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A Day in the Life of a Raw Foodist—Welcome Gena!

Posted Apr 09 2009 6:06pm

Please welcome my friend, Gena, who graciously agreed to guest blog for me for a day while I play catch up! :)

gena-2

Gena is a book editor living in the Big Apple who actually just started her OWN blog! She is a high raw vegan and very passionate about sharing with others the knowledge she has gained about the raw food life. Since it has been such a hot topic lately in the blog world, I figured no better time then to see what a raw foodie really eats daily!And now, please welcome Miss Gena!!

[Enter Gena]

First of all, a HUGE thank you to Jenna (whose name is pronounced exactly like mine) for welcoming me onto EAT, LIVE, RUN! I’ve been a reader for a long time, so it’s a tremendous honor to be a guest blogger for the day. More importantly, it’s very exciting to be offering you all a glimpse of the wonderful world of raw foods and raw living. Today’s theme is “ One Day in the Life of a Raw Foodist.” I hope to give you a realistic sense of what a typical day in my life looks like, and to share my enthusiasm for this way of eating.

Before I say more, I should give you guys an honest warning: I eat very simply. Most raw foodists do. This means lots of salads, simple dinners, and veggie juice. I thought about making a fabulous lunch or dinner for this post, but I ultimately decided that trying to impress you all (no matter how tempting!) would be contrary to what Jenna and I are trying to convey, which is my everyday life.

One of the prevailing misconceptions about the raw diet is that it’s tremendously time consuming, socially isolating, and difficult to maintain. And if there’s anything I want to impart to you all, it’s that it is possible to keep up a raw diet while living a hectic, normal, working girl’s life. Today isn’t quite as crazy as it could be—no business lunches or after-work commitments—but work promises to be busy. So pleas forgive me for not preparing beet raviolis with cashew cream sauce, heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagna with pignoli cheese, or nori rolls with jicama rice and avocado cream. These are just a few of the delectable raw entrees that are out there, and I do make these on special occasions. Today, it’s all about the everyday.

With that said, let’s move on to breakfast!

7:30 a.m.

Good morning! I’ve been up for half an hour or so, stretching, getting focused on the day, dressing, etc. On some days, I might rushing to the gym at this point, but I’m planning on taking a Vinyasa class at lunchtime, so I’ve got some extra time to kill. For this reason, I decide to enjoy the rare treat of “breakfast” at home, which means…

Juice. Meet my Breville juicer.

breville

Jenna, who recently fell in love with veggie juice, has asked me if I consider this baby a worthy investment. The answer is YES. I never imagined that I would juice enough at home to justify spending 150$ on a juicer, but believe me, I’ve had it for only two months now, and it has already paid for itself quite a few times. Today’s concoction is my standard: green apple, celery, cucumber, kale, and ginger. I make about 24 ounces, and I sip it as I check email before work.

green-juice

If there’s one major difference between the way I eat “raw” and the way I ate “cooked” (aside from the obvious subtraction of heat!) it’s in my morning routine. I usually drink a juice like this before work or as soon as I get there, and another mid-morning. This keeps me satisfied right until lunchtime. I know that this probably sounds nuts to many of you. And believe me, if you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be satisfied on juice till lunchtime, I’d have called you crazy, too. I, like you, was used to a hot bowl of oats and toppings every morning. And don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with oats. They’re nourishing and healthy and full of fiber, as we all know! But most raw foodists find that they crave a morning meal less and less as they progress into the raw lifestyle. I began eating raw with breakfasts of smoothies, raw granola and nutmilk, and sprouted bread with honey. Over time, I found that I was happy simply eating fruit until lunchtime. And as soon as I invested in a juicer, I found that green juice was all I wanted when I woke up. Obviously, this transition took place over a long period of time (over a year), and I don’t recommend it for anyone who’s not naturally inclined in that direction. But I personally find that eating lightly or juicing in the morning gives me sustained and incredible energy.

As I mentioned above, I don’t want to fill this post with fancy recipes that don’t reflect my own experience. But I do want to offer you three raw alternatives for each meal, so that you can see the rich variety of what’s available in this lifestyle.

Other raw breakfast options:

•Raw granola (Lydia’s is a great brand!) with almond or hemp milk

•Sprouted bread with honey, jam, or nut butter

•Smoothies! You all know the drill: fruit + ice + a little nut milk = magic. Add hemp protein, flax oil, or a slice of avocado for some healthy fat.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, give green smoothies a shot. The biggest item that most adults are missing from their diet are dark greens. (Which is too bad, since they’re pretty much the most nutrient-rich foods out there.) Green smoothies are a great and easy way to get some greens in before lunchtime! My favorite smoothie consists solely of banana and romaine lettuce, but you could sweeten that mix with a date or some honey. It’s rich, satisfying, and totally delicious.

Moving on…

11:00 a.m.

