Healthy choices for Meet-n-Eat with TNA wrestler Austin Aries at Miami’s Choices Vegan Cafe

Going out for breakfast, lunch or dinner can be healthy and tasty.

Austin Aries, a TNA pro wrestler, proved it during his Meet-n-Eat at Choices Vegan Cafe off NW 79th Street, just east of Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.

Using his celebrity status for the betterment of healthy living, Aries created this event to help people understand the importance of good eating with the right foods. Usually, a pro wrestler’s diet consists of dairy and meat for protein to build up the body, but Aries takes a different approach -- plant powered -- combining healthy choices with a regimented workout.

YouTube video interview of Austin Aries at Choices Vegan Cafe

Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)

Because of his busy travel schedule, Aries will often bring his type food with him on the road. Not much open late nights for vegans as fast food in its current form is taboo for them.

“On the road, I’ll always pack a package or two of pre-cooked lentils, nuts, vegan protein bars and powders,” he said. “As for my daily, it usually consists of a smoothie in the morning with banana, spinach and blueberry and veggie protein powder, then some kind of tofu or tempeh scramble with veggies. Later, I may have some type of rice and beans, salad with lentils, sweet potato, nut butter sandwich and another smoothie.”

Wrestling fans, who know veganism as a term, packed Choices Vegan Cafe along with Aries and other vegans.

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals.

The Choice Vegan Cafe menu includes organic juices, super smoothies, appetizers, wraps, burgers and sandwiches, pizzas and tacos, salads, soups and stews, sides, desserts and breakfast.

Wait a minute. Burgers? Tacos? Meat?

Sources of meatless plant-based protein exist for burgers and tacos.

Check out the menu at

• Invited by Aries, Margarita Restrepo attended the special outing. From a tragedy in her life, she found a better way to live. She tells her story from the heart, losing her boyfriend to aggressive Stage IV brain cancer. Her mood is somber when speaking of him -- her love -- and what he endured. With no cure and bills in the thousands, they -- on their own -- turned to a plant-based diet.

In an online story, she said: “After three months on the plant-based diet, his tumor growth decreased 25 percent. Incredibly enough, his doctors were astounded by the results and were curious about what we were doing. His cancer was very advanced, so the therapy, although very positive, was applied too late. Witnessing how much a simple lifestyle change affected the reversal of his disease, as small as it was, changed my whole perspective on food.”

Restrepo felt compelled to do something in his memory. She could help others.

She started “Naked Food Magazine” online, the anti-disease approach to living whole and plantiful. The founder and editor-in-chief, she just developed a print form, distributing them at Whole Foods with delivery expansion the growth process.

Here is their story in detail online and more.

• Born in Milwaukee and living in Clearwater, Aries, 35, walked to each table and thanked people for attending the Meet-n-Eat. He discussed this plant-based alternative with them.

What started in 2000 to become healthy -- after eating frozen dinners and processed foods through the corporate food system -- turned into a better and ethical way of life for him. He eliminated the preservatives, the added coloring, the sugar substitutes like Splenda. He will not eat other living creatures. He does not agree nor support the corporate food system which promotes eating meat and drinking milk.

Two years ago, Aries went completely plant-based in his diet. Through information and documentaries, he learned animal protein, especially dairy and meat, is linked to cancer and other ailments. He eliminated dairy and eggs as well.

He is proving a wrestler can go plant-based eating and still look and feel good. He is 5-foot-9 with a solid 210-pound physique and can work a match very well. His skill set is very good. He is a former TNA World champ, TNA X Division champ, TNA tag champ, Ring of Honor tag champ and two-time Ring of Honor champion. In 2013, Pro Wrestling Illustrated ranked him No.12 of the best 500 singles wrestlers in the annual PWI 500.

• Wellness consultant Ella Magers of and her friend, Anne d’Epagnier, a business consultant, are not pro wrestling fans, but these Miami residents are vegans and were intrigued to meet a vegan pro wrestler.

“I found Austin to be very personable and genuine and his philosophies on veganism are very similar to mine,” Magers said. “It was also great talking to someone who, like me, is fit, lives a fun and sexy life, and breaks the stereotypes many people have of what a vegan should be like.”

Magers earned a degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Masters degree from Barry University in Miami Shores. She obtained National Academy of Sports Medicine fitness training certification and received wellness coaching certification through the University of Miami's Wellness Center.

“We discussed such stereotypes and how he is especially in a position where he can introduce the idea of a plant-based diet to fans who have never even given it a thought,” she said. “I admire him for arranging the event at Choices and for all the work he is doing to educate and inspire people, which is exactly the focus of my career and my life.”

YouTube video of Aries with Magers and d’Epagnier

Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)

• Aries also posed for photos including one with Miami’s Martin Banks, another fit vegan. Jacob Cohen, Michael Green, Mark Hitchcock and J.P. Nichols enjoyed their conversation with Aries. Not much wrestling fan banter nor carny talk. It was life speak.

YouTube video of Aries with Cohen, Green, Hitchcock and Nichols

Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)

Aries chose Miami-Dade County since he was booked to work the TNA Lockdown Weekend there. He signed autographs and posed for photos with fans at the TNA Fan InterAction at the Airport Hilton in Miami, took a quick nap and then spent the late afternoon at Choice Vegan Cafe for his Meet-n-Eat. The following night, he wrestled during the TNA Lockdown pay-per-view at the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

Stanley Schoenblatt, the cafe’s area director, and his staff were friendly and helpful.

• Austin Aries on The Roman Show

During the TNA Fan InterAction at the Airport Hilton, former TNA Impact Wrestling champion Austin Aries invited fans to have lunch with him, a vegan lunch at Choices Vegan Cafe in Miami.

Aries learned about becoming a vegan in 2000.

“I started to learn about the corporate food system,” he said on The Roman Show. “For me, it wasn't appetizing eating other living creatures; so I have peace of mind, when I know nothing had to die to feed me.”

Two years ago, he went completely plant based.

“It's a health and ethical thing,” he said. “I thought it was cool to invite fans to try vegan food.”

He said he converted to becoming a vegetarian after educating himself.

“It was a gradual change,” he said. “My initial going into vegetarian was learning about eating healthy. I was eating frozen dinners.”

He added that contrary what others think, sticking to a plant-based diet doesn't affect muscle growth.

“No matter what lifestyle you choose, when it comes to eating, we should all as consumers have a choice to make informed decisions,” he said. “We shouldn't be misinformed or mislead.”

He also discussed WWE superstar Daniel Bryan and TNA Lockdown in Miami.

To watch the interview,

• Rodolfo Roman is a freelance writer, TV producer and reporter.