Recently the raw foods movement has been getting attention for it’s ability to help you look younger, feel more energetic, loose weight, and live longer. Some even claim it can reverse diabetes and other degenerative diseases. Whether you agree with the claims or not you may be curious about the diet. A healthy curiosity is what brought me to raw foods, well that and a gorgeous book.
I was drawn to the raw foods movement by the book RAW by Roxanne Klein and Charlie Trotter. It’s beautiful cover beckoned to me from it’s well merchandised shelf. The forward and the introduction made the concept of eating raw foods sound positively enlightened. The section on local, sustainable farming and eating seasonally sealed the deal and I was ready to dive deep into raw cuisine. It seemed like the dietary path most aligned with what I wanted for myself and the planet. Then came the practical application of the concept, the recipes. The ingredient lists and the instructions (which called for a batch of something else on some other page, which in turn called for a half batch of yet another recipe) were overwhelming. The time and organization required to make the majority of the dishes was nothing less than shocking. My romance with raw food ended abruptly after a few ego-crushing attempts to make dishes that tasted, at best, mediocre.
Luckily during my enthusiastic first days of infatuation, my supportive husband loaded up our library card with books, new and old, on raw cuisine. Turns out the concept need not be as glamorous or challenging as keeping up with Trotter and Klein. It was really simple, eat whole, raw foods in their natural state. Easy. A quick review of how I was already eating, lots of salads, fresh veggies and fruits, had me thinking, “I’m half way there. A few changes and I can go raw- no problem.” I embarked on a two week raw adventure and, since I’m the only cook in our house, I took my family along for the ride. The raw cleanse was fantastic, we all loved the food. My husband thought we were “eating like kings”. My daughter was showing off our raw crackers and nut cheeses at school. I was feeling energetic and clear headed without coffee. A beautiful side effect of the cleanse was that the pesky little bit of cellulite on the back of my thighs that somehow hangs on despite regular exercise disappeared. That was it, I was sold.
Although I love my raw food results, I’m not going 100% raw. I’m not a believer in exclusive, restrictive diets and raw can definitely be both if you let it. Truth be told, roasted garlic and sautéed onions are just too delicious to exclude from my diet in the name of adhering to an absolute protocol. I love broccoli steamed, sweet potatoes baked, and a host of other cooked foods. Instead of being a purist, I see raw foods as a significant source of healthy dishes in my diet, a new culinary frontier that challenges my creativity, and a delicious way to eat more vegetables than I ever have. The pious can judge me for failing to go fully raw, and while they do pass me their portion of pan seared ahi. That’s right, I’m not even a vegetarian. Judge away! The bottom line is raw foods is not the path to health, it’s a path to health. Take from it what works with your body and carve your own dietary path through this life.
There is no doubt in my mind that raw foods are beneficial, that they are worth the trouble, time and expense. Raw food recipes perfect the art of getting more vegetables in our diets in more delicious ways than I ever thought possible. The most amusing part of my raw foods experience is seeing veggie-haters gobble up “neat balls” or BLTs made with eggplant bacon and ask for seconds without even knowing their whole meal is composed of all raw foods. Give raw foods a shot. If you want the full experience, try a week long or fourteen day raw cleanse. If you have a social life, a job, and a family that you cannot (and why would you want to) put on hold during your adventures in raw food, here are some tips.
The real key to a successful raw diet is to keep it simple. Save the challenging recipes for special occasions and learn how to make everyday meals special with easy, time saving tricks.
If done well, you will spend less time and money on your raw meals than you do on a Standard American Diet (which raw foodists refer to as SAD). Processed foods, meat and dairy are expensive compared to in-season vegetables and fruits.
You will need to spend more time planning meals and be more organized, unless of course you outsource that to menu plans, which are fabulous for saving time, money and trips to the store. If you are serious about going raw you can even hire a raw foods coach.
You won’t need to eat as much as you normally do. At first we overate and felt uncomfortably full. Be aware that the food is more nutrient dense, you’ll need less to feel full. Eat, chill out and chat a while, then eat more if you are still hungry.
Try new things! Before our adventures in raw food we never ate beets, kale, chard, and a host of other nutrient rich foods that we now enjoy on an almost daily basis. Raw recipes boast delicious ways of incorporating foods that are generally unpopular. If you discount recipes whenever you see a vegetable that you normally don’t enjoy, you will miss out on massive dietary benefits.
Don’t feel pressure to go raw and stay raw. Try it out and see what works for your body. After our raw adventure we stuck with about an 80% raw plan with great results in energy level, appearance and over-all health.