The Raw Food Diet, Customized

March 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve done the raw food thing a couple times in the last year, for about two months each time. If you’ve gone raw before, you will agree that cutting processed foods and meat out of your diet makes you feel amazing. Digestion is smoother, complexion is clearer, and mood is heightened. Even though the diet is finally getting praise and its popularity is growing, I definitely feel judged when I tell people about it…because it does sound crazy.

On the diet, I’m eating all day long (and drinking tons of H2O):

  • Fruits. I learned to get creative with what I ate because apples and oranges get old real fast. Kiwi, pineapple, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, clementines, apples, grapes, cherries, pomegranate…the list goes on. If the skin of the fruit is thin, I try to get organic. It’s OK if fruits like oranges and bananas with thick outer layers aren’t organic.
  • Raw nuts. This means NOT salted or roasted. The raw food diet consists of very little sodium. If you go to the organic isle at the grocery store, there are bins full of raw nuts, like almonds, pistachios, pecans, cashews, walnuts, etc. and you can choose how much you want. This is where you get your protein so you have to eat a lot of nuts. I admit, this was the area where I failed the most.
  • My meals consist of huge organic salads with spinach leaves (iceberg lettuce is practically water, y’all), sprouts, cucumber, carrots, avocado, sunflower seeds, almonds, and anything else I can think of (with an olive oil-based vinaigrette dressing–NO RANCH!)
  • Thirst: water and skim milk only. No exceptions. COKE IS BAD FOR YOU. And it makes you feel bloated and yucky, and it makes your teeth feel gross.
  • So this means: No breads, not even wheat. No rice, not even brown. No starches, not even potatoes (even though you can argue potatoes are vegetables). If you must eat rice or pasta, try to go with gluten free. No meat, no poultry, no fish, no eggs.

At the beginning, ween yourself slowly off carbs and meat. Start by replacing one meal a day with a big salad that has protein (grilled chicken). Begin substituting your snacks with fruit and get cokes or sugary drinks out of your diet. Slowly work bread out of your meals. Then after a week and a half, go totally raw.

Food preparation is time consuming, especially when you’re busy and on the go. I always had to plan ahead and bring my salads and fruit with me. And eating out while on the diet sucks. Big time. You’re forced to sit there and smell the delicious hamburger and fries on your friends’ plates, while you munch on your plate of leaves and nuts. It takes a LOT of self control to make yourself eliminate cooked foods. One facet of the raw food diet that people hate (myself included) is the elimination of red meat. I grew up on a farm where we ate our own delicious, home-grown cattle daily, so I am right there with you. But research proves that the Mediterranean diet (very little red meat) is good for heart health and diabetes, and it extends life longevity.

So I have to be honest with where I allowed myself to cheat:

  • I stuck with my regular breakfast, a bowl of Cracklin Oat Bran with skim milk (I have been eating this breakfast cereal since I was a kid). The cereal is very high in fiber and it’s not your typical sugar-filled kids cereal. If you have more self control than I do, you can make a fruit and yogurt smoothie for breakfast.
  • I also continued to eat Greek yogurt every day, because like my cereal, I have been eating yogurt daily since a kid. Yogurt is also great for digestion so I don’t feel too guilty.
  • The first time I did it, I totally cut alcohol and coffee out. At the time, I was a big beer drinker (beer was the main contributor to my freshman 12!) I couldn’t force myself to cut them out my second go-around, though. I stuck to liquor instead of beer (BEWARE: if you do this diet and you drink like you’re eating regular food, you will feel the alcohol MUCH quicker). They say coffee slows your metabolism, but I enjoy my morning pot of coffee way too much and the thought of separating myself from it just makes me feel anxious.

NYT food writer Mark Bittman describes his eat-well strategy with a twist: eat vegan all day long until 6pm, then have what you want. I think I am going to start doing this as well (until about a month before I go on a cruise this summer, when I will go totally raw again).

Bittman says, “My arrangement with myself is that from the time I wake up until dinner I eat only fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I don’t even eat white bread during the day. And then starting at dinner, I do. I have one meal a day when I do pretty much what I want, which is normally quite indulgent.” If you want to do more raw than Bittman but still need an indulgence here and there, try eating raw all week and eat normal on the weekends.

I cut down my workouts while doing it because I had less energy (carbs and protein give you energy). Be careful if you rigorously work out and eat raw simultaneously.

I found that after a few weeks of raw food, I didn’t really crave fast food or carbs anymore. And if I did eat processed or fast food, I instantly saw a difference in my digestion and I felt waaay bloated and full.

A plant-based nutrition diet is almost a life style change, and commitment is a must if you want to see real results and feel better. Your mindset is a big factor of the outcome. If it interests you, do a lot of research first and customize it to what fits you best.

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