I Tried Going Raw & Here's What Happened

I recently decided to go raw, which basically means trying to eat as many “whole” (aka unprocessed aka red Doritos — my personal fave) foods as possible. I’ve been at least a vegetarian since I was in 5th grade and a vegan since my junior year of high school so I when I started watching YouTube videos about going raw and some of the benefits to me and the environment I was really excited to try it!

For some background, I initially decided to become a vegetarian it was because I found meat kinda gross and I loved animals a ton. Then, as I got older my reasons adapted; I became even more sure that eating a mindful diet was the most sustainable for my health and the health of animals and the environment. Although I fully believe that being a vegetarian or eating any plant based diet is a wonderful lifestyle choice, I found that being vegan further supported my ideals. In my opinion, the way that we treat animals that we are going to eat in this country is disgusting and I want to protest that, in my own very small way, by not participating in the industry at all; aka eating a fully plant based diet.

According to Wikipedia (I know...the most reliable of websites) “Raw veganism is a diet that excludes all food and products of animal origin, as well as food cooked at a temperature above 48 °C (118 °F). A raw vegan diet includes raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and nut pastes, grain and legume sprouts, seeds, plant oils, sea vegetables, herbs, mushrooms and fresh juices.” I decided to eat as much raw, whole foods as much as possible when I was home, because my parents were paying for my food (YAS!) so I would have the time and ability to try new recipes. That being said, I did not give up coffee, tea and kombucha this month for reasons I will describe below (LOL).

Overall, at the end of this month I want to answer the question of if eating a raw diet is healthy and economically sustainable for a typical collegiette. To do this, I broke this month into three weeks, with a different goal for each week and at the end of the month I will try to debunk some of the myths surrounding raw veganism.

Week 1

For my first week I decided to start slow by just tracking my calories, protein, carbs, sugar, etc. to determine right away if I was being healthy because health is for real the most important thing. I used a pretty standard calorie counter app on my phone that tracked all the stats. I tracked my calories for a week and I hit my goal every day except one. Overall, I was feeling very healthy and I had plenty of food to eat and choices of meals (thanks, parents). I also kept a food journal where I could record how I was feeling and determine if my body was trying to tell me something (for example, if I was craving salt it could mean I was dehydrated, etc.). Below I have a standard daily meal and two entries from my food journal with a couple links for recipes!  

Day 1

Breakfast:

1 banana (I woke up late...)

Lunch:

Coffee

Big salad with one apple, one avocado, raw pecans and raw tahini/hummus dressing

Dinner:

Big salad with avocado, cucumber

2 bananas

Snack:

3 Dates

How much this day would cost: About $11.03. This is of course a very rough approximation but I was very surprised at how cheap this day was!

How I feel today:

Day 1! I'm really excited to get started! I hit my calorie goal for today and I’m feeling okay. I just wish I had spread out my eating throughout the day (I ate my lunch and dinner really close together!). Sleeping all day FTW. I’m making some overnight oatmeal and I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Day 2

Breakfast:

Overnight oats with peanut butter, raw burrito bowl (cauliflower rice, cherry tomatoes, half an avocado, sea salt, raw tahini dressing)  

Lunch:

1 ounce of raw almonds, 5 stalks of celery with raw tahini dressing

Dinner:

Veggie burger, salad (lettuce, pepper, avocado, cucumber), chocolate vegan cupcake

Snacks:

2 oranges

How I feel today:

This morning I was really hungry when I woke up and I had a headache throughout the day. I initially thought the headache was from not eating enough calories or my body taking a second to adjust to the high fiber of the diet. But, when I checked my calorie intake around 4, it was very normal. I then realized that today was the first day since I can remember that I haven’t drank three or more cups of coffee per day. As soon as I drank a cup I felt so much better...which probably says something about my caffeine habits but that’s a whole other article haha. I also cheated a little bit tonight. It was my dad’s bday and my parents made me a special dinner and bought me a special vegan cupcake and I couldn’t say no.

Also, I hate the term “cheating” on your diet, because as long as you feel good and your body feels good, there is no reason to feel guilty for eating what you want. Self-love comes in so many forms and it comes in part from eating a healthy balanced (and in my opinion whole foods) diet with a few treats here and there.  

Overall, I was surprised at the amount of recipes online I could try and the amount of variety of foods I could eat. Also, I cut my cooking time way in half because I wasn’t cooking at all!

