A new bakery cafe just opened its doors in Richmond, Va’s Jackson Ward neighborhood over the weekend, but they’re not serving what you would expect. This cozy, yet refined establishment, called Nettie’s Naturally, is creating incredibly delicious desserts that rival the best in the area; what sets them apart is the fact that all of their treats are gluten-free, organic, all-natural — suitable for both people with celiac disease and diabetes and those who are looking for healthy food options.
The owner, Lynette Potgieter, is passionate about living a healthy, chemical-free lifestyle. Born and raised in South Africa, Lynette grew up eating unrefined, nutrient rich meals prepared using produce grown on her family’s farms. Even though Lynette was raised eating nutritious foods, it wasn’t until she veered off course from her healthy childhood diet that her true passion for nutrition developed. When she was 23, she left South Africa and went to England. “For the two years that I was there, I was just having so much fun and not thinking much about my diet, but it did take a toll on me.” When she started to feel sluggish and unmotivated, she decided to do a 30 day detox, which she found to be incredibly enlightening. “After the detox, I had this appreciation for how I amazing I feel when I’m eating well versus how I feel when I’m not eating like I should.” She moved to Australia soon after that in 2001, and left her career in optometry in order to begin passionately studying nutritional medicine.
After moving to Richmond in 2011, she noticed that there were few bakeries or restaurants that offered desserts made using all-natural ingredients — and none that offered any diabetic-friendly treats. “There are a lot of people like me out there who want to go to a restaurant and have something sweet but that isn’t going to make them feel terrible. People with diabetes often love sweets too, but they get forgotten.” Lynette saw this as an opportunity, and was inspired to start selling treats made using natural ingredients.
In her storefront bakery, you can pick up everything from chocolate tortes, tiramisu and cheesecake to granola bars made with super foods, as well as a variety of freshly brewed coffees and teas made using reverse osmosis filtered water. She also plans to introduce 2 types of quiche (a vegetarian option and a pale option) and will start offering a different type of quinoa salad each week.
Don’t compromise … Substitute!
Her biggest suggestion for home cooks who are looking to make recipes more nutritious is to use substitutions for white flour and white sugar (which are typically refined). In her own home, Lynette loves to use whole meal flour and coconut sugar. To replace white flour, she uses almond meal or oat flour, which are both naturally gluten-free. “I’ve used whole meal spelt flour for years. I always go for a whole meal flour because it has much more of the fiber that your body needs.” She loves using coconut sugar in recipes because it can be substituted for cane sugar in a 1 to 1 ratio. Coconut sugar also comes in both a liquid and granulated form, so it can work to replace corn syrup in recipes as well. An additional benefit is that it will not cause blood sugar to spike because of its low glycemic index.
It is Lynette’s hope that her bakery and its philosophy will have a positive impact on the community. “If I eat well, I feel great. I have so much more energy. I’m motivated, and I’m happier. I hope that Nettie’s can make a difference in allowing people to not feel like they need to compromise their health when they want to enjoy themselves.”
Where to find Nettie’s
You can find Nettie’s Naturally at 100 W. Clay Street. All dessert options are available as substitutions for Groovin’ Gourmets catered events. You can also find her products at Lamplighter Roasting Company, Black Hand Coffee, Shield’s Market, Ellwood Thompson’s and many others. Check out the website to see a complete list of products and an ingredient list.