Time for more juice. On some days I find that I’m perfectly happy with my early juice, but it’s been a busy morning at the office, and I have a sweaty yoga class ahead, so I’m craving more. Thankfully, there’s a deli downstairs that has a juice bar and very reasonable prices, so I run down for another fix. This time it’s a mixture of carrot, celery, parsley, and cucumber that I drink up on my way to a meeting. The meeting is endless, and I don’t have a chance to take a photo, but the juice keeps me feeling energetic all the way until…

12:15 p.m.

AKA, yoga time. Here’s my yoga mat, nestled into the corner of my office. (Yes, that’s a bookshelf. If you guys are wondering what I do, I’m a book editor.)

yoga-mat

I try to make time for yoga on Mondays whenever I can. Monday mornings are typically stressful, with a long week looming ahead, and practice helps me to slow down and relax about to-do list. (For all you New Yorkers, I take the 12:30 Vinyasa class at the 14th street New York Sports Club with Sarah: she’s great!).

Off I go.

1:40 p.m.

Back at the desk and ready for some lunch. People often ask me if all raw foodists eat is salads. The answer is definitely no, but we do eat a whole lot of them. I eat a giant salad nearly every day for lunch, and I never get bored. Today’s is one of my very favorites: spinach and dark baby greens with cherry tomatoes, a few sundried tomatoes, sliced fennel, dill, avocado, and balsamic dressing.

salad-close-up-1

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It’s sweet, summery, and delicious. With it, I eat the other half of the avocado that went into my salad.

salad-spread

“Wait,” you’re thinking. “A whole avocado? Isn’t that a lot of fat?!” Sure, it’s a healthy dose of fat. Do I worry about it? Not at all. One of the best things about living raw, for me, is that I no longer pay attention to calorie counts, food groups, recommended daily allowances, and so on. I don’t obsess over whether I’m getting enough or too much. There’s a lot of talk these days about the notion of “intuitive eating.” Well, many raw foodists find that switching to raw foods helps the body learn to eat intuitively. I certainly did: I was always a healthy eater, but the simplicity of the raw diet has helped me to tune in with my own body’s instincts and needs in a way I never could before.

In addition, our bodies don’t recognize or efficiently digest cooked fats, so they tend to accumulate and stress our systems. But raw fats—including the fat in avocados (and other raw fat sources, like flax oil, nuts, seeds, and coconuts)—are easily recognized and assimilated by the body. For that reason, they won’t accumulate or “make you fat,” as you ladies may worry they will. I eat healthy, natural fat sources each and every day, with no ill effects.

This was a satisfying, tasty lunch. As I ate, I caught up on some food blogs (naturally) and read a bit of the paper online. Eating at one’s desk is never ideal, and for the most part, I do my best to focus my energy on food when I eat: no TV, no IMing, no email checking. But when I’m at work, I make do with what I have. I try my best to carve out some pleasant space for lunch, closing my door, reading for pleasure, and vowing not to pay attention to Outlook until I’m finished eating.

Now, much to my dismay, it’s time to jump back into the day.

Other raw lunch options:

•Any kind of salad your heart desires, as long as it’s raw and plant based. Add a whole avocado or some nuts for fat and energy. If you’re still hungry, eat a Larabar or some Ezekiel bread alongside it.

•A roll made from raw or steamed collard leaves, stuffed with raw hummus, a nut pate or veggies and a special dressing.

•An avocado and veggie sandwich on sprouted bread or wraps (like Ezekiel or the Alvarado St. Bakery). No, sprouted bread isn’t technically raw, but it’s the kind of food I classify as “raw-ish”—not raw, but cooked at low temperature, healthy, digestible, and totally worth eating.

People often as me if I’m 100% raw, and the answer is no: I eat sprouted grains, cooked root vegetables, dark chocolate, and other non raw foods. I don’t view “100% raw” as a worthy or meaningful goal: my goal is to get a wide array of nutrients from as many delicious, plant-based sources as I can.

3:30 p.m.

Lunch was really tasty. And it’s holding me over nicely, so I don’t want a snack. But I did want to interrupt the endless stream of phone calls and emails to offer you some raw snack options, if you’re curious.

Raw snacks

•Raw nuts and dried fruit, or a Larabar

•Veggies with raw dressing/dip

•Fruit

6:30 p.m.

Just got home! I managed to leave work at a decent time, mostly so that I’d have time to walk you all through my dinner prep. Tonight’s menu: cucumber rolls with almond butter dipping sauce and an Asian inspired salad.

This is a recipe that I’ve mostly come up with on my own. The inspiration was a hybrid of a recipe from Natalia Rose’s The Raw Food Detox Diet and another that I spotted online. These rolls make a terrific presentation, but they’re so easy to assemble. They’re also a great way to use up leftover veggies.

