Welcome to the Choosing Raw FAQ’s! Here I answer your most commonly asked questions. If you have a question that isn’t on this list, please feel free to reach out through my contact form. I can’t always respond to emails promptly, but I’ll do my best to get back to you.
Table of Contents
Part I: My Diet
What does “mostly raw” mean?
Why aren’t you 100% raw?
Do you ever “cheat” as a vegan?
Are there any non-vegan foods you miss?
How do you feel about sweeteners like agave and maple syrup?
Do you eat oils?
Do you consume gluten?
Didn’t you use to practice food combining? Why did you stop?
Part II: Me
What are you studying right now?
How did you become a CCN (Certified Clinical Nutritionist)?
How do you find the time to make vegan and raw food?
What’s your fitness routine like? How do you find the time?
Part III: Appliances
What kind of juicer do you recommend?
What kind of dehydrator do you recommend?
What kind food processor do you recommend?
What kind of blender do you recommend?
What’s the kitchen appliance most worth investing money in?
Part IV: Raw Food
What is raw food?
Is it safe to eat any vegetable raw?
How much fat is too much?
What do you think of low fat raw diets, like fruitarianism?
I don’t really understand why dehydrators are necessary, if you give a baking option. What’s the difference?
Part V: Veganism
What is veganism?
How do you go about building a vegan wardrobe?
How do you handle dinner parties and restaurant dining?
How do you handle people who are critical of your food choices?
What are some good dishes to bring to a dinner party or prepare for non-vegans?
What are your favorite NYC and DC vegan restaurants?
I just became vegan and feel overwhelmed. What can I do to start helping animals now?
How can I be sure to get enough protein as a vegan?
Why don’t you simply eat meat, poultry, and/or dairy that has been raised locally, on a small organic farm and by a farmer you trust?
How long have you been writing your blog?
What program do you use to blog?
Who designed your blog?
Any tips for new bloggers?
What kind of camera do you use?
What is IBS? How do you know if you have it?
How did you recover from IBS? How long did it take?
Do you recommend any supplements?
Can you recommend a good health coach/nutritionist?
I: My Diet
1) What do you mean when you say you eat “mostly raw”?
I eat anywhere from 50 to 100 % raw on a given day. This depends on whether or not I’m traveling, eating at restaurants, or near my own kitchen. Left to my own devices, I’ll eat about 75-90% raw. Sometimes this means oats and fresh fruit in the morning, followed by a raw lunch and dinner; sometimes this means a smoothie for breakfast, a raw lunch, and a cooked, grain-based meal in the evening. Or, I may just work some cooked components into all three meals, but the “base” of each meal is raw.
2) Why aren’t you 100% raw?
While I do feel my absolute best when I eat a very high portion of all raw foods, I don’t tend to feel my best without cooked grains and legumes, which provide a great deal of the nutrient density and satiety in my diet. I also rely on fermented, non-GMO soy, and cooked root vegetables, like yams and turnips, for their sustenance and nutrition.
Beyond that, I still love and enjoy the taste and texture of cooked foods, and I like having the freedom to eat either raw or cooked meals, depending on my mood, and whether or not I’m cooking for other people. While I do agree that enzymes from food can play a role in digestion, I think that role is limited, so I don’t worry as much about whether or not my food is technically all raw. With that said, eating more raw food means more bioavailable nutrition, and it encourages me to eat food that is simple and minimally processed.
Plus, I adore the taste and freshness of raw food!
3) Do you ever “cheat” as a vegan?
Never, or rather, not on purpose. While I’m flexible and adaptable about the degree of rawness in my diet, I always stick to my veganism. I love vegan food, and it satisfies me completely, so the impulse to eat non-vegan foods is really minimal.
4) Are there any non-vegan foods you miss?
At first, I missed certain baked goods, but my craving for them waned with my discovery of raw foods, and I’ve also learned how to re-create any beloved baked treat in vegan form. I used to miss cream in my coffee, but coconut milk creamer has efficiently replaced it. I find that there’s a vegan alternative to almost any real “craving.”
If I had to pinpoint one thing, it would be Greek yogurt! But if you’re in the same boat, check out my coconut yogurt, which is homemade.
5) How do you feel about sweeteners like agave and maple syrup?
