April 29, 2012

Three Steps to Eating Raw. ~ Hadley Gustin

Photo: Geoff Peters

Three Steps to Living Raw and Having Fun.

As a raw-vegan now for the past couple of years, I must admit that it can still be a challenge to maintain my plant-based diet and lifestyle given the overarching power of the Standard American Diet. Unless you are California, South Florida or New York City, where raw-food communities thrive, the lack of support and like-mindedness you receive from your peers and surroundings can make you want to bend the rules and sometimes even chuck your dietary ideals out the window.

Because most Americans choose the Standard American Diet (SAD) over whole, non-processed, fresh foods from nature, our society ultimately votes to continue mass-producing over-processed, sugar-laden and hormone-injected products. As a result, the costs of organic, raw foods go sky-high and accessibility to these foods becomes more rare. If this is the case, then how can one possibly stick to being a raw and living foods enthusiast without feeling majorly deprived, becoming isolated, and breaking the bank?

Make Your Taste Buds Sing.

Karyn Calabrese, the mother of the raw food movement in Chicago, said it best in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune when she stated, “Realize that food is supposed to be delicious.”

Most of us assume that in order to be delectable, food must be cooked and pumped with sugar or other processed chemicals to please the taste buds. When we think of eating raw, a menu of salads and bland veggies typically comes to mind, but, in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Chicagoans have Karyn Calabrese; New Yorkers have Sarma Melngailis; and Californians have Ani Phyo and Juliano Brotman to show them how to spice up the kitchen with raw foods. People anywhere can access the expertise of these raw food pioneers simply by getting their cookbooks.

Some of my favorite recipes of all time have come right from Melngailis’ Raw Food Real World and Phyo’s Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen. They range from simple and easy-to-prepare dishes all the way to beautiful, gourmet meals. Take a page out of any of the following raw cookbooks, and I guarantee that deprivation will be the last thing on your mind:

Raw Food Real World by Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney
Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo
The Uncook Book by Juliano
The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose
Raw Food Made Easy by Jennifer Cornbleet

Join the Growing Community.

Raw foods are really like any other food; they are meant to be shared and incorporated into meals that everyone can appreciate.

When I want to enjoy some raw snacks, learn the latest about raw foods or just catch up on conversation with people who eat like I do, I head to my local raw foods Meetup group. It is free, easy-to-access, and filled with nice and knowledgeable folks who have so much to tell you. I highly recommend checking out Meetup groups in your area or local raw-vegan restaurants. Going to these places is not just about getting out; it is also about meeting new, like-minded people who share your love and passion for raw food.

To my surprise, the raw and living food movement does not just live along the coast of the United States. There are pockets of raw foodies all over the country and certainly in the city of Chicago, where I am from. You just might have to do a little digging to find them.

To make your search easier, I have listed some of the best raw-food-specialty places in and around the Chicagoland area. If you can, check them out!

-The North Shore Raw Food Meetup Group (Deerfield, IL)-Karyn’s Raw Café (Chicago, IL)
-Borrowed Earth Café (Downers Grove, IL)
-Cousin’s Incredible Vitality (Chicago, IL)
-Raw (Chicago, IL)

Split Your Shopping.

Image by Joe Shlabotnick

Do not feel obligated to do all of your shopping at Whole Foods!

When I first went raw, I thought Whole Foods, mecca of natural, organic foods and health and wellness products, was the only place that would carry exactly what I needed. That was certainly not the case. As I started doing some of my shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could purchase high-quality, organic, raw products at lower costs.

You probably will not be able to buy everything you are looking for at some of these other grocery stores and warehouses. However, dividing your weekly grocery shopping between a few different stores can really help you stay within your budget. Just because you are eating raw does not mean you have to go broke supporting your dietary needs. There are plenty of ways to get creative when it comes to cutting costs, and this, by far, is one of the best.

The next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of Costco, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart or Trader Joe’s, stop, take a closer look, and see if you cannot substitute some of your more expensive raw foods purchases for what you find there. Below, for your convenience, you will find a list of places that carry organic produce and raw products:

-Trader Joe’s
-Sam’s Club
-Food co-ops
-Local farmers markets

Photo: Geoff Peters

Like anything else that is alternative, unique or outside mainstream society, raw foodism, on the surface, can seem like a challenging community to join. If you are just starting out or merely flirting with the idea of eating raw, it can feel like a struggle to successfully make that commitment and, more importantly, enjoy your life while trying to sustain a raw foods diet.

I understand all of these concerns because I’ve been there. The first time I went raw, I quit after just one month, thinking that the lifestyle was too tough to maintain. A year-and-a-half later, though, I got the bug to try it again. But this time, I had a few lessons learned and some sage wisdom under my belt. The rest is history, because I have been happily living my life as a raw-vegan ever since.

Despite the questions and concerns I get from friends, family and acquaintances who are Standard-American-Diet eaters, I can honestly say that my dietary choices do not get in the way of my relationships, activities or everyday life. They have simply become just another part of who I am, allowing me to live healthy, happy, and raw in this cooked world.

Hadley Gustin is a holistic anxiety coach, motivational speaker and self-help writer for young women struggling with anxiety. After suffering from severe and chronic anxiety for over a decade, she healed her disorder using holistic methods, and today, Hadley dedicates her personal and professional life to the principles of holistic living and empowering other anxious young women like herself to live healthy, happy and free. Visit her at www.hip2bhol.com.

Editor: Lorin Arnold


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