You may be familiar with the ‘raw food diet’ already – the idea of eating a diet consisting of 80% or even 90-100% raw foods
Eating such a way may sound crazy or extreme to some, but the truth is that there are many benefits to eating food in its whole, unprocessed, uncooked state.
When raw, certain fruits and vegetables are said to maintain more of their nutrient content, thus providing us with more bioavailable energy.
Though the verdict is still out on whether eating fully raw is the best way to eat, studies definitely show that there are benefits to incorporating more raw foods into our diets (approximately 50%).
My raw food experience
Some of you may remember back in January when I claimed one of my goals for 2017 was to experiment with more raw food.
Well, I actually kind of forgot about that little half-promise for the first couple of months of this year. But, somewhere around April, I naturally started to gravitate to more raw foods without really thinking…probably due to the warmer spring weather and my body’s craving for juicy, high water-content fruit and veg.
Though I’m not fully raw, I do enjoy eating foods as minimally processed as possible and have felt some benefits from making many of those raw.
Here, I’m going to share some tips on how you can incorporate more raw foods into YOUR diet…without much effort or extra thinking at all.
My tips for eating more raw foods
1. Start with breakfast
Breakfast is one of the easiest meals to make raw, due to the fact that there are so many great options out there.
Fruit bowls, smoothies, smoothie bowls, or even raw muesli or granola (available in health food shops) are all awesome ways to supply your body with a dose of nutrients and give it energy for the day.
Many raw foodists start their day with a ‘mono-meal’ of fruit, such as watermelon, mangoes, pineapple, oranges or stone fruit. A smoothie made with greens, frozen bananas, berries, dates, and maybe a spoon or two of your favourite superfood powder is also a nutritional powerhouse and deliciously refreshing.
Bloom For Life has some great raw breakfast ideas to get you started – go check them out.
2. Snack on fruit
We can probably all agree that snacking on fruit is easy, right? Many of us probably already reach for an apple, banana or orange when we get hungry and want a healthy option.
Replacing your usual snack with an item of fruit is hardly a new tip for health, but it is an invaluable one. Not only will you be swerving the usual refined sugars, flours and oils; you’ll also be supplying your body with a fresh dose of vitamins and antioxidants.
My favourite fruits to snack on include apples, peaches, apricots, strawberries and raspberries. You can even nibble on some raw carrot or celery sticks, or a handful of nuts for some healthy fats.
Fruits with a thin skin will usually taste better when bought organic – but this isn’t always essential. The 2017 Dirty Dozen list will give you a clearer idea of what is preferable to buy organic.
3. Eat at least one salad a day
It’s not essential to make every meal raw to still enjoy the benefits of raw food.
However, enjoying at least one big salad a day is an incredibly easy way to pack in several nutrients and vitamins in one dish.
When I say ‘salad’ here, I’m not talking about a wilting garden side salad. I’m talking big, varied, hearty, bulky salads, with about as many colours as you can count. Think about adding textures that are both creamy (like avocado) and crunchy (hemp seeds, flaked almonds, pumpkin seeds etc.).
Some of my favourite go-to salad ingredients include spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, celery, sprouted chickpeas, lentils or mung beans, shredded carrots or beets, and sometimes chopped apples too.
Salads will automatically become more appealing when combined with a too-goo-to-be-true dressing, or mixed with your favourite healthy cooked foods (see below).
5. Learn to make raw salad dressings.
Delicious dressings transform salads, turning them from ‘have-to-eat’ to ‘can’t-wait-to-eat’ dishes.
Unfortunately, far too many of the traditional salad dressings on the shelves today are full of salt, sugar and oil…hardly an ideal accompaniment.
Raw homemade dressings, on the other hand, can be made from wholesome, tasty ingredients that add only goodness . Think ranch, sweet mustard, caesar, green goddess, tahini, greek…as well my creamy red pepper thai dressing. There are so many combinations to keep you on your toes.
I’ll be posting up my favourite raw salad dressings soon, but for now, One Green Planet has got a few to tide you over.
4. Mix raw foods with cooked foods.
If you look at the diet of a raw foodist, you’ll notice that they eat probably at least twice the amount most people do. This is because raw fruits and veg are less calorie-dense and therefore need to be consumed in much bigger volumes in order to reach a required daily intake.
It’s no surprise, then, that eating raw can get expensive. But by keeping your portions the same and adding some higher-calorie, cooked food to your meals, you’ll be more likely to eat the raw veggies and not worry about feeling hungry (or spending more!)
Try combining a portion of cooked buckwheat, quinoa or steamed sweet potato to your salads for extra bulk, protein and fibre. Cooked chickpeas, black beans and lentils are great options too.
6. Enjoy raw desserts!
If there’s one thing you can definitely enjoy raw, it’s dessert! Not only does it give you a reason to have something sweet at the end of the day; you can be sure it’s only going to be filled with healthy fats, fibre and goodness.
There’s a huge range of raw dessert recipes to choose from across the net. Think strawberry cheesecake; caramel apple pie; chocolate fudge cake; carrot cake, chocolate brownies…the list is endless! There’s no reason to miss out on your favourite indulgences when eating raw.
You can even blend up some frozen bananas to make your own ice cream. My raw cookie dough ice cream recipe can help you out with that.
7. Soak grains instead of cooking them.
Once you become more accustomed with eating raw foods, you could start soaking your grains instead of cooking them. This is something that some raw foodists do so they can still enjoy buckwheat, oats and quinoa etc, without heating them up.
The soaking times for each grain may vary, and it often requires a bit of time and thinking ahead. I personally have little experience with soaking grains; however, if you want to try eating your grains in a different way, it may be fun to try.
8. Don’t put pressure on yourself.
Most importantly, there is absolutely no pressure to eat raw, and it’s not something you should get hung up about.
Despite what you may read, there is plenty of nutrition and energy available in cooked foods (sometimes more so than in raw), which is why most nutritionists will recommend a combination of both cooked and raw foods in our diet.
It’s silly to avoid a perfectly healthy food just because it’s not raw (buckwheat, brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, whatever). So it’s certainly not essential to make it a main focus, so long as you’re still getting a variety of vitamins and minerals from your food.
I hope these tips are at least somewhat helpful to those looking to add more raw food into their diet. If you have any of your own tips, let me know! I would love to hear how you get on.