While I have a very mindful approach to eating sugar and dessert, I don’t avoid these sweeteners on principle. I believe that both can have a limited place in a healthy and balanced diet. For more on my thoughts on agave, please check out this article, which I wrote for Whole Living magazine.
6) Do you eat oils?
I don’t use copious amounts of oil in my food, but yes, I do. I believe that hemp and flax oil have distinct health properties, like Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and I also believe that oils add taste and texture to healthy food, making it more appealing. While I agree with no-oil advocates that whole foods sources of fat (nuts, avocado) are generally healthier, I don’t think there is compelling evidence to demonstrate that discerning amounts of olive, hemp, flax, and avocado oil are harmful when paired with a mostly whole foods, vegan diet. In fact, a great deal of evidence suggests that olive oil may support heart health.
7 ) Didn’t you use to practice food combining? Why don’t you anymore?
I did use to practice food combining; when I began my blog, it was a big part of my dietary outlook. As I deepened my nutrition studies (by completing my CCN and beginning my post-bacc) I learned that the scientific premises behind food combining are not sound: all of the food we eat, regardless of its protein or carbohydrate composition, is churned up into a massive ball of chyme in the stomach, and digested as such. Foods do not “wait” behind each other as they move through digestion, and foods cannot ferment in the acidic stomach environment.
I’m grateful to have discovered food combining, because it provided me with a very powerful placebo effect during a period wherein I had found raw food and was healing my GI system, but was still suffering from frequent digestive upset. It gave me hope that I would heal, and I did heal. Beyond that, it taught me to simplify my meals, which helped my digestion, and I’m not sorry that I explored it as a philosophy, even if I’ve left it very gratefully behind.
1) What are you studying right now?
I’m completing a pre-medical, post-baccalaureate degree, so that I can apply to medical school. (In other words, I’m an undergrad again, taking pre-med classes.) I’m studying at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C..
2) How did you become a clinical nutritionist?
I earned my clinical nutrition degree via distance learning at NHI in California. I don’t consider this degree suitable for giving medical care, advice on serious health conditions, or even nutrition advice for those with health complications, but it did give me the foundation I needed to do vegan and raw food coaching–recipe ideas, meal planning, grocery lists, emotional support during lifestyle transition–for several rich and rewarding years.
If you want a full time career in nutrition, I recommend pursuing an R.D. — it’s a slog, but it’ll be worth it!
3) How do you have time to make vegan and raw food?
It’s not always easy! The most important tip in my book is to plan, plan, plan: don’t wait until the last moment to make your meals. Every weekend, I prepare
- 1 batch hummus
- 2 homemade raw salad dressings
- 1 bunch of roasted beets, 1 pan of roasted butternut squash
- 1 raw nut pate
- 1 batch of cooked beans
- 1 batch of cooked grain (quinoa, spelt, barley, rice)
- 1 batch raw bread or crackers
Sometimes I freeze beans and grains, so that I can access them easily and without relying on canned goods. If I can’t prepare all of these foods on a weekend, I’ll choose my least busy weeknight and get to work then instead.
These foods are the “backbone” of my weekly diet in that they are typically used again and again: I’ll have brown rice with a raw vegetable entree one night, and toss the remaining rice in a salad for lunch the next day. I’ll stuff some nut pate into a collard wrap one day for lunch, and pile it between steamed veggies the following night for dinner.
I also do my best to always double soups and stews, so that I can freeze them for quick leftovers: same goes for raw burgers.
4) What’s your fitness routine like? And how do you find time for that?
Pretty simple: I do a 60-90 minute heated vinyasa or power yoga class 4-5 times weekly. When I’m not doing yoga, I usually do some sort of gym workout. Sometimes I run 3-4 miles, sometimes I do elliptical for a while, sometimes stairmaster. I usually do a few crunches after. My routine can be anywhere from 25-60 minutes, but 35-40 is the norm. I’m not a fan of pushing myself, I’m not interested in anything competitive, and I don’t like fitness classes. I have been doing the same routine for literally a decade (the yoga is the only thing that’s new–I started about 4 years ago), so I don’t tend to need/want rest days, but I don’t get all freaked out when I can’t make it–I just do my best. To me, fitness is a form of pleasure.
I find time for exercise by doing it first thing in the morning when I can. When I can’t, I just try to squeeze it in during whatever break I get. If it’s 20 minutes, then it’s 20 minutes–I’ll still be glad I moved!
