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On my last post, I revealed I was going to do a raw food challenge. I wasn’t following any specific program; just making the attempt to eat a mostly raw diet for seven days. I went shopping and loaded up my cart with lots of fresh fruit, some frozen blueberries, avocado, plenty of walnuts/almonds/cashews, raw hemp protein powder, fresh greens for salads, fresh veggies for entrees, and some lentils and black beans for sprouting. My shopping cart looked something like this:

shopping cart of fresh raw foods

My plan was to have smoothies from breakfast consisting of almond milk, hemp protein powder, 1-2 cups greens, a banana and a cup of frozen blueberries. They turned out to be very filling and gave me the energy I needed to get through my day. I actually rarely missed having coffee and looked forward to the cold yumminess that awaited me every morning, even during this winter season.

vegan smoothie with greens and fruit

Another breakfast option was soaked-overnight whole buckwheat groats. In doing my research, I learned that oatmeal, even if you soak it overnight and don’t heat it in the mircrowave to cook, is still not technically raw because there is often a heating process that the oats go through before being packaged. However, there are many a fabulous vegan food blog that offer up a raw recipe of overnight-soaked oats. So I’m not judgin’. I’m simply sharing what I learned and certainly if you attempt a mostly raw food challenge yourself, soaking oats overnight to be eaten the next morning for breakfast will hardly disqualify you. But the hubby and I figured we would try and give it the ol’ college try and reach for buckwheat groats to stay as raw as possible AND to try something new. In addition to soaking the groats, we also had several jars of sprouting goodies, such as quinoa, farro, black beans (not pictured) and lentils.

buckwheat groats

sprouting beans and grains

Now, I’ve sprouted lentils and quinoa before with no problem. However, I could not get my black beans to sprout after several days of washing and draining. So I ended up cooking them and refrigerating them for some time post-challenge. Also, my farro never sprouted. I will confess, I assumed you could sprout just about any bean and grain. But my farro only became soft and started to leave a white, milky residue at the bottom of the jar. So needless to say…I pitched it. I was still pretty stocked with the lentils and quinoa.

For lunch, we made wonderful salads with mixed greens, shaved carrots, tomatoes, sprouted lentils and a yummy little cashew cheese spread I borrowed from Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw. The combination of veggies, protein/fiber from sprouted lentils and the right about of fat from the cashew cheese again made for a very filling meal! And FYI—-later on in the week I used the leftover cheese as a dip for raw veggies like carrot sticks, cucumber, bell pepper, etc. Very yummy eaten this way too! (Thanks, Gena!)

cashew cheese spread

raw salad for lunch

We enjoyed a few different entrees, which we adapted from some wonderful food blog recipes, such as walnut meat tacos (Angela, you are a genius!), a cauliflower gazpacho (enough made for leftovers for another meal), two different nights of zucchini spaghetti with sun-dried tomato pesto (tomatoes we had “dehydrated” ourselves in our convection oven over the summer time and kept on hand; technically not raw because our convection oven temperatures do not go as low as proper dehydrators) and classic basil pesto (no recipes for either as we have made these recipes before by simply grating the zucchini, throwing together typical pesto ingredients in a food processor, and then combining the two), and curried cauliflower with carrot “rice.” I have to say all of these meals were wonderful and I would make them again…except for the cauliflower gazpacho. I am just not a lover of cauliflower’s taste when raw unless I have it with a dip. Otherwise, I enjoy it roasted. But pureed in the Vitamix with all the recipe accoutrements….well, let’s just say it was not good. Maybe because it was meant to be cooked? Everything else….fabulous and really eye-opening to the wonders of raw food creativity!

cauliflower gazpacho

zucchini pasta with sundried tomato pesto

walnut meat tacos

curried cauliflower and carrot rice

And because you know I have to have my raw chocolate and eat it too, I adapted this lovely raw brownie recipe for dessert, which claims to be low in calories also. (However, I did not double check the stats myself.) Freeze this baby for a couple of hours to make sure the “icing” has set before you’re ready to eat it. However, I suspect if you deconstruct the recipe, and simply make the “icing” with just a little bit of time in the refrigerator, it might make for a lovely raw chocolate pudding!

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After a week of raw eating, I have to say, it was totally fine! I felt full, energized, no withdrawl, nada. Which makes me feel like I must not rely on caffeine or processed foods too much and that I must eat pretty healthfully a majority of the time. I made sure I drank plenty of water and continued to take my B12 supplement. Oh, and I relied on just a few Raw Revolution bars for days I was too on-the-go to compose my meals outside of the kitchen. Coupled with a piece of fruit and a good 20 ounces of H20, even that “meal” was sufficient.

I think our raw food challenge was successful because I also did a lot of planning beforehand. Making sure I had searched for recipes that didn’t call for a dehydrator and making sure I had a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables definitely made it easier for me, an inexperienced raw foodie, to stay the course and feel satisfied. I relied heavily on my Vitamix to create my own “cheese”, raw nut butters, smoothies, and chopped veggies, but surely with a food processor and some sort of liquid foods blender, any of the recipes I chose would have been easily duplicated sans Vitamix.

If you’re interested in trying a raw food challenge, I say do it! Don’t think not having a dehydrator or fancy appliances are reasons to hold you back. Also, other than the few raw food bars I purchased, I didn’t rely on special, expensive raw food products like raw crackers, or raw kale chips, etc. I splurged on one item: my raw hemp protein powder which will last me a while. I based my meals around easy staples from the produce aisle and the bulk bins like beans, grains, and nuts. So again, no need to feel like eating a raw food diet is overly complex. In fact, the simpler your ingredients, the more playful you can get and the more fun you can have! Just like when I went vegan, I came to realize it’s about new discoveries, not about “have nots.” I believe the same holds true for eating a raw diet. While I do plan to continue to eat cooked foods, I happily plan on also adding and experimenting with more raw foods/recipes in the future.

What do you think? Have I convinced you…or even just piqued your curiosity? Will you try to incorporate more raw foods or recipes into your diet in the future? Let me know!