Step one: slice cucumbers from top to bottom thinly. I used my mandolin to do this. If you don’t have a mandolin at home, I highly recommend investing! They’re affordable and will cut down your kitchen prep time immeasurably. But you could also do this with a regular veggie peeler.

mandolin

Lay these out three in a row, overlapping slightly:

roll-step-1

Step two: Lay your stuffing veggies (in this case, red pepper slices, grated carrot, some sprouts, and some avocado) in the center of the roll, closer to one end.

roll-step-22

Step three: Gently roll the near end of the cucumbers over the filling, and keep going till you have a neat little stuffed roll.

roll-step-3

Two of these are enough to satisfy me with a side, but make as many as you wish! My accompaniment is a salad of kale and spinach from the farmer’s market, peppers, avocado, and carrots that I didn’t use up in the rolls, and some sugar snap peas. I also toss in a little cilantro and basil. If you’re not in the habit of throwing herbs in your salads, I highly recommend it! They make any assemblage of greens immediately more flavorful. I dress the salad with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of agave nectar—of course you could use a more interesting dressing, but I have a very simple palate when it comes to my salads.

I also whip up a quick sauce for the rolls, using a tablespoon of almond butter, a squeeze of lime, a drizzle of nama shoyu (a raw form of soy sauce; of course you could use soy instead) and a drizzle of sesame oil. Here it is on the rolls:

dinner-3

And here’s my spread at the table.

dinner-1

dinner-2

If you think life as a raw foodist is tough, try life as a New Yorker in a small apartment, trying to make dinnertime as ceremonious as possible! I do my best by clearing the table of work, computer, pens, pencils, and mail, and lighting a candle. Sometimes I read the paper online, but I really try not to; taking time out for a good meal is worthwhile.

I should note that this entire meal, from start to finish, took me exactly twenty minutes. Most of that was spent chopping veggies. Lunch was made this morning in ten minutes flat. This is certainly no more (and generally much less) than I ever spent preparing hot meals. So don’t worry that eating raw means spending endless time prepping food. Unless you’re getting overly elaborate with your meals—which is a tempting habit when you first start eating raw—you should find that mealtime is simple and fast.

So now that we’re at the end of my day, you’re probably wondering the obvious: why raw food? You can find a full account of my journey to raw foods at my new blog, www.choosingraw.com, in the “About” tab. But to make a very long story short: I had been living as a vegan (first by default, not eating meat, poultry or eggs and avoiding dairy due to lactose intolerance; then officially) for a few years. I felt good, but I was still troubled by IBS, which, as Jenna knows, is no picnic. I’d heard that raw foods can make a huge difference in digestive health, not to mention overall health, but I was dubious. I’m a born critic, circumspect about anything that doesn’t feel substantiated by fact, and at this point, I just wasn’t convinced that there was enough science out there to back up the claims. (The basic claim, if you’re totally unfamiliar with raw foods, is this: heating food about 117 degrees kills not only the natural enzymes in the food, but many of the nutrients as well. When you eat raw, you get a much higher dose of nutrients, and you digest far more efficiently due to the presence of live enzymes in the food. This all helps to increase energy levels and general health.)

I decided to give it an informal shot. I told myself that I would eat raw for a few weeks. And if it made a difference, I would keep it up.

And what a difference it made. Within two weeks of eating raw, I had twice as much energy, bouts of euphoria, more even-keeled moods, and rosy skin. I was shocked. I had never imagined that all the hype could be true. I had imagined it would be impossible to go without cooked grains, hot soups, and toasted bread. I had never told myself I couldn’t have those things if I wanted—it was an experiment—but suddenly I didn’t want them anymore. In fact, I had never felt quite so happy with my diet. And since I started eating raw a year ago, I’ve seen my IBS disappear. I’ve stopped having seasonal allergies. I no longer have menstrual cramps. I respond to stress less acutely than before; I’m still a workaholic, but the ups and downs of working life and city living just don’t bother me as much as they used to. But the best thing about being raw—at least for me—is that it transcends the food itself. I find that eating raw encourages a brighter, more energetic approach not just to eating, but to living. It has helped me to be more open minded, more energetic, and more curious.

I don’t prescribe a raw or mostly raw diet for everyone; clearly, it’s a very unique and very unconventional dietary approach. But I do believe that eating more raw foods can help all people experience better health and more energy,. If you’re curious about raw foods, I truly encourage you to try taking some baby steps in the raw direction: you may find yourself falling in love with the lifestyle, just as I did.

Other raw (and raw-ish) dinner options:

•Raw “pasta,” made from thinly grated or peeled zucchini and topped with pasta sauce or fresh pesto.

•Massaged kale salad, along with a steamed sweet potato

•Raw nori rolls, filled with fresh veggies or nut pate, served alongside a raw soup (like my carrot avocado bisque)

8:00 p.m.

So now it’s 8:00 p.m., and I’m getting a taste of what all you valiant food bloggers do each day. This takes commitment! And I’ve got some work to finish before bedtime.

I’ve had fun telling you all about my lifestyle. I hope you’ll check out my blog to learn more, and keep checking out Jenna’s as she explores the wonderful world of raw desserts! Speaking of, I suspect that a sweet treat is in my near future: probably some dark chocolate. Yum.

Goodnight, all!

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