From Laura Miller, Author of Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. and host of the show (also named) Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. on YouTube’s Tastemade channel.
I eat raw food because I love it and it makes me feel good. I don’t eat raw 100% of the time because I’ve found it to be a little too isolating and crazy-making for me. Setting up a diet that emphasizes all the things you can’t eat (there are kind of a lot if you’re a strict raw vegan!) is a really great way to set yourself up for failure and for feeling bad when you inevitably don’t live up to your own expectations. I am more concerned with people having healthy relationships with their bodies than following a strict raw vegan diet.
There’s a lot of judgment-laden, dogmatic language out there when it comes to food. I’ve found that the best way for me to nourish my body is to forget all that and just take care of myself by eating foods that are as close to their raw state as possible. And it’s easier and much more delicious than you think—fresh berries, avocado, peaches straight off the tree—all the juicy stuff!
Even if you’re still not convinced about the raw vegan thing (and/or nothing makes you feel more nourished than a cheeseburger and big bowl of fries) guess what? There’s still plenty here for you! In my book, Raw. Vegan. Not Gross., I provide plenty of go-tos, hacks, and add-ins: things from raw veganism that you can add into any diet, that will make you feel better and healthier, no matter where you are in your own eating journey. I like to think of them as freebies, because they’re so quick, easy, and don’t require you to change anything else about the way you’re eating. In talking to lots of people about food, bodies, and health, I’ve realized that everyone wants pretty much the same things: glowing skin, a happy, consistent weight, no digestive issues in either direction, and to stop getting sick so often. Here are my go-tos to get you there:
- Fermented Veggies: I don’t care if it’s sauerkraut, kimchi, or pickled radishes—just get ‘em in there! Besides being delicious, fermented vegetables help regulate your digestion, boost immunity, and even help your body absorb the nutrients in the other foods you’re eating. We’re not talking about the vinegar pickles that sit on the supermarket shelf for months here—we’re talking about fermented vegetables that are full of living, good-for-you, probiotic bacteria. I’ve also noticed myself and heard anecdotally from others that once you start eating fermented veggies every day, your cravings for refined sugars really settle down!
- Healthy Fats: It breaks my heart whenever I see people avoiding healthy fats! There’s a portion of raw foodists who believe in eating mostly fruit and hardly any fat, but I can say from experience that my body needs plant-based fats like nuts and avocado to thrive. These fats feed your brain, prime your body to absorb nutrients, and keep you feeling satiated so that the stale cookies in the office kitchen don’t look quite so irresistible.
- Dark Leafy Greens: There’s no denying that dark leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, and arugula are some of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods you can get in your body. They’re chock full of iron, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even protein. I even eat rainbow chard for breakfast: a leaf rolled up around peanut butter and banana is super easy and mysteriously satisfying (see recipe below)!
- Hydration: This is key. Most of us are dehydrated much of the time, which leads to feeling tired, hungry, and anxious. In order to trick myself into drinking more water, I like to put bonus secret ingredients in my water bottle. I know that if I’m getting an extra nutrition boost and keeping the flavors interesting, I’m much more likely to chug the water I need!
Water Hacks from Raw. Vegan. Not Gross:
Add ½ lemon
Lemon is alkalinizing to the body (you want that!), boosts immunity, aids digestion, and keep skin clear and glowing. It is also high in pectin fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings and can aid in weight loss. I either bring a whole lemon with me and cut it up with my pocket knife, or I drop a slice of it in my water bottle before I run out the door.
Digestion Outta Wack?
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also slow the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps give the body long-lasting energy. I keep a little zip-top bag of them in my purse, and they have saved me many times when I’ve found myself stranded and starving—they are surprisingly filling!
Add a pinch of turmeric
Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and is proven to help brain function. If I have hot water, I’ll make a tea with the root, but otherwise I just sprinkle a little bit of ground turmeric in my water for a yellow tint that makes people wonder what the heck I’m drinking.
Fighting off a bug?
Add 7 drops oregano oil
Not gonna lie: It’s not my favorite tasting supplement, but oregano oil is some powerful stuff! Just a few drops in your water gives you one of the best lines of defence against all forms of infection. Studies have revealed its ability to fight food-borne illnesses, upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, and both yeast and parasitic infections. I keep a small bottle in my purse and put a few drops in my water when I remember.
Breakfast Roll-Up Recipe from Raw. Vegan. Not Gross:
Raw – 1 roll-up
This is one of those miracles of the raw food world. It shouldn’t taste good (I mean, you’re eating a raw chard leaf for breakfast? Wtf?), but it’s some kind of delicious vegan voodoo. The combination of the sweetness of the banana with the earthiness of the chard, and the sweet creaminess of the almond butter—it’s just magic. It only takes two minutes, and it just might change your whole life. Like, turn you into one of those people who meditates every morning and never curses and prays for people who cut in front of them in line. Try it.
Active time: 5 minutes
1 rainbow chard leaf
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 banana, cut in half lengthwise
- Flip the leaf over so that the side with the prominent spine is facing up. Using a paring knife, carefully start to shave off the spine, starting near the bottom, where it begins to protrude most, carving the vein down a bit.
- Spread the almond butter in the middle of the leaf. Set the banana halves on top of the leaf.
- Roll the leaf around the banana and almond butter. Eat.