Raw Food: What is it and why YOU should add more to your diet!

excerpted from The Family Groove

I am coming out of the closet. Yes, I eat a raw, vegan diet! Most of the time I spend my days in my diet counseling business looking outwardly trying to help others lose weight, sleep better, reduce stress and the like.

While I don’t try to hide the fact that I eat a raw, vegan diet, I usually don’t readily divulge the information because I don’t want to intimidate people, make my them feel guilty or have them think that I want to make them into “mini-me’s”!

Eating a raw, vegan diet makes me feel fantastic!  Since beginning the diet, I have noticed a big difference not only in my appearance but also in my energy level and how I feel.  My hair is shinier, my skin glowing, during my workouts I feel energetic like I could conquer the world, and my symptoms of PMS are minimized. Best yet, as a working mom of two, when I don’t get my usual 8 hours of sleep, I able to bounce back and not feel like I am falling apart!  Bonus also is my husband says he has never seen me look better (but, good husbands are supposed to say that, right?!?)

Of course, there are periods of time when I am traveling, extremely busy or just tired and reach for the wrong foods and I immediately notice the difference. But, life is not about perfection. Eating a raw food diet is the path that makes me feel better but everyone has to make their own choice.

So, what exactly is raw food?

First off, don’t be intimidated by the label of “raw food!”  A raw food diet is a diet consisting of  fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and oils such as olive, hemp, flax, and other condiments and spices in their natural form not cooked  over 110 degrees. Basically, this means that the green salad you had for lunch is raw, the apple you snacked on after your workout was raw, the crudite you had at that playdate was raw, and even the homemade guacamole at Rosa Mexicana was raw!

Eating raw fruits and vegetables is not new to us humans. Our first ancestors ate a diet primarily of raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and, when there was a big kill during hunting season, some animal protein. Cooking was first introduced to help preserve the foods for longer not for some fancy culinary reason. And, even then, foods were not laden with butter or sauces or fried!

Why eat raw?

The question really should be “why not?” Our ancestors ate the majority of their diet plucked straight from mother earth! Our bodies are not meant to digest the large quantities of cooked and processed foods and animal protein that we are eating. We are also not ingesting enough nutrients, fiber and live-enzymes from fruits and vegetables therefore we are seeing record numbers of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, thyroid disease and obesity- even in our young folk!

Food in its raw state is made up of living enzymes. When we cook the food, we are changing its molecular structure and destroying all or part of all the healthy nutrients. When you begin to incorporate raw foods into your diet, not only will you look and feel better but you will need less sleep and have more mental clarity and a deep sense of peace.

The miracle of raw food is that eventually those who need to lose weight will naturally lose it and those naturally underweight will begin looking nourished. While I would never recommend that people just stop taking their medications willy-nilly, often times people do seem to gradually stop having to take them (or at least as many) and the body begins to heal itself and return to its’ natural state.

Would I suggest that everyone eat a raw diet?

I do feel that everyone would benefit from adding more raw fruits and vegetables into their diets! But, that does not mean that I think that everyone should eat only raw foods. While

I would never recommend that my clients or others adopt a raw diet unless they would like to eat this way and are ready to make the changes required or if there is a severe medical reason where it might be helpful, I do encourage everyone to add more raw foods to their diets. This could mean just adding a green salad with avocado and walnuts dressed with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing for lunch instead of having a sandwich or slice of pizza or having a green smoothie for breakfast instead of having a bagel with cream cheese.

Taking small steps really makes a difference!

Is it necessary to eat all raw?

No! How much raw food you eat is a personal thing. For several years, I ate one raw meal and a snack a day but for the last two to three years have been eating 80-90% raw with a few cooked meals and snacks a week. Eating this way enables me to feel clean and light all week while still not feeling deprived when I go out with my husband or am out with my children and have no other option.

Do what is best for you and feels best. As stated above, for most people I recommend that they just begin to have one large salad a day and integrate a green juice or smoothie into their diet. This is a good place to start and in a few weeks I guarantee you will see a difference! After that I recommend that a few more raw meals are added into the week. Go slow and make the transition natural and gradual.

