As you all know, one of my goals with this blog is to present a user-friendly, approachable vision of raw foods. The prevailing understanding of eating raw is that it’s time consuming and difficult: I hope to show you that, with a little planning, it’s quite easy.
For this reason, I’ll be periodically contributing to a series of posts called “raw day in a rush.” These will detail my “day in the life” (or, at least, lunch and dinner in the life) when I’ve got an exceptionally busy day ahead. I want you all to see that eating raw isn’t a handicap when one is a little harried. (If anything, the energy I get from eating raw helps me through busy days or weeks!)
Yesterday was hectic. I had a lot of work, a lunchtime appointment, a client right after work, and evening plans with a very dear friend. So lunch and dinner were both squeezed in at the office. Dinners at the desk are an occasional casualty of professional life for us all, but they don’t have to be depressing. In fact, I make a special effort to pack interesting and rewarding meals on nights when I know I’ll be munching at the office: why not make the best of things?
One of the most frequent (and tiring) questions I get about my diet is the old, “where do you get your protein?” (For the record, I respond to this in my FAQs.) I sometimes wish that people asked the questions that I consider more vital, like “how do you maintain healthy digestion?” or “how many leafy greens do you eat?” or “what are your favorite sources of healthy fat?” Or let’s just start with a basic alternative to the protein question. How bout “Where do you get your calcium and iron?”
Yesterday’s meals had both of those nutrients in mind. My lunch was a big salad of kale and other dark leafy greens, beets, carrots, and about 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds, all dressed in an flax and apple cider vinaigrette.
Pumpkin seeds, if you don’t eat them regularly, are great. Why? Well, all seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) are good sources of protein and minerals. They’re a great alternative to nuts, which are slightly harder to digest (and seeds are less likely to leave you with the “heavy” feeling some people get from nuts). Pumpkin seeds in particular are rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium, and they’re also a great source of the B vitamin niacin. They make a good addition to salads or as the base for a raw pate. I even enjoy snacking on them plain!
Here’s the salad, all dressed up and on my desk:
And up close:
I was pretty hungry from running around, so I had a late afternoon snack of some carrot sticks dipped in the star ingredient of my dinnertime meal: almond and black sesame Spread.
This recipe is from Renee Loux Underkoffler’s beautiful book, Living Cuisine. This cookbook is notable for many things: lyrical writing, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and artfully crafted recipes. But it’s especially great for nut pates, cheeses, and spreads. Renee offers up a ton of them, and they’re all delicious.
This is one of my favorite of Renee’s spreads. It uses black sesame seeds, which are just like their tan counterparts, only a little more fun to use because of the unusual color! Ani Phyo’s mother claims that they can prevent gray hair, and they’re tied to kidney and liver function in ancient Chinese medicine. More importantly, they (like all sesame seeds) are exceptionally high in calcium, which makes them great for women of childbearing years (this, by the way, is another good reason to eat tahini, too!).
This pate may look strange due to the black tinge, but don’t be scared: spiced with ginger and touched with sweetness from dates, it’s absolutely delicious.
Almond and Black Sesame Spread
1 cup almonds, soaked
2 Tbsp ginger, fresh
3 dates, pitted
3 Tbsp miso (any kind)
2 Tbsp almond butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup regular sesame seeds (you can use all regular seeds if that’s what you’ve got!)
Blend almonds, ginger, dates, miso, and almond butter in a food processor until it’s well processed. Then, with the motor running, drizzle in the water until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency; this may take some time and some stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. When the mixture is as smooth as possible, add the black sesame seeds. Process again, adding more water if you need to. Repeat for the white sesame seeds. At the end, you should have a relatively smooth mixture, flecked with black seeds.
Tonight, I decided to eat the spread in romaine wraps. To make it all easy and portable, I packed a container with three romaine leaves and my stuffing (carrots, pea shoots, and red cabbage) alongside a small container of the spread (about ½ cup–I snacked on more of it in the afternoon):
When it came time to eat dinner, I simply stuffed the leaves with the spread and topped with veggies:
And ate them like tacos! I also packed a salad of romaine, carrots, and sunflower sprouts with lemon-flax vinaigrette to go alongside.
Dessert, not pictured, was a few pieces of raw chocolate that I found hiding in my desk drawer (score!)
The meal took five minutes to prepare at the office and was so good: much better than grabbing a crappy deli salad on my way out the door!
Curious about other sources of raw vegan calcium and iron? Well, I don’t need to state the most obvious: greens! Greens are a source of all life-enriching minerals and nutrients, but they’re especially good for iron and calcium. Almonds, hazelnuts, sea vegetables, and broccoli are also great sources of calcium; pine nuts, sprouted lentils, sprouted quinoa, flax, mung bean sprouts, sunflower seeds and sprouts, flax seeds, parsley, sea veggies, and prunes (among many others) are great sources of iron.
Don’t forget, too, that it’s important not only to obtain calcium from your diet, but also to prevent calcium loss through your diet. Eating excessive amounts of animal protein have been linked to calcium loss in numerous studies. Why? Too much animal protein promotes acidity in the blood. When blood becomes overly acidic, the body tries to “neutralize” it by a process called buffering; this means linking the acids to a “base” mineral. In the human body, these include sodium, potassium, and calcium. There’s now substantial research to prove that many foods that are high in animal proteins contribute directly to calcium loss and over-taxation of the kidneys. (If you’ve ever wondered why Americans, who eat an relatively high amount of animal protein—including the protein in the dairy products that are recommended as calcium sources—suffer persistently from some of the highest global osteoporosis rates, this is something to ponder.) Eating a plant-based diet prevents this—and it offers up many of its own terrific calcium sources to boot
I hope this has been a useful post for you! Eating raw can work on the run: I make it work in my own life all the time. And you can too. If you ever need tips about eating on the go, or want to share some of yours, email me! I promise to continue showing you how to make days like this work when you’re away from home. (You can check out my last office post, too.)
Thank you so very much for your kind thoughts about my one month aniversary! Thanks. I’ll be keeping your suggestions in mind. Have a great weekend.