While usually anything with the word food in it is of interest to me, the Raw Food Movement is something I have personally never explored. My original thought was to forgo cooked food for a week and report on my experience. I pitched Jenn, the editor and chief of FBE, my idea and she gave it the green light.
I jumped right into my research. The raw diet consists of low-fat, nutrient-dense and unprocessed vegan foods. In order to retain their proper nutritional value, acceptable foods cannot be heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Okay, summer is coming; I can handle that. So let’s get cooking (or whatever they call it). The chef in me was excited to try something new.
Next, I looked at my culinary options — fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and sprouts. Umm, geez. That is what I call a salad — my enthusiasm started to wane.
Plan B. How about this? A large percentage of my diet would be raw or “living,” what some people refer to as 75 percent raw or high raw. “Fine,” she said. Whew, I was happy with that option and figured it was doable. However, I soon realized that without a dehydrator, which I was not willing to purchase, my options were somewhat limited. But I forged on.
My search amassed tons of recipes for smoothies, soups and salads and interestingly enough, a lot of desserts, but the dinner entrée section was sorely lacking. A food processor or blender is vital to prepare most of the dishes.
We’ve all had smoothies, so I jumped right into other breakfast options. A chocolate breakfast pudding made with avocado, cocoa and dates surprisingly turned out pretty smooth and creamy — tasted a lot like avocado and didn’t stick with me long. Another option, the strawberry chia cup, was what I would call the raw version of Jell-O. Pulverized strawberries and chia seeds — tasty if you like strawberries but seemed more like a snack than a meal.
With stomach gurgling, I dove head first into more hearty fare. “Tacos” consisted of a ground walnut and sun-dried tomato concoction stuffed into a lettuce leaf. Raw zucchini “noodles” were used as a base for spaghetti sauce of — you guessed it — more raw veggies puréed into a thick sauce.
Next up on the menu — dessert! Raw carrot cake focused on the star players from the original recipe — carrots, raisins, coconut and walnuts — ground up and smashed into a flat cake. It was pretty darn sad and definitely would not have won a blue ribbon at the county fair.
Advocates of the diet claim it promotes weight-loss, aids in digestion and produces beautiful skin. Other benefits mentioned are mental clarity and more freedom in the form of food prep.
My endeavors can hardly be considered a fair test. By dinnertime, I was starving and went ahead and ate some meat with my salads. On most days when evening rolled around, I had only consumed about 600 calories and very little protein! So, I did feel pretty mean and lean for the week, but had my doubts I could keep it up for long. My BMs (oh my, this is a lot of information) were terrific — thanks to all the veggies, no doubt. Everything else remained the same.
Here is the deal. Nothing I prepared had any real depth of flavor and wasn’t overly exciting. Red bell pepper and cashews blended into a soup taste pretty much like red bell pepper and cashew purée. Good enough to eat, but nothing to write home about.
As a former pastry chef and devoted foodie, the diet simply did not offer enough variety to keep me interested. Maybe I am a dying breed, but I like to spend time in the kitchen, and the smell of hot food wafting from the oven is just one part of life’s sensory experience that I am not willing to give up.
The moderation in everything theory still gets my vote. I do know people who swear by the diet, so perhaps it’s just not for me. And two valuable lessons came from my experiment. One, up that vegetable intake — that can never hurt, and two, do a little research before you pitch an idea.
Have you ever tried going raw? Let us know how you fared. —Karen