I started a raw food diet because I wanted to know if I would “get the glow” and whether or not it was a feasible way of living.
It is tricky territory to say whether I think that eating in a specific manner is bad or good, because the principles of eating well are present in the diet and can get muddled in the debate. Sure, eating raw vegan may be healthy, but so is eating more fruit and vegetables, no matter temperature they're cooked to.
Parts of eating fully raw get easier over time. When eating out, it is a lot to ask your friends and family to eat at a raw vegan place, and frankly, not an experience that I would recommend unless they are totally into the idea. You may wind up feeling responsible if they don't enjoy their food as much as you might hope. It wasn't as hard to find foods at regular restaurants anyways — I quickly realized that we eat plenty of raw foods all the time; we just don't call them raw vegan (we call them salad). The challenging part is watching your friends eat.
The one thing I could not shake off was the desire for warm food. The soup from restaurants like 118 Degrees is served warm, but cools way too quickly to enjoy. I found myself trying to finish them before they cooled down, a nearly impossibly feat while also trying to enjoy the flavors.
The most challenging aspects of my raw food diet were a result of committing to eating 100 percent raw. It became frustrating and seemed trivial to avoid one of my favorite salads, the Earth Salad from Free Soul Caffe in Tustin simply because it included grilled artichoke hearts and roasted pecans. I don't believe that that makes a heap of spinach tossed in lemon vinaigrette unhealthy, but yet, I couldn't eat it.
I stuck to the acai bowls from Nekter because they offer raw oats, in place of roasted granola that most of my favorite juice bars offer, and I enjoyed them, but a girl needs variety.
Still, although this aspect of the diet was tedious, it had its benefits. If I wasn't forced to eat completely raw, I may have never discovered some of my favorite foods or learned to cook with such interesting ingredients.
For example, chia seeds are my new favorite household staple. When soaked with almond milk, they make a great breakfast food or snack, and they're rich in Omega-3 and a great source of protein and fiber. Top them with berries and bananas and you've got yourself a real meal. And hey, if preparation isn't your thing, they sell Chia Pods for at Whole Foods.
For heartier foods, I looked to Going Raw by Judita Wignall. To satisfy the inevitable desire for noodles, I made the Asian Noodle 'Stir Fry', which was so delicious that it made me a little bit angry no one told me about kelp noodles before I started eating raw. Kelp noodles don't contain nutritional value, but they also have hardly any calories, which is basically everyone's noodle dream.
When I craved a wrap, I bought raw garlic hummus from Mother's Market and used it as spread for collard green wraps, stuffed with carrots, bell pepper, tomato, avocado and onion. Collard greens make the perfect pseudo tortilla because they are sturdy and protect us from cancer. But it is also another one of those vegetables that are more beneficial once steamed. (I'll see you again next week, collard greens.)
And yeah, I couldn't eat the Earth Salad from Free Soul Caffe, but I could eat this kale salad with lemon, olive oil, pine nuts and cranberries that I also got out of Going Raw, and it bumps the Earth Salad down to my second favorite salad.
And sometimes, eating raw just reminded me that a carrot is a perfectly good snack.
Eating raw, just for a stint, was a great way to discover vegetables and put variety in my diet. I now look up the health benefits of fruits and vegetables like some people check football scores. So if you see me yelling, in the same guttural way that my dad does when the Vikings score a touch down, it's because I just found out that swiss chard has so many anti-oxidants and blood sugar-stabilizing phytonutrients that it's fighting spinach for the lead for most nutrient-rich green. But now? I'm just looking forward to some fries and a burger.