Will I feel depraved eating a raw food diet?

You won’t be eating just “rabbit food” like lettuce and carrots all day. A raw food diet includes lots of fresh salads and other raw vegetables, fresh fruits, vegetable and fruit juices and raw nuts and seeds. If it sounds boring, it is not! While eating raw food, you can enjoy raw “pasta” with pesto, lasagna, “burgers”, soups, chocolate pudding, pumpkin pie and even raw ice cream! And, you will eat more than you have ever eaten before and will feel great! Believe me, you will not feel deprived!

Many cities now have health food stores that have a raw option and raw food restaurants are sprouting up all over the country. If you are lucky enough to live in New York City, however, your choices are endless!

Where can I begin experimenting with raw food?

When you start experimenting with raw food, I suggest making it as easy as possible. Certainly it is nice to buy a good cookbook and try recipes on your own, but I find that it also helps to pick it up prepared and try raw restaurants which will allow you to see the wide variety and possibilities eating raw.

There are a few places that sell raw food in their deli section. I recommend Westerly Market (54th and 8th Avenue), which has a vast raw prepared section. Some of my favorites are their mock tuna salad and salmon salad (which can be put on raw bread for a delicious sandwich,) their wild rice salad, their pasta with sundried tomato pesto and their Portobello sandwich. They also sell Mrs. Lillian’s raw desserts, which include tiramisu, carrot cake, chocolate brownie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and much more! Once you become familiar with their products, you can email them an order and they deliver. I also do raw food tours there and if you are interested you can check out dates on my website.

If you live downtown, Lifethyme Market (6th Avenue, 7-8) and Integral Yoga are also great options.

For a nice night out on the town or on a gorgeous summer day, Pure Food and Wine (54 Irving Place) can’t be beat! The interior of the restaurant is elegant and  beautiful but the back garden is truly enchanting. They have a delicious Cesar (ask for the “original”), the pizettes are out of this world and the peppermint sundae (sometimes not on the menu but can be ordered) is truly addicting!

Quintessense (263 E. 10th Street) is also one of my personal favorites and I love their seaweed salad, raw burger, eggs florentine (on the weeekends) and “sausage” pizza. Others are Bonobos (18 E. 23rd Street,) Caravan of Dreams (405 E. 6th Street) and Raw Soul (348 W. 145th Street) and there is also a company that delivers boxes of raw food for the week called Rawvolution!

So, what’s it like eating raw?

So here is a typical day! To learn more or see my recipes, go to Raw Mom Hot Dog Kids.
Day #1

6:30 a.m. Wake up and roll over and take my Innate probiotic pills with a glass of water (preferably with lemon) that I have set by my bed the night before. It is important to take probiotics on an empty stomach and with two kids and a busy morning this system just works for me!

7:00 a.m.    E3 Live Shot (like wheatgrass but better)- usually I take this while crazily trying to finish getting dressed, breakfast on table, kids dressed…you get the drill!

7:15 a.m.    Breakfast: Green Smoothie(Yum!)

Power Me Up Green Smoothie


4-6 stalks of Locinato kale (you can use spinach too!)
1 1/2 cups homemade almond milk (I make it on Sunday for the week
1/2 frozen banana
1 tbsp chia (ground to powder)
1 tbsp maca
1 tbsp Pure Synergy green powder
1 tbsp vanilla Sun Warrior Protein Powder
I put all of this in the Vitamix and blended it! This is my favorite, favorite, favorite morning smoothie and it takes almost like a healthy milkshake and gets me through my entire morning satiated!

What do I have other mornings?

