeting of the CSRA Vegetarian Society, and they were learning to make vegan salad dressings and desserts.

Scarlett whipped up a tasty-looking no-bake cheesecake with tofu cream cheese and agave nectar instead of sugar.

“Then you don’t have all of the saturated fat from the animal products because this is all plant-based,” she said.

Eating that way in the meat-heavy South should not be hard, Scarlett said.

“It is not more difficult,” she said. “You just have to plan ahead.”

And it might mean doing more yourself, Johnson said.

“I take my lunch,” she said. “Now I have my lunchbox in my car.”

Having grown up in the South and living for a while in Santa Fe, N.M., where entire restaurants are vegan, trying to eat that way in Augusta seems difficult, said Jackie Barber, who was attending her first meeting and trying to eat more vegetarian meals.

“I don’t understand what you eat if you are not making it yourself,” she said.

Hameeda Robertson was also attending her first meeting and “came to be inspired.” She was trying to eat more vegetables and hoped to feel better and sleep better.

“If you started, you will notice a change in your body,” Johnson told her.

Whirling through the kitchen and dishing out recipe and life advice in equal doses, Ame Johnson led the group through salads and dressings and ways to avoid meat and dairy. One way is nutritional yeast, which can be used in the place of cheese, she said.

“You can make vegan macaroni without using dairy,” she said. Frozen fruit can be whipped into an ice creamlike concoction without all of the sugar, too, Johnson said. Salads are important, and so is the composition, she said.

“There should be nuts,” Ame Johnson said. “There should be fruits. There should be steamed vegetables, if possible.”

Barber and Robertson tried to put together a salad dressing with avocado and citrus but Robertson looked a little flummoxed.

“I just don’t cook,” she said.

“This is not cooking,” Ame Johnson said. “This is just mixing.”

Group organizer Ross Malick already had put together his vegan Caesar salad, which has silken tofu and differs greatly from the original, which has “anchovies, egg yolks, all the bad stuff,” he said. His version does taste very similar, however. Malick tried the avocado dressing, too.

“It’s good,” he said. “It’s not as good as mine, but it is good.”

The kitchen broke out in laughter.

Ame Johnson touted variety in pulling together a good vegetarian meal.

“The secret to a good appetite is to make your meal colorful,” she said.

Chris Anderson pulled that off in a taboulehlike raw shredded cauliflower dish that is white, red and green with tomatoes and herbs. She used a raw vegetable cleanse to do a “food detox” and felt much better, but then “went back to my old ways.”

Now, though, she is eating “much less meat” and is on her way to being a vegetarian.

“Getting closer and closer every day,” Anderson said.

Getting started on that journey is the important part, Scarlett said.

“Some people are able to do it instantly,” she said. “For others, it is more gradual. It’s important to recognize where you need to be and move toward that.”

Learn more

For more information on the CSRA Vegetarian Society, which meets Thursday evenings at the main library in Augusta, go to

Comments (8) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
RedQuinoa 03/02/14 - 09:52 pm
Hooray for the CSRAVS!

Very nice to see articles like this, promoting alternative ways of eating that lead to better health. And slowly but surely, a lot of people are beginning to see the light and take hold of their health.

Thanks, AC, for publicizing this. Thanks, Ross and CSRAVS for showing that plant-based, whole-foods eating is without a doubt the best way to go!

Long may you run...

corgimom 03/03/14 - 07:11 am
Is there any way we could get

Is there any way we could get that recipe for tofu cheesecake?

TrukinRanger 03/03/14 - 07:30 am
sorry.. I prefer I good

sorry.. I prefer I good ribeye

seenitB4 03/03/14 - 08:50 am

Love granmama could make the best...

Creamed corn--tomatoes--green peppers--sweet potatoes...dang...who needs meat!

Color does make it bounce...♥

Tom Corwin
Tom Corwin 03/03/14 - 04:46 pm

This might be a little late but I can probably track down that recipe for you if you are really interested. I also have one for a vegan lime cheesecake that Ame sent me that looks good.

corgimom 03/03/14 - 09:08 pm
Yes, I'd be interested, I'm

Yes, I'd be interested, I'm lactose-intolerant- plus my husband and I are doing a half-vegetarian diet, I'd like both recipes, please.
Points 03/06/14 - 08:00 pm
To be part of the list serve to Receive copies of recipes

Please email me or text call 706-8141129
Ame Johnson (organizer)
Points 03/06/14 - 08:01 pm
Thank you Tom for covering

Thank you Tom for covering our weekly program!
Points 03/06/14 - 08:04 pm
Please check website of

Please check website of for Thursday healthy sessions schedule.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs