After my week of eating mostly raw vegan and loving it, I have a new appreciation for zucchini noodles and Brazil nut parmesan cheese.

The decision to eat my foods without cooking them was inspired by my friend, Katie, who visited me last weekend and showed up in workout clothes and running sneakers, not her usual attire. She was a different person – a happier, healthier person. What had happened here?

The Katie I knew didn’t workout or care about eating healthy. In fact, we had spent some time together in Martha’s Vineyard a year ago and we totally pigged out on french fries, local fudge, and Mad Martha’s homemade ice cream, a must-have classic. This new Katie, would never. She’s lost a total of 60 pounds and is busy training for her first marathon.

I wasn’t totally hit by surprise that she was exercising more. My Apple Watch alerted me every time she completed a workout, which could be three times a day on some days. What I didn’t know (because I hadn’t seen her in a while) was that she’s on a health journey and is totally committed to her new healthy pursuits. Committed to a point where she passed up on drinks all weekend and went for a nine-mile jog at 6 am Saturday morning while I was still sleeping.

I decided to go raw vegan before six

Katie’s secret to health was paying attention to nutrients in their whole form, she explained. She doesn’t calorie count or worry about perfection, but rather focuses on eating whole foods and getting as many nutrients as possible in a day. She’ll cook one meal a day, or sometimes two, but other than that, she’s mostly all about making fruit smoothies, eating bountiful salads, and creating colorful veggie pasta (with zucchini noodles). Her diet didn’t look intimidating and after spending a few days together, it actually seemed so doable that I was eager to try it. In fact, I was kind of already eating this way, but I would have to cut out the microwavable pre-packaged meals and occasional junk food that were not helping my goal of eating healthy.

I knew I needed this kind of motivation to get healthier and hit "reset" on my diet after a year of splurging on wine, NUGGS, vegan cheese quesadillas, and other processed foods. Not to mention, I had just re-joined the gym, and two weeks into my fitness path back from not strength training during the pandemic, I felt weaker than ever. With a nod to Mark Bittman's Vegan Before Six, I decided to go Raw Vegan Before 6 p.m because it seemed more doable, but I wasn't perfect.

A Raw Vegan Diet Has Helped Other People Get Healthy

Eating raw foods to get the most nutrients from produce and to cleanse the body from preservatives and other unhealthy additives has interested me for a while now after writing ‘Success Stories,’ about everyday people who changed their lives by switching to a raw diet: Elissa Goodman swears she treated her cancer by eating raw and juicing every day, Eric Sanchez cured his alopecia by eating strictly raw, 74-year-old Karyn Calabrese says its the secret to anti-aging, and Lexi Tavares overcame serve depression by eating a fruit-based diet.

I thought – if this way of eating will cleanse the body, then I should try it with Katie's personal philosophy in mind: To not to take it too seriously. So, I ate mostly raw from Sunday to Sunday with the exception of some cooked meals after 6 pm, listening to my body and eating foods in their most natural, whole form.

Top 12 tips and takeaways of eating mostly raw:

