Raw Day in a Rush: Mineral Rich Foods for a Busy Day

by Gena on May 9, 2009

Happy weekend!

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.


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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Leah @ Simply Fabulous Now May 9, 2009 at 8:46 am

I love “Raw Day in a Rush”… what a great feature!!

Just out of curiosity, do you ever have belly issues (for lack of better words!) from eating so many veggies?

Sorry to just come out and ask a personal Q but it’s always been on my mind with raw food diets… I’ve been trying to do a lot of research in the last little while on raw foods!


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Hey Leah! You started a whole conversation! See my general comment, below.


Erin May 9, 2009 at 8:53 am

Those wraps are so beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen sprouts like that, but they look very substantial and delicious. I’ll be on the look out.
I’m also curious on the digestive issue. My belly can get rather interesting sometimes from my volume of veggies, but I feel like it work itself out eventually.


earthmother May 9, 2009 at 9:27 am

LOVE Renee’s Living Cuisine. That and Matthew’s Everyday Raw are probably the two I look to most often for inspiration.

Gorgeous sweet pea shoots! Do you sprout your own?


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Hi my dear!

I used to, and then I got very lazy. Bad Gena! I plan to start again soon. Happy wkd :)


Katrina (gluten free gidget) May 9, 2009 at 9:45 am

I, too, find eating raw wholesome foods gives me MAJOR energy and keeps me full a lot longer than “regular” foods. That is still a strange concept for me to wrap my mind around, but it’s true! How is it that veggies, etc… can be so filling? I am super excited about my meal later today. It is a raw, gluten free, vegan mediterranean wrap I bought at Whole Foods yesterday! I’ll let you know how it is!


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

That sounds amazing! I can’t wait to hear about it :)


Katrina (gluten free gidget) May 9, 2009 at 9:47 am

One more thing…
I just read some of the other bloggers comments regarding “digestive issues” from eating so many veggies. I do have “issues” at times. Luckily, my husband loves me! hahaha


Pearl May 9, 2009 at 9:49 am

Gena – what a great idea for eating raw on the run! that spread looks delish; I have to buy more lettuce for wraps!


Arianna May 9, 2009 at 10:13 am

Your blog is beautiful!

I have two questions. One echoes a question above: do you have digestive issues with this diet?

My second question is about teeth. A friend who’s been eating raw for several months now just went to the dentist and learned she has 6 cavities. 6! After doing some research, she found that this is a common problem in raw foodists. Have you experienced dental problems? Do you know why they occur?



Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Hey Arianna,

See a general comment, below, re: digestive issues.

As for teeth: that is too bad. My guess is that this person didn’t take care to get enough calcium and minerals, OR that he/she was low in those minerals to begin with (through buffering or low calcium intake). I’ve had zero cavities since switching to raw! But I also eat a diet that is heavy in leafy greens, which are the best and most reliable source of calcium: many switch to raw foods and spend all their time on desserts or nut based dishes, forgetting that greens are the foundation of a raw diet.

Hope this helps.


TorontoGirloutWest May 9, 2009 at 10:18 am

This is quickly becoming one of my favourite blogs! :)

It inspires me to be more of a rawie (that’s what I’m calling it :P)! In fact I’m going to go make raw pancakes for Saturday brunch!!


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Thank you so much! That is AWESOME about brunch. I want an update :)


Sarah (lovINmytummy) May 9, 2009 at 10:36 am

That spread actually looks and sounds delicious to me!

I had a reader email me about having “digestive issues” from all the veggies in my diet, especially those cruciferous ones ;) When I first started eating this way, my body had issues, but it wasn’t long until it got used to it.

Enjoy your weekend, Gena.


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Thanks, my dear. You too :)


Melomeals: Vegan For $3.33 a Day May 9, 2009 at 10:41 am

Those wraps look so great! I NEED some sunflower sprouts.

Have a great weekend!