Week 2:

This week I spent on vacation in Philadelphia with my family and then in a cute little town in New York with my boyfriend (yay for farmers markets and coffee shops and bookstores and all around romantic adult vacations!) so I decided that this week I would write a little bit about how to eat raw (or as raw as possible!) on vacation.

My biggest tip is to pack snacks! For both of my vacations I brought a bag of dates, figs, fruit, raw almonds and pecans. I also brought a small bag I could fill with snacks and carry in my purse so when my fam was enjoying their Philly Cheesesteaks and burgers and pizza I could be munching on my favorite snacks (I’m looking at you dates). Also, when we went out to meals, I would be sure to check the menu online ahead of time to determine if I needed to have a snack before. One time before dinner, I ate a few dates and figs and nuts before we went to dinner so I could get a side salad (no dressing please!) and not be hungry! Luckily many times when I was in Philly my family ate at Reading Terminal Market so I could hit up the smoothie/juice bar and the produce stands which was amazing. Another tip I have is to not be afraid to ask those working at the restaurant to help! This is one of the things that I had the most anxiety over because I didn’t want to burden the wait staff (I’ve done their job and it’s so tough!). But every time I did get enough courage to ask them, they were always so nice and accommodating. It does no harm to ask!

Week 3-4:

These last two weeks I focused on trying tons of new recipes that I could make when I got back to school.

Here are some of my faves:

*Disclaimer: most of these recipes I researched online and then adapted and used different parts of to make these. Also my quantities are totally approximations, I am not an exact chef hahaha.   

“Purple Smoothie”

- 3 bananas

-1 carton of blackberries

-1 tablespoon of raw peanut butter (or protein powder)

-2 pitted dates

“Burrito Bowl”

-Half a cauliflower pulses in the food processor to make “rice” (tbh...rice is one of my fave foods of all time so I thought I would really miss it in this dish but I found the cauliflower to have a really nice taste and consistency!)

-½ a carton of cut up cherry tomatoes (or any tomatoes of your choice!)

-1 cucumber

-1 head of romaine lettuce “shredded”

-½-1 lemon for dressing (squeeze the lemon over the bowl for a nice citrus element!)

“Lemon Tahini Dressing”

Blend in a blender or food processor:

-1 lemon

-½ cup raw tahini

-sea salt

-pepper  

And my FAVORITE recipe I tried: RAW VEGAN COOKIE DOUGH AND BANANA ICE CREAM!!!!

What I learned over this month:

Don’t be too strict with yourself! The definition of raw veganism makes it seem really strict but there is actually a ton of variation in the diet. For example, you can do “Raw before 4,” where you eat whole foods before 4 p.m. and then after can eat either a vegetarian or vegan dinner. You should experiment and do whatever feels right.

Hydrate hydrate hydrate! I know that pretty much every diet in the world encourages drinking water and that’s because it is so important! I always try to drink a big glass of water in the morning and then drink from my reusable water bottle throughout the day. Drinking water just makes me feel healthy and less bloated and also gives me an excuse to go to the bathroom and avoid any awkward situations.

Finally, I think that the conclusion I have come to is that being raw is not a diet, but a lifestyle choice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really hard. You have to spend way more time thinking about what you’re going to eat and eating in general. You do really have to plan your meals and there is the potential for things getting out of hand. There have been times in my journey as a vegetarian and vegan where I have become obsessed with counting my calories and watching what I eat, which is totally unhealthy. Thus, I don’t think that anyone should become a raw vegan ONLY to lose weight and get the “perfect body” (which again doesn’t even exist!). Becoming vegan and eating more whole foods will naturally cause weight loss but the real change has to come from a desire to have a positive impact on the environment and to create a more sustainable lifestyle!

Although I have loved doing this raw challenge, I found it easy because I had a lot of time to plan meals and experiment with recipes. That being said, I don’t know if the raw lifestyle is the best option for a college student, especially one living in the dorms, where you don’t really get a choice of what you eat. I would suggest combining a raw lifestyle with another environmentally friendly lifestyle choice. For example, at school my goal now is to try to eat as raw as possible while also trying to reduce the amount of plastic and trash I use. Thus I will be able to gradually make a positive change in my life!   

If you're considering this diet, here are some good resources: 

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/weekly-meal-plan-the-raw-vegan-menu/

http://www.therawtarian.com/raw-food-diet-meal-plan

YOUTUBE! YOUTUBE YOUTUBE! There are so many great raw vegan, vegan, and vegetarian videos, channels and recipes on youtube! It is a WONDERFUL resource!