1) What kind of juicer do you recommend?
I use a Breville Juice Fountain plus. It’s old, and the closest contemporary model is this one from the same company.
Most juicing pros prefer Omega juicers or Hurom juicers. I think these are great machines, but at the time I purchased my juicer, I was on a very tight budget. Since I don’t juice very single day, the Breville suits my needs perfectly well, and it can handle leafy greens so long as you bunch them up.
2) What kind of dehydrator do you recommend?
I use an Excalibur 5-tray. If I had it to do over again, I’d go with a 9 tray, but I didn’t have much space at the time I bought it! It’s a great machine. I had a circular dehydrator for a long time, but that wasn’t ideal for making raw breads and crackers, which is primarily what I use my dehydrator for.
3) What kind of food processor do you recommend?
I use a Cuisinart 9 cup. I recommend any full size Cuisinart model–that’s 7 cups and up. The mini machines are pretty useless if you want to make hummus or nut pate, which is mostly what I use my processor for.
4) What kind of blender do you recommend?
The Vitamix 5200 is a huge kitchen asset. It will allow you to make raw soups, nut dips and sauces, and smoothies with unparalleled efficiency and speed. (You can also use it for hummus, though I prefer food processor hummus.) It’s powerful and indestructible, and the warranty is terrific, so you’ll have it for a long time.
With that said, I was raw for almost two years with a regular old blender, and it served me very well.
5) What’s the kitchen appliance most worth investing money in?
Hands down, a food processor. You can use it for soups, spreads, dips, hummus, nut pates, banana soft serve, homemade nut butter, and for grinding nuts and seeds. Yes, Vitamixes are terrific for raw food prep, but the food processor is simply the most versatile kitchen aid, and it’s also reasonably priced. You’ll use it all the time, and forever: don’t hesitate!
About Raw Food
1) What is raw food?
See “The Lifestyle” for my definition of raw food and raw foodism.
2) Is it safe to eat any kind of vegetable raw?
Most vegetables can be eaten raw, but there are a good many that I don’t recommend eating raw. These would include raw sweet potatoes and butternut squash (or any potato or winter squash) and raw eggplant. Beets should be grated or thinly sliced in raw form, and same for turnips and parsnips (check out my raw parsnip rice!). I don’t like raw green string beans–I think they need at least a flash steam–though some people don’t mind them raw. There are murmurings about raw green beans being mildly toxic in raw form, but I have yet to find mainstream scientific literature on this.
Some vegetables, like tomatoes and mushrooms, have more bioavailable nutrition in cooked form, rather than raw. This is part of why I recommend a healthy balance of raw and cooked vegetables in any diet, with a slight emphasis on raw.
3) How much fat is too much?
There’s really no good answer to this question. I believe that the USDA guidelines on fat are pretty legitimate. The indicated range of total fat intake is about 20 to 35% of your daily calories from fat. There is, however, no upper level (UL) recommendation, because adverse effects of too much fat aren’t precisely known; we know that too much saturated and trans fats can lead to heart disease and stroke, but effects of healthy, polyunsaturated fats are less studied.
If you eat a 2000 kcal diet, then, these guidelines would suggest that you should consume about 400-700 kcal from fat each day. Most raw foodists have a fat intake of 35% of total daily calories or higher; this typically works because a) raw foodists are eating healthier forms of fat than the typical array of animal fats and fats from processed foods, and b) raw foodists are also eating less calories in the form of animal foods, refined carbs, and junk food.
So, if you’re exploring raw veganism for the first time, you can and should feel free to eat a little more healthy fat (avocados, high quality oils, nuts, seeds) than you have in the past, as they’ll be providing you with energy and nutrition. That said, don’t take it too far: many people find that too much fat interferes with digestion and can lead to weight gain. 40-70 grams daily is a very loose, but helpful estimate for a woman of normal height and weight.
4) What about low fat raw diets, like fruitarianism?
From where I stand, fruitarianism does not seem to provide the nutrient density that I consider to be crucial for a healthy diet: not enough protein, and not enough complex carbohydrates. Beyond that, I consider plant-based fats to be an essential source of energy, essential to the nervous system, and essential to satiety.
