"Making It Fun!"
Avoiding Boredom and Nutritional Deficiencies on a Raw Food Diet
by Frederic Patenaude
The scene looks like this: you’re hungry, you’re alone, and you’re going to eat another meal of romaine lettuce, tomatoes and avocados. And you’re bored. And these avocados are starting to be less interesting than ever. And it’s raining outside, and cold, and damp. And you’re wondering, is the fun of eating raw gone? Will I be able to eat like that forever? Can this really be healthy?
As pure and as simple as our raw meals can be, there comes a point for most of us where boredom can set in, when we require more variety or friends to share food with, else we will might face one thing: lack of enthusiasm.
I’ve told people that simplicity is best. That a simple meal of ripe mangoes when you’re hungry beats the best raw or cooked pie you’ve ever had. That making a great salad doesn’t necessarily involve putting everything but the kitchen sink in it and that, too often, raw recipes are too complicated and, as a consequence, difficult to digest. However, I did not mean that it is better to be a sad ascetic than a merry epicurean.
It may be because I’m a bit of an epicurean myself. I love food and, since I seem to be endowed with a few culinary talents, I get never bored. I like to vary my diet and introduce new fruits, new nuts, new vegetables and new recipes. And I encourage you to do the same for two things. First being bored isn’t fun. Second, it might not be healthy either.
I’ve noticed a few things in raw foodists. They don’t seem to vary their diet a lot. They often stick with the few foods that they like. I’ve noticed for example that many raw foodists eat avocados everyday. Others eat almonds everyday. Many raw-foodists told me that they eat a meal of romaine lettuce, avocados, sprouts, and tomatoes everyday. Sometimes they add some red bell pepper. Others bananas for lunch and nothing else almost every day of the year. Is this supposed to be what simplicity is about? Always eating the same thing? Is this natural?
Chimpanzees are know to eat over 120 different varieties of plant food in a year. While carnivorous animals always eat the same and never get bored, frugivores seek variety. Most of us, too, have been raised on a varied diet. When someone only eats porridge and potatoes every day, we know that things are not going well for him. As human beings we are used to variety and, if we don’t have variety, it’s usually because of a lack of means or sheer incapacity to cook (many divorced men find themselves in that situation!).
On a raw food diet, variety is even more important because raw fruits and vegetables provide nutrients in a less concentrated, more diluted form. Thus, a certain vegetable may lack in many important nutrients, which are compensated by what other vegetables can provide. It is not enough to look at the charts and calculate our nutritional intake because these numbers are wrong. A tomato grown in a farm in California doesn’t have the same nutritional value as another tomato grown in a local garden or one grown in a hothouse. The only way we can insure proper nutrition on a raw food diet is by constantly varying the foods we eat according to the season. Let’s review a few pieces of advice and add some more:
1) Vary the fruits — It’s easy to get stuck eating one food that we like and forget everything else. I know, personally, that when mangos are in season, I eat mangos. But fruit is fun. Fruit is what makes the raw food diet a lot of fun, especially when we include exotic fruits in the menu. So I suggest constantly varying the fruits that you are eating and discovering as many tropical fruits as you can. A durian cure once a year is allowed.
2) Eat according to the seasons — When I tell people to eat seasonally, most of them don’t understand. They think, if something can be bought in a store, it means it’s in season, right? Partly. It’s in season somewhere, but not necessarily in your hemisphere! Let’s consider the following: cherries are in season during the summer, but in our side of the world. So the cherries you may buy may be imported, but they are in season for you. If you find cherries in the stores in the middle of the winter, this means they have been imported from a far away country like Chili, which is situated in the southern hemisphere where the seasons are reversed! It is not only completely un-ecological to import foods from that far away, but the fruit is also picked way too early and eating it at that time doesn’t follow our own biological rhythm.
3) Eating simply doesn’t mean eating just one food at a meal — I don’t believe in mono-eating in the sense that every meal should be ideally composed of one food alone. I think this way of eating leads to abuse. For example, pineapples and oranges are acid. If we eat only these fruits at one meal, we’ll likely eat too many of them to satisfy our hunger and introduce too much acidity in the system. Dates are too sweet. Plums contain a particular acid which can give you the runs if you eat too much. Melons and papayas are rich in water but a meal of them doesn’t satisfy. So I recommend, when eating fruit, eating 2-3 varieties, ideally not more than that. And if you like, you can eat them one at a time like a true mono-eater.
