LOOKING FOR HEALTHY RESTAURANTS NEAR YOU? THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT
At the age of 22, Catherine Cuello was in the midst of a health crisis, and it took her doctors a long time — and several misdiagnoses — to figure out what was wrong. She was stressed, and she decided to completely transform her life. Cuello quit her job, changed her eating habits, took time to travel, and began to pursue passion projects. One of those aims was to help others institute healthy changes as well: Cuello and her fiancé, Alfred Fuente, built GreenHopping, an app that utilizes users' smartphone GPS to track down healthy food in the area.
Cuello's medical journey took her through a cyst misdiagnosis and a supposed ectopic pregnancy that turned out to be a false positive (she wasn't pregnant at all). She was given medications to terminate that supposed pregnancy; five weeks later, she was returning from a trip to Europe and began feeling faint and weak, and ten hours later she was rushed into emergency surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, where she lost her left ovary (as a precaution) along with 27 lymph nodes.
Most of her tests came back clean, but malignant cells were found inside the cyst. Cuello's new doctors prescribed another set of pills and medication, as a preventive measure. Somewhat jaded from her previous experiences, Cuello decided to seek out other options. She consulted with numerous doctors in NYC and even physicians in the U.K. (where she attended university) and Germany. In the end, a book by wellness activist and cancer survivor Kris Carr, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor, made the deepest impact.
The book espouses clean eating and meditation, and it inspired Cuello to change everything about her life. For eight months she rebooted her system with a combination of raw foods and juice. Two months in, she met Fuente while working on the Obama reelection campaign in Miami. "When I look back on how I lived my life before, it was crazy," says Cuello. "So many women live their lives that way: always running around, hating their jobs, not having time to see friends. It's just so different when you're conscious of what's important. Before, I didn't even think about it."
And that consciousness led to the development of GreenHopping. The idea sprouted as Cuello and Fuente were walking around in midtown. Cuello had been vegan for years at that point, and was desperately searching for something healthy to eat. There were delis and pizza joints, but no places with plant-based fare. Then it hit them: Why not put all the health-oriented eateries in one geolocated place, so users can find spots to eat in their area?
That was in May of 2013, and GreenHopping launched in NYC in November of that year. The app allows users to locate their nearest green juice bars and healthy restaurants in NYC, and fourteen other cities throughout the U.S., including Miami, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Austin, L.A., Dallas, the Hamptons, and the state of New Jersey. In New York alone, you'll find more than 370 plant-based restaurants, ranging from the Butcher's Daughter and Nolita Mart to the Juice Press and Organic Avenue. Every place included has a strong emphasis on vegetarian and vegan food, and the app has options for highlighting gluten-free and raw options, too. "Our mission is to inspire healthy changes," says Cuello. "If everything is in one place and everyone can see what there is to chose from, it's that much easier. We have a tremendous amount of love equity invested in GreenHopping."
Cuello is currently in the midst of expansion; a new version of the app is being tested in NYC that enables consumers to place orders, for pick-up or delivery, through their mobile devices or computers. Those additional services are slated to debut by the summer.
Cuello is also working on her master's in food policy at New York University, and she has joined forces with her school's gym, NYU Coles, and LiveWellNYU (one of the university's largest student groups) to introduce student deals at health-centric eateries and juice bars throughout NYC. While Cuello has yet to divulge full details, she says she has started an initiative with Athleta for a new summer series.
GreenHopping's app is free on iTunes and Google Play. Visit greenhoppingapp.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.