  1. Most food tastes better in its raw form. Because they’re richer, more full of flavor, and vibrant, vegetables especially are better raw. We’ve trained our taste buds to enjoy foods cooked in oils, butter, and sauces, but when you change eliminate temperatures and additives, fresh produce actually tastes better, and you get used to this.
  2. The blender is your best friend. Make meals or ingredients using a high-speed blender like salad dressings, pasta sauces, juices, smoothies, and chilled soups. This also gives your digestion system a break. Some of my best sauces are naturally raw and simply made in my blender – like my avocado, coconut yogurt, mint, and lemon salad sauce that I put on salads and ‘pasta.’
  3. It completely killed my sweet tooth and cravings.  Chocolate mousse is my guiltiest pleasure. But when I went raw I craved healthy dishes, like my go-to kale salad made with cucumbers, hearts, of palm, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nut parmesan cheese, and raw vegan Cesar dressing. Of course, I ate tons of fruits and enjoyed carrot and beet juice but the thought of indulging in cookies never occurred.
  4. Going vegan makes you creative. Going raw vegan makes you more creative. I learned about different types of vegetables and fruits that I never knew how to prepare or eat. For example, yuca is often used as a raw ‘taco shell’ and stuffed with lettuce, guacamole, onions, and tomatoes, like a traditional taco. I always loved the herb nasturtium for salad toppers but it's turned into my go-to spice. I totally ignored the taste when I lathered dressings on top of them. The taste of the flower is very peppery so I minced them very thin and added them to my guacamole for an extra kick of spice. I also loved turning Brazil nuts into parmesan cheese and slightly heating my assortment of nuts in the oven and sprinkling them with cinnamon, like classic granola but healthier.
  5. My skin looked better than it had in years. Never perfect, my skin suddenly looked dewy, less puffy, and even glowing. Also, the stubborn dark circles under my eyes appeared lighter.
  6. I became highly motivated to continue eating this way. After every meal, I felt super energized and motivation kicked in. My healthy routine started to pick back up just a few days in. I didn’t skip a day at the gym all week.
  7. My body took at least three days to adjust to this new way of eating. But I felt that this was a welcomed cleanse. still, the first few days I hit the pillow earlier every night. I was feeling a bit tired Monday-Wednesday. After that, I had excess energy.
  8. I didn’t crave the usual cooked foods. My mom asked me if I feel hungry or want her to cook something for me, but truthfully the answer was no. There’s something special about eating foods in their purest form. You’ll notice in my food diary below that at the end of the day, I was mostly raw without having any intentions to do so, I just listened to my body and gave it what it felt like it needed, with the exception of paying attention to making sure I was getting the right amount of nutrients I needed.
  9. Making sauces ahead of time makes raw meals much easier. I had my three go-to homemade condiments in the fridge which lasted all week: My cilantro yogurt sauce, caesar dressing, and avocado pesto sauce.
  10. Finding companies that make minimally processed foods was helpful. I still continued to need to eat snacks on the go, or quick meals when busy at work. Mother Raw dressing, sauces, and dips are my go-to favorite raw vegan snacks and Cocojune is my favorite raw coconut-based yogurt.
  11. Getting enough fiber is no problem. I was eating tons and tons of fiber with every meal which made me feel satiated.
  12. I felt extremely nourished and that my body needed this all along. It was a nice relief from feeling like I was eating too many over-dressed, oily restaurant meals, and I would love to keep going, if I had the time to prep!

My 1-Week Rawish Vegan Food Diary

Sunday wasn't the start of my rawish vegan diet, but I went to the grocery store and stocked up on fresh ingredients for the week. I spent most of my time in the fresh produce aisle, along with nuts and seeds. I stocked up on all my favorites: mangoes, avocados, papaya, bananas, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, dates kale (basically whipped out this section), spinach, collard greens, zucchini noodles, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, pea shoots, broccoli sprouts, tomatoes, lemon, lime. Other vegetables came from my garden: Arugula, snap peas, butter lettuce, nasturtium, cucumbers, and more tomatoes. It’s not easy grocery shopping for one person.

When I got home from the store, I organized my fridge in a way that was convenient to eat these foods without much slicing and dicing, like a salad bar. I had some ingredients in my fridge that were already raw like Mother Raw's balsamic dressing and a few other homemade condiments, including my homemade cilantro avocado-lemon dip - it's delicious.

I made salads ahead of time but didn’t add the dressing. I chopped all sorts of vegetables and tossed them in the lettuce in the plastic containers they come in, that way I all I needed to do was put some in a bowl and add the dressing. I also chopped some fruits and kept them in separate containers.

Monday was the beginning of eating healthier, with a goal to nourish and cleanse my body to get back into the swing of things. I started my morning with an early exercise and green juice made with leafy green vegetables, ginger, and apple. I drank two glasses of water and didn't feel hungry until noon when I made myself a big kale Cesear salad with hearts of palm, cucumbers, a variety of nuts, and shaved Brazil nut parmesan cheese. For a snack, I put a little more than a handful of mixed nuts in a bowl and slightly heated them in the oven, and topped them with cinnamon and chia seeds, like granola. All of this was satisfying. Before dinner, I dipped my pre-sliced carrots and cucumbers into Mother Raw's Vegan Queso, one of my favorite dips raw vegan or not. It's cheesy, spicy, and made with apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, garlic, onion, sundried tomatoes, turmeric, and cold-pressed EVOO.