Sometimes I have my all-time favorite Rawnola granola with a handful of blueberries with fresh almond milk while other times I will have a big green juice. Every day varies!!!
7:45 a.m. Leave to drop off kids to school
8:30 a.m. Gym/ Run/ Yoga
11 a.m. Back at my desk showered and ready to meet clients,
write and work!
12 p.m.       Lunch: Today it’s a salad and green juice:

Green Salad with Avocado


Green lettuce (today I used romaine)
Raddicio
Slice tomatoes
½ sliced avocado
Liberal sprinkling of hemp seeds
12 walnuts
Dressing: olive oil, lemon with a dash of sea salt

Green Juice


3 leaves romaine
2 leaves kale
6 stems celery
½ cucumber
½ apple

I use a Green Star juicer, which presses the juice and makes delicious juice. Honestly, this juice is like lightening and gives me so much energy!

3 p.m. Pick up kids from school, oversee homework etc…

4 p.m. Snack: Homemade Almond Milk Hot Chocolate!

Today it is cold outside, so I am in the mood for something warm and comforting!

Almond Milk Hot Chocolate

1 ½ cups homemade almond milk
1 tbsp raw chocolate powder
Health dash of agave
Blend in my Vitamix on high, which heats it up as it is mixing. If you don’t have a vitamix you can blend ingredients and then heat it up a bit on the stovetop!

7 p.m.           Dinner- Raw zucchini pasta with pesto

Zucchini Noodles with Pesto Sauce


1 ¼ cups olive oil
2 cups chopped basil
1 clove chopped garlic
½ cup chopped pine nuts, walnuts or pistachios
Lemon (optional)
2 zucchinis (for the “pasta”)
Mix all of the above ingredients in a food processor and blend until it is primarily smooth but do leave it a bit more chunky if you are making it with walnuts. If you want a more lemony taste you can add the juice of one lemon. This is especially good if you go with the pistachio option. With a mandolin or hand slicer, slice zucchini in noodle-like strips. Top with pesto sauce and enjoy!

Some of my other favorite recipes:

Kale Salad with Creamy Dressing


4-6 leaves of lacinato kale
Cherry tomatos
Grated Carrots
Raddicio
Pistachios
Macadamia nuts
Olive oil
Lemon
Sea salt
Tahini
Slice the Locinato kale into bite size pieces and top with grated carrots, raddicio and pistachio nuts. In a food processor, combine 1 cup macadamia nuts, a dash of sea salt and the juice from ½ a lemon and mix until smooth. Drizzle olive oil and lemon on salad then top with creamy dressing. You will never regret being vegan again! Heavenly!

Chocolate Coconut Pudding with Vanilla Cream


2 Thai coconuts
4 dried dates
1-1½ tbsps unsweetened chocolate powder
½ cup agave nectar
Place the dried dates in a cup of water and soak to soften them. Open the Thai coconuts and take the meat of both coconuts and the juice of another and blend until smooth. Add the agave nectar and put ½ aside to be the vanilla cream. Add the chocolate powder and just a touch more agave nectar and continue to blend. Run for approximately 2-5 minutes until smooth.
Serve in a fun glass and top with a dollop of vanilla cream. I will use the vanilla cream later to top on berries for breakfast!

Raw “Burger”


For the raw burger:
– 2 stalks of celery
– 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
– 1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
– 2 tbsps oregano and/or rosemary
– 1/2 cup pecans
– 1 cup sunflower seeds
– Juice of ½ a lemon
– 2 tbsps flax seed oil or coconut oil
– 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

– 1 tsp sea salt
For the bun:
Manna Bread
For toppings: lettuce, tomato and sprouts
Mix the burger ingredients in the food processor until well-blended. Process more or less depending if you want a course burger or a smooth consistency. Make mixture into patties with your hands and either place them in a dehydrator, or just serve raw. If you don’t have a dehydrator and would like to cook them a bit, then place them on the stovetop on very low heat for a few minutes. Serve with a slice of lettuce and tomato and place on either the manna bread or on the portobello mushroom “buns.”

How can I learn more about raw food?

There are several books on raw foods that I recommend. Please check them out if you want to learn more:
–  Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose
–  Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo
– The Raw 50 by Carol Alt
– Rawvolution by Matt Amsden
– The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier (for athletes)
– Become Younger by Dr. Norman Walker
– PH Balance by Dr. Robert Young

167 Comments

  • Reginald
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