With that said, working in nutrition has taught me that different kinds of diets work for different sorts of people, so you should absolutely consult with your health practitioner and make independent decisions for your body.
5) I don’t really understand why dehydrators are necessary, if you give a baking option. What’s the difference?
There’s a slight difference in terms of texture: dehydrators really do “dry out” foods as they heat them, so what emerges is usually free of moisture, as well as warm. This is why they’re so great for things like kale chips smothered in a creamy cashew sauce: you end up with a dry, coated, crispy chip. If you make them in the oven, you may need to use a low temperature (200) for up to 2-3 hours, and even then, they may be a little soggy. Ditto for my macaroons.
For raw crackers and breads, there is really no difference in results between baking at 250 or 300 degrees and dehydrating. The difference is only that one of these foods matches the raw foodist’s definition of “raw,” and the other does not. I use my dehydrator because I have it, I like how it dries kale chips, and I know that many of my readers are stricter raw foodists than I am, so they appreciate recipes that result in foods that are technically all raw.
But since I don’t personally believe that enzymes in raw foods can go on to aid in their own digestion (stomach acid denatures these enzymes, and uses its own juices to digest the foods in question), I am less strict about the raw/cooked distinction than many others. Raw foods are typically higher in many vitamins, but if you don’t have a dehydrator and you aren’t a strict raw foodist, you will probably find that using an oven is totally acceptable for preparing my raw cracker and bread recipes.
1) What is veganism?
See “The Lifestyle” for more on veganism.
2) How does one begin to go about building a vegan wardrobe?
Veganism isn’t just about the food: it’s also about avoiding animal products in clothing and cosmetics. I didn’t throw away all of my wool sweaters and leather boots when I became vegan, but I have made an effort to give some of them away to goodwill, and I no longer purchase any wool or leather goods. I also avoid silk, down, and fur.
BB Dakota has fantastic non-wool coats and sweaters, while the Steven line of Steve Madden shoes is leather-free. Always read descriptions of apparel frequently, and discover online vegan boutiques, such as Alternative Outfitters and Pangea.
For a list of vegan-friendly cosmetics, check out this link.
3) How do you deal with dining out and dinner parties as a vegan?
For more on this, check out:
- Calling ahead (how to plan your restaurant experience as a vegan)
- Confidence Bulding 101: Order off the menu
- Tips on Happy, Healthy Restaurant Dining
4) How do you deal with people who are critical of your food choices?
For handling outside criticism, check out my advice in these posts:
5) What are some good vegan dishes to bring to dinner parties or make for non-vegans?
Vegan Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas
Butternut Squash Risotto
Cashew Alfredo with Mixed Vegetables
Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Quick Cumin Dressing
Carrot Ginger and Coconut Soup
Quinoa Salad with Spicy Seared Tempeh
Vegan Summer Squash and Tomato Gratin
Gingery Rice with Roasted Onions, Butternut Squash, and Peas
Polenta Stacks with Black Beans, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Sauteed Greens
6) What are your favorite NYC and DC vegan restaurants?
Check out my DC vegan dining guide here!
6) I just became vegan and feel a little overwhelmed. What can I do to start helping animals now?
There is so much you can do to start helping animals now. Get involved with an animal activism organization you like: Mercy for Animals, PETA, and Compassion Over Killing are good places to start. Adopt a shelter pet. Or, best of all, sponsor a farm animal at a local farm sanctuary. For a list of of sanctuaries near you, check out this link.
7) How can I be sure to get enough protein as a vegan?
Eat plentiful amounts of legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and high quality (read: organic, non-GMO) soy. Don’t assume that you can meet all of your protein needs from vegetables, but neither must you eat copious amounts of faux meats.