Tuesday was when I realized I needed to drink more water. So I made sure I was hydrating all day, drinking lots of water with lemon and mint. For dinner, I met a friend at a restaurant in town, Tutto il Gornio, which is famous for their indulgent pasta and Italian style fish, but I had an unusual order the chef kindly delivered: Cantaloupe gazpacho to start (this was their soup of the day) and arugula salad with nuts and seeds, lemon juice, and a touch of olive oil. Tuesday never felt healthier.

The Kale Ceasar Salad
kale Cesear salad with hearts of palm, cucumbers, a variety of nuts, and shaved Brazil nut parmesan cheese.

On Wednesday I had my best workout. I went for a morning run and felt energized, light, and focused. I was able to run twice my normal distance and felt so good about it. For breakfast, I had a beet, carrot, and ginger juice (the prettiest juice I've ever made), and a bowl of 'raw granola' (cinnamon-covered nuts). For lunch, I had my usual kale Cesar salad and added lots of broccoli sprouts and pea sprouts, and later in the day, I had a fruit smoothie. For dinner, I made the most delicious cabbage slaw with a raw spicy peanut butter sauce over tofu. I felt like this was one of the healthiest days I've had in a while in terms of exercise and nutrition.

Carrot, beet, ginger juice
Carrot, beet, ginger juice

Thursday was just as good as Wednesday and I noticed that my cravings for sweets and bread were completely gone. I was never tempted to eat processed foods but the thought of making avocado toast never occurred, and this used to be my all-time favorite breakfast. I started the day with a giant fruit bowl with fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple,e papaya, and mangoes and topped it with fresh mint. Around 11 I snacked on homemade guacamole with pre-cut carrot and celery sticks and it was delicious. I had leftover cabbage slaw with tofu and spicy peanut sauce so I ate the rest for lunch in a big bowl and added some chopped almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts to the mix. These meals are so satisfying. I wasn't hungry until dinner that night and I had plans to meet a friend in town at Sen, a Japanese restaurant. I ordered the usual: seaweed melody, carrot ginger salad, and shishito peppers. When I got home, I had some leftover guac with veggies slices, just because.

Friday was the easiest day of all because I was getting towards the end of eating all my produce for the week so I just ate leftovers all day. I used the last of my vegetables to make a green juice, kale Cesar, and a green smoothie. I also used the last of my avocado cilantro sauce with zucchini noodles. I had a lot of nuts leftovers so I made the cinnamon granola again and added more to my salads and smoothies. My mom came into town for dinner and we went to the restaurant called Dockside where I ate a giant salad full of berries and nuts and a whole steamed artichoke with a side of steamed vegetables. I definitely ate the most fiber this day since my stomach felt full and I wasn't hungry until Saturday afternoon.

Every Saturday I go to the local farmer's market and load up on kombucha on top, fresh veggies and fruits, and my favorite carrot ginger juice for one of the stands. At the market, one guy was selling the most gorgeous mushrooms and so I bought them with a dairy-free recipe in mind. So for breakfast, I had the carrot ginger juice, for lunch I had a green smoothie and giant spinach salad with fresh veggies. For a snack, I had Mother Raw's vegan queso with fresh veggies and for dinner, I made stuffed dairy-free ricotta cheese zucchini flowers and cooked them in the pan. This was really one of my first cooked meals and it was delicious. I also lightly sauteed the mushrooms and enjoyed those too.

zucchini flowers
stuffed zucchini flowers

I spent Sunday at the beach with my mom and made the most delicious fruit bowl, guacamole, and salad and packed it in our bags to enjoy in our beach chairs. I drank a lot of water that day because I made us a big pitcher of infused water and filled our reusable cups. For lunch, we went back to Dockside and I had my usual artichoke, salad, and steamed veggies. Provisions, the cafe in town, was still open so I grabbed the Thai slaw wrap with tofu to-go and eat later. I ate the rest of what was left of fruit, nuts, and seeds and ate a handful of dates. I also made myself a green juice and when dinner came around, I had the Thai slaw wrap with tofu and it was delicious.

Guacamole Fruit Bowl
Guacamole Fruit Bowl

After my first week of eating mostly raw, I haven’t quite stopped, although I do eat cooked foods from time to time. I totally reset my healthy eating habits and feel back to square one, when I was in a healthy exercise routine and naturally choosing healthier food options, avoiding things like bread or ordering vegan desserts when I’m out to dinner. I recommend eating this way if you're looking to get back on track or curb your cravings for sweets.

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