Why I loved being on a raw food diet

A Chatelaine staffer shares what it was like to eat only raw food for one week.

Raw kale manicotti

Raw kale manicotti
Photo: Dawne Marie Shonfield

The raw diet, where foods are not cooked or processed, has been a hot (er, cold…) trend in dieting for years. Everybody has their reason for doing it — mine was jealousy.

That’s right, I turned a full shade of green when a friend, who was on week three of a four week raw diet/raw juice cleanse, dropped major pounds, was feeling great and looking even better. What really did it for me however was his skin! It glowed and was radiating from the inside.

I needed that skin.

The plan
I decided I’d try it for one week. It’s all I could fathom handling. I enlisted a partner — someone I could complain to about my hunger and cravings. Poor, sweet Rose. As a friend and coworker she apprehensively agreed, and things were looking up. That is until I realized we were going to try this during our busiest week of the month.

I knew if I wanted to really succeed the key was going to be organization. I spent a week researching recipes and creating a daily schedule of meals (including desserts). By the end of the week I’d made a mini booklet that contained our daily schedule with the recipes following. I proudly showed Rose, who took one look and wailed, “I’m going to starve!” I assured her we’d be stuffed silly with all kinds of vegetation and nuts and seeds and, “See! Even desserts!” We were ready!

The diet
We started with a homemade green juice and an apple faux oatmeal (see the recipe below) that was surprisingly delicious. For lunch we had collard wraps that tasted amazing, and were too much for us to finish. We gave each other a look of surprise, ‘Us? Not finish a lunch?!’ The afternoon passed with no hunger and no cravings.

For dinner we attempted kale manicotti (shown above) made from raw veggies and soaked nuts…and not ordering pizza. Surprisingly, no one called for delivery and the food was fabulous! And so filling that the nighttime smoothie I’d scheduled wasn’t even required.

The rest of the week passed by quickly (maybe because it felt like all I was doing was eating, working, and making food). But I felt really good inside and out.

Within two days, my midsection felt amazing — light and no longer bloated. I also felt really positive mentally. I was full of energy…and not just until that 3 o’clock wall. The week passed without any cravings. Rose and I couldn’t believe how little it took to feel satiated and how easy this diet had been.

Would I do it again?
Looking back at that week I feel no hostility. There are so many helpful recipes online that if you want crackers, there’s a raw version, you want a three-layered cake for dessert, there’s a plethora of sites dedicated to just raw dessert baking. Our biggest complaint was the time the preparation took. You really have to dedicate your time to this diet and I’m not convinced it’s completely sustainable.

This diet made me realized how many bad food choices I was making daily. AD (after diet), I’m more aware of what I’m eating and how much I need to feel full.

The biggest surprise was how amazing I felt. The flip-side is it made me realize how terrible I’d been feeling beforehand due to diet alone. It turns out fat days can be avoided and good moods eaten.

I’ve now incorporated many of the raw recipes into my everyday life because I don’t want to give up how good I felt that week. My glowing skin is also well on its way!

Four helpful tips to guide you through a raw diet:
1. Do it with a friend and split up the workload taking turns making lunches. When you’re on a diet, there’s nothing more luxurious than someone else making your lunch. Who knew relief was such a great condiment?!

2. Don’t freak out and buy things like salad dressings, chocolate, sprouts and dips. I did and I regret it. You can make most salad dressings, chocolates and dips in one, two, or three ingredients. Sprouts are also much cheaper if you grow your own (and much more fun too!).

3. Be sure to include spirulina in your juices and/or smoothies. This is the little algae that could. You’ll be amazed at how great it leaves you feeling all through the day.

4. If you’re like me and you love cream in your coffee, mixing a little cashew or macadamia nut butter in with some almond milk is a great substitute for cream.

Faux apple oatmeal recipe

Faux apple oatmeal
Photo: Dawne Marie Shonfield

1 apple
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp water or apple cider (Optional — it makes for a creamier texture)
1 tsp walnuts
1 tsp raisins
Sprinkling of hemp hearts and/or ground flax

1. Blitz the apple, cinnamon and water (if you choose) in a food processor until it is to your liking. The more you blitz, the creamier it is.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and enjoy.

Note: This is a great recipe to play with. Throw in a banana or pineapple for a healthy variation.

Click here for a raw apple crumble recipe.