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:40 pm


I love pea shoots! And sunflower sprouts are my VERY favorite.

Same to you :)



Shelby May 9, 2009 at 10:56 am

Mmm, I love all of your eats! Pumpkin Seeds are my favorite favorite seed, especially raw.

I just had a wrap (not raw) with avocado and I thought of you! It’s been forever since I’ve had pure avocado (usually I use guacamole) and you have been my inspiration for trying it again. I’m even planning on a massaged spinach salad with avocado for dinner =)


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm

I am SO proud, Shelby!! You rock. I can’t wait to read about it.


Kim May 9, 2009 at 11:37 am

What a tasty and nutritious spread! I LOVE black sesame seeds — I buy black sesame paste at the Asian supermarket, but would love to make my own. I’ve been able to roughly grind sunflower and pumpkin seeds using my hand blender, but sesame was an epic fail. Do you have any suggestions for what sort of appliance would be a good investment for homemade tahini? Maybe a coffee grinder or mini-processor?


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Thanks Kim! The seeds are great.

I would only recommend a regular food processor. The minis, in my opinion, are pretty useless (they’re great for chopping veggies, but not for hummus, pates, or spreads) and a grinder will get stuck–at least I imagine it will.


Katharina May 9, 2009 at 12:28 pm

I love how beautiful raw foods look! Some times I feel like a lot of society just needs to take a step back and reap what nature creates.

I have toooons of black sesame seeds that I have just found a purpose for. Thanks!


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm


I couldn’t agree more!


CoconutGal May 9, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Lovely post Gena! Hope you’re having a nice weekend :)
Do you make your own sprouts? Which sprouts do you prefer nutrition and taste wise?


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Hey sweetie! Same to you.

I used to sprout them, then I got lazy. I buy them at the farmer’s market from someone I know and trust. But I plan on getting an electric sprouter and starting to sprout again soon.


Amber May 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm

such vibrant and colorful pictures love it! I am going to China this summer and am very interested in learning more about their alternative medicine practices, I will have to find some sesame seeds


Marlena Torres May 9, 2009 at 1:26 pm

your blog is just fantastic! i LOVE carrot and beet salad! it is my second favorite staple salad, after avocado salad. :)
I hope you are having a fantastic weekend!


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Darlin! Thank you! You are too awesome.

I think we have VERY similar food taste :)


dreaminitvegan May 9, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Those lettuce tacos look delicious! I love pea shoots.


Gena May 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Me too :)


Gena May 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm


A quick response to Leah’s simply fabulous question about whether or not raw foods and produce irritate my stomach.

No! Absolutely not!

It’s true that, as some people begin to eat raw, raw veggies will cause them some digestive distress. This is not actually the fault of the raw foods: it’s the result of putting clean and quick-exit foods on top of the accumulated waste of cooked and (in some cases) un-ideal foods.

Raw, plant-based, alkaline foods act as a clean up crew: they quite literally bind to waste, cholesterol, and other toxic matter in your body and in your digestive tract, and they sweep it out. The “distress” is not your body’s having a hard time digesting the veggies: it’s the reaction between clean, alkalizing foods and the toxins they’re carrying out of your belly.

What DOES cause digestive distress is the following:

1) Eating foods in bad combinations, such as animal proteins with starches (see my Digestive Health and Cleansing 101 tab for more information on food combining).

2) Overeating

3) Eating so frequently throughout the day that your body never has time to recover and assimilate what you’re eating (mini-meal devotees, be advised!).

4) Eating foods that take a long time to digest, including most animal fleshes and processed foods.

5) Eating light foods (salads) after you’ve eaten heavy, cooked foods.

Hope this helps, all. My Digestive Health tab covers a lot of this info, so check it out!



Heather Demetra May 9, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Must make almond & black sesame spread soon…very soon. I’ve had such a nice vacation, but cannot wait to get back to my kitchen!