4) Vary your vegetables — Your mum told you “Eat your vegetables!” And she was rights. But the chances are that even as a raw-foodist you may not be listening to her. First you may not be eating enough vegetables, and second you may not vary them enough. To eat enough vegetables, you have to be creative. A salad can get boring. So put your salad in the blender and make a raw soup sometimes! Check out some raw soup recipe books for ideas. Green vegetable juices are also extremely beneficial, and I recommend to drink some every day, if possible. I like my green juice to be tasty, so I mix enough celery juice in it and sometimes add a little bit of carrot and beet juice too. And as for variety, the key is to make the base of your salad out of a different vegetable every time and discover the unknown varieties.
5) Don’t eat avocados everyday — This is my advice for raw-foodists. Most of them tend to eat too many avocados and too often. Consider the avocado as one type of fatty food, not the staple of a raw food diet. I suggest eating avocados no more than once every other day. Try to eat some nuts instead, and discover new varieties. Seeds are also excellent. Hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and sesame seeds should be added to the menu more often. This will help provide a wider range of nutrients that avocados alone could not provide.
6) When in doubt, blend it up — Why shun all modern developments and insist to eat only whole fruits and vegetables when we have diabolical machines such as the blender that can transform them into liquid meals of unsuspected nutritional power? Hey, a little technology is good. One of my friends says, “I love my car.” With the same unabashed mien I say “I love my blender,” which just happens to be a Vita-Mix that I use almost everyday. Smoothies and raw vegetable soups are great ways to vary your diet and avoid boredom. And when we add young coconuts, soaked nuts, avocados and carob powder to the blending orgy, the possibilities for fun creamy treats are almost endless.
7) When wondering what to eat, go to the Chinese — The Chinese themselves like to say they'll eat anything with four legs except a table. We‘ll close an eye on some of their unscrupulous ways and concede that they have helped us get out of the dark ages of raw eating in northern countries, when no durians were available. Chinatowns are full of surprises waiting to be discovered. I even found durian toys. Then you can learn to say “thank you” in Chinese (shiay shiay), or in whatever language the store owners happen to speak.
I gave you some basic recommendations on varying the diet. However, I didn’t tell you exactly how you can make your raw meals fun and exciting. I will now give you some ideas for quick and fun raw meals, which will hopefully open your mind to try out more.
A friend of mine, for whom I was un-cooking, told me with a shrewd look one day, “It’s all salad anyway.” I was probably preparing a raw spaghetti from courgettes or lasagna with eggplant, and he told me, just like that, “It’s all salad anyway.”
Okay, it may all be vegetables, but first it doesn’t look like salad, and second it doesn’t exactly taste like a salad. The difference between a salad that looks like a salad and a vegetable mix that looks and tastes like something else is, as Mark Twain once put it, “the difference between lightning and the lightning bug!”
Here are some ideas:
1) Take a nori sheet. Spread some mashed avocado on it or one tablepsoon of tahini. Add grated courgettes and rinsed dulse. Roll up like and eat like a sandwich. Everyone will think you’re a genius.
2) For a great smoothies, blend some papaya and two whole ripe mangoes. Add any other fruit in season. Blend with some water and beware of flying socks if you have your friends try it out.
3) Soaked sun-dried tomatoes really add flavour. Put them in everything that is not sweet and be ready to discover great combos.
4) Blend frozen durian with other fruits. Let it thaw for a few hours and then blend it up with coconut water, mangoes, or other fruits. You can even blend it with some carob powder, coconut water, and a few dates for an “out-of-this-world experience.”
5) For a quick nut spread, blend in your food processor raw tahini and carrots together. Use more vegetables than nut butter. Add your favourite seasonings.
6) An easy dressing idea: blend 1-2 whole oranges with a small avocado. Add other herbs or vegetables if desired. Simple and delicious.
7) Here's an easy soup that will surprise many: blend tomatoes with celery. Use 2-3 stalks of celery per tomato. Add diced tomatoes or cucumbers to the mixture. This will take care of any salt cravings you might have.
These were just a few ideas to vary your diet and avoid boredom. My motto is it should be tasty, healthy, and easy to prepare. When I open some raw cookbooks and find a recipe with a page long worth of ingredients I ask myself, “Do they really expect me to spend that much time just to eat?” Then I think of all of the time it will take to wash all the dishes and I give up. Are they kidding? I can prepare something in 10 minutes and it will be just as good, easier to digest and will leave me enough time to do the things that I really like to do, such as writing articles for Get Fresh!
So in conclusion, varying your diet doesn’t have to get complicated. It doesn’t involve becoming a raw gourmet genius. It just means having the attitude of, “Hey, I’m going to have fun with this and try something new everyday.” It’s about being open to try new foods you’ve never tasted before, and making sure you don’t eat the same thing every day.
And remember, the cure for boredom is curiosity. But there is no cure for curiosity.
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