There is no USDA standard for grams of protein needed daily, but a rough estimate according to the government guidelines is about 45-60 grams as a minimum range for a normal, active woman. How do you achieve this? Well, let me show you a sample high protein day:
1/2 cup rolled oats or steel cut (5-8 g protein) OR 3 tbsp chia seed with 3/4 cup almond milk (10 g)
1 tbsp flax seed (1.5 g)
1 tbsp peanut butter (4 g)
1 banana (1 g)
Total: 12-16 g protein
3-4 cups spinach (3 g)
1/2 sliced avocado (2 g)
1/2 cup chickpeas (7 g)
Mixed veggies of choice (grated carrots, red pepper, mushrooms, etc.) (2 g)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast, sprinkled on top (8 g)
Olive oil and lemon dressing
Raw crackers of choice (approximately 7 grams)
Total: 29 g
Handful raw trail mix (for instance, 10 almonds and some raisins): 4 g OR
1 Vega Bar (10 g) OR
3 oz baby carrots with 4 tbsp hummus: 6 g
Total: 6-10 g
1 cup cooked quinoa (8 grams) with cinnamon, chopped raw kale (4 grams), 2 tbsp raisins, and 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds (2 g)
Large salad of romaine lettuce (2 g), tomato, peppers or other veggies of choice
Cheesy red pepper hemp dressing (10 g)
Roasted broccoli (4 g)
Nutritional yeast cheese sauce (7 grams)
Total: 25-28 g
All told, that’s about 75 grams — well above the recommendation. And we didn’t even include dessert.
8 ) Why don’t you simply eat meat, poultry, and/or dairy that has been raised locally, on a small organic farm and by a farmer you trust?
First things first: I believe that organic, locally grown and raised animal products cause far less pain and suffering than anything that comes from a factory farm. If you are taking steps to seek out more human animal products, you should commend yourself for stepping outside of the factory farming system, for helping to spare animals pain, and for improving the quality of your diet.
With that said, it is not simply how animals die to feed us that disturbs me, but rather, the fact that they die at all. Yes, nature is rife with predator/prey relationships, but we human beings are not obligate carnivores, and we have the knowledge we need to lead healthy and pleasurable lives without participating in the death and captivity of our animal friends. To say that it’s alright to raise an animal for slaughter (or a lifetime of impregnation and captivity, as it is in the dairy and egg industries) so long as you spare it the most egregious forms of suffering and abuse is not, to me, a compassionate position. So while I applaud the efforts of many contemporary farms to abandon the factory farming model, their participation in captivity and slaughter remains troubling to me.
About the Blog
1) How long have you been blogging?
About 3 1/2 years.
2) What blogging program do you use?
3) Who designed your blog theme?
The fabulous Zestycook.
4) Any tips for the fledgling blogger?
Yes! Check out my top 10 tips for new bloggers.
5) What kind of camera do you use?
A Canon Rebel XSI.
1) What is IBS?
IBS is a condition that leads to intestinal cramping, gas, bloating, and changes in regularity of bowel movements. It is heavily influenced by stress and emotion. It is one of the most common conditions that leads to GI referrals, and it is particularly common in young women. IBS-C is the term for IBS that is more characterized by constipation than diarrhea; IBS-D is characterized by diarrhea more than constipation. Many people experience bouts of both.
2) How did you recover from IBS, and how long did it take you?
While I do still sometimes suffer from minor GI upset over intense stress, I live an essentially IBS-free life at this point in time. The main cause of my improvement was dietary change–namely, becoming vegan, and then becoming mostly raw. I also used hypnotherapy and psychotherapy to treat my IBS, and found that stress management was one of the primary sources of my healing.
Beyond that, it helps me to eat well-sized meals at regular intervals, to eat a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, to chew my food well and drink limited water with my food. I take probiotics when I’m traveling or very stressed, and I practice colonic irrigation regularly.
Changes in my GI health took many years. I don’t recommend trying to force a change; instead, make small dietary adjustments and listen to your body as you go through the process. Find out what works for you: I found acupuncture to be totally ineffective, but benefited tremendously from hypnotherapy. Don’t be sucked into overly restrictive elimination diets, and don’t be duped by fad cleanses or fasting. Focus on eating quality food, managing stress well, and realize that the recovery process takes patience.
3) Do you recommend any supplements?
I recommend a vegan multivitamin for everyone, and a Vitamin D + calcium supplement for all women. Men may need to take Vitamin D in their multivitamin, but may not need to supplement calcium. If you are eating vegan (and even if you aren’t), get your B-12 checked yearly with your regular blood work at your physician’s office.
If you are susceptible to digestive upset, you may want to try taking an acidophilus + bifidus probiotic, such as the Garden of Life Primal Defense supplement.
You should run each and every one of these decisions by your professional health care provider.
4) Can you recommend a good vegan or raw health coach / nutritionist?
Sure. Get in touch via my contact form.