I have eaten a vegan diet for almost two years now and have spent a lot of time playing around with what I eat within it. At times I've been what I call a "Junk Food Vegan" and other times, my diet is based around super clean, organic and often raw foods. One of the best things about going to school at IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition) is that we learn over 100 different dietary theories. One of those that I have been increasingly more interested in is the raw foods diet.
So many people think that by eating vegan and/or raw your diet consist of carrots and lettuce leaves but that is so not the case. I've had the opportunity to expand my culinary repertoire in ways I never thought possible. Not only has cooking become a highlight in my day, my energy is off the charts and my skin is clearer than it has been in years.
I recently met Heather, the raw foodie behind Raw and Not Alone, a blog dedicated to empowering people to eat for vitality, energy and overall happiness on a raw diet. I've had a blast exploring her blog and am learning so much more about eating raw and so many more exciting recipes to try. Raw an Not Alone is an incredible resource for those who are looking to incorporate more raw foods into their diet OR transition into a raw lifestyle.
I had the opportunity to ask Heather a few questions and share them below.
What motivated you to go raw
Well to be honest, I didn't want to eat raw. I fought the idea as long as I could when my husband brought it up. Eventually, he gently told me, "that's fine honey, you don't have to but I'm still going to eat raw". It was then that I realized my fears about the whole thing were a bit silly, and I decided to give it a 3 month trial.
I really didn’t expect to fall in love with this way of eating. In the beginning, it was a bit of a challenge. I was still a bit stubborn to the idea, even though I had decided to give it a go. I think secretly I was hoping my husband Ron would get bored with it, and we could just go back to eating like normal. The whole idea of not using a stove or oven to prepare meals took some time to adjust to. I remember feeling frustrated trying to find recipes that were simple to make but still tasted good.
Once I discovered a few recipes that tasted really good and that I knew how to make in about 15 minutes or less, being the adventurer that I am, I welcomed the challenge of eating raw! I had this need, and still do, that there should be some passion when it comes to eating and preparing meals. And when I found out that this was still possible with eating raw fruits and veggies, I was okay with it.
What caught me off guard was how I looked and felt by month 3. I couldn’t believe the difference! My skin and hair was glowing! My energy increased, AND I lost about 15 pounds without trying! The change was so drastic that I realized that I didn’t want to go back to the old way of eating.
Can you tell me a little more about Raw and Not Alone?
I had learned so much along the way in my raw journey that I realized that I could help others discover an easier way to incorporate raw foods into their life, so I created a website called RawAndNotAlone.com. It’s a place to welcome all, no matter where they are at in their raw food journey, whether you are just trying to eat more fresh produce or if you eat all raw.
Here on RawAndNotAlone.com I share how to turn ordinary produce into real meals, like magic! I also provide motivation for the mind, because often it’s our thoughts about food that can really trip us up.
What are your "go to" meals and snacks?
I have a few go-to’s such as Sushi using veggies, avocado, & Raw Nori Wraps. Another one is Spaghetti & Red Sauce, but instead of using traditional pasta, I spiralize Zucchini and make the red sauce in my vita-mix. There’s also Raw Pizza, and Fresh Wraps (using de-stemmed Collard Leaves). Pretty much for any traditional cooked meal there is a raw alternative using uncooked plant based ingredients. Perhaps my favorite “go to” meal is making Asian Sesame Ginger Wraps. I wrap them in Collard Leaves. At first the idea of using a collard as a wrap might sound like it would taste bitter, but it’s not if you remove the thick stem in the middle. When people try these, they go crazy over them! It’s tricks like these that I love sharing with others, because it makes the experience of eating raw foods delightful.
For snacks, there is Banana Ice cream, and if I’m feeling a bit naughty I might pick up a bag of Raw Kale Chips, or whip up a batch of Raw Chocolate Truffles.
Ohh, answering this question is making me hungry!
What has been your biggest struggle and how have you overcome it?
In the beginning my biggest struggle was to find or create recipes that really tasted good in their raw version.
But after that, It has been to give myself permission to do this in a way that fits me and my lifestyle. I’m a creative person who is also busy, much like others. I didn’t want to be bound by rules, but felt like I should because that’s the way I thought others said I should be. For example, I thought that I must plan out my meals for the week, or that I have to soak raw nuts until they sprout and use the dehydrator in meal preparation, or that if I’ve going to eat raw foods then I must only eat ALL raw foods. It almost felt like if I said “I eat raw foods” then I am saying that “eating cooked foods is a sin”. I think that is nonsense! I had to give myself permission to ditch the “all-or nothing” attitude from others I came into contact with in the raw food community.
Once I did this, it made my journey easier and increased my desire to eat more raw foods, because I wanted to and not because I had to.
These days, it’s all about keeping it as simple as possible. I plan meals only if I want to. I’m okay with eating a cooked (vegan) meal when dining out with friends or family who don’t want to eat at a salad bar. I no longer feel the pressure to soak and dehydrate to make elaborate raw dishes. If it takes more than 15 minutes, it’s not going to make it to the dinner table.
Once I gave myself permission, it’s been liberating actually!