Chia seeds are very high in calcium and iron as well. :)


apoopslingingmonkey May 9, 2009 at 11:32 pm

man alive! where do u get the energy to make all this stuff!?! lol! yikes im so freakin lazy!

well, i guess u get the energy from all the greens lol :)


apoopslingingmonkey May 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm

either way the food looks beautiful!!


Recipe man May 9, 2009 at 11:40 pm

this is so beautiful and VERY nutritious
i love this


Leah @ Simply Fabulous Now May 10, 2009 at 5:16 am

Gena, thank you so much for answering my question so thoroughly!
I really appreicate it! I’m glad the Q wasn’t too personal haha.

I’ll be sure to check out the tabs on your page.


melissa May 10, 2009 at 11:51 am

I am getting the message that planning is far more important than I am giving it credit for! I guess I will have to find other areas to indulge my spontaneity! OMG, I love that your comment form has spell check! that is insanely cool and editorly of you! hope you have a nice weekend with the Ps.


Danielle May 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Gena, I really am beyond enjoying these posts… I am going to buy a book on raw food as soon as possible, I am beyond intrigued and curious, and my body could really use a cleansing detox (I think the transition from traveling cuisine to home food). I’ll let you know how everything goes :) thanks again!


Gena May 11, 2009 at 9:33 am

I am so glad, Danielle! Email me whenever you like.


Kristin F May 10, 2009 at 5:22 pm

I love that each your posts is like a mini-lesson. I second what everyone else has said about those amazing looking pea shoots!


Katharina May 11, 2009 at 6:25 am

Hey Gena! I hope you enjoyed your weekend! I was just thinking about raw goodness and a bar I tried once that’s raw vegan. It’s really hard to find, and I’ve only had the pleasure of having it once but it was so good that I remember it. It’s Lydia’s Organic Tropical Mango. I don’t know how you feel about bars. I figure they’re convenient and are pure. Anyway, just spreading the word :)


Gena May 11, 2009 at 9:33 am

I am a HUGE fan of Lydia’s products, Katharina, and I’ve blogged about their crackers before. They’re a terrific raw company — glad you like them too :)


lauren May 11, 2009 at 7:11 am

Hey Gena, thanks for another great post! That spread sounds amazing! I just saw your recipes for the ACT cleanse on Crazy Sexy Life..yay! :) Are you following the cleanse?


Gena May 11, 2009 at 9:32 am

Hey Lady!

I’m not following the cleanse, but I did attend their wellness forum on Saturday! Check out my post!! Hope you had a great wkd :)



gina (fitnessista) May 11, 2009 at 7:33 am

i learn something new every time i read your blog :D
i love the idea of packing the pate with toppings and then assembling them later- i’ll definitely be trying that for my long days
hope you have a great day! <3


Gena May 11, 2009 at 9:31 am

Thanks Girl! Same to you :)


Lyn May 11, 2009 at 10:14 am

I have to tell you, your picutres make all the difference. They are so vibrant and inticing. It conveys the energetic nature of the foods, but it also helps me visualize what you are talking about in the preparation. Thanks for taking the extra time to show everyone what you are doing. You are a great motivator.


Gena May 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Thank you so very much, Lyn!


Emily May 11, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Hi Gena!

Love reading about all your creative raw recipes. You are absolutely right that preventing calcium loss through the diet is important. Calcium absorption from foods is not equal. Some greens contain oxalic acid, which actually binds to calcium and prevents absorption. Fortunately kale has a very low oxalic acid content! :-)

The black sesame spread looks absolutely delicious. I need some of that in my life!

Do you think some of the initial discomfort/digestion issues people may experience after increasing their raw intake may be partially due to the increased fiber content in the diet?


Gena May 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Hey Emily!

Definitely, the increased fiber can make a difference. But again, this should pass very quickly: the REAL problem behind digestive distress are dense, clogging foods and lousy combinations. If you feel some distress as you transition, eat a little more cooked veggies and blended soups, and progress sloooooowly.



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