When I first went raw in 1997, I quickly discovered delicious gourmet raw food cuisine.
Unfortunately for my health, the raw cuisine promoted at the time (and still in vogue today), was filled with raw fats and condiments.
For example, in one big personal salad, I could have included:
– Several tablespoons of olive oil
– An entire avocado (or two)
– A handful of pine nuts or walnuts
– Soy sauce
– Onions, garlic, etc.
These salads were satisfying, but left me extremely tired after eating them. No wonder: I was consuming most of my calories from fat!
In fact, these salads contained more fat that a typical value meal at McDonald’s.
Over the years that followed, I went to another “extreme,” by going back to a lower-fat diet and eliminating all condiments completely.
In my book The Raw Secrets, I even spoke against common condiments such as garlic and hot peppers.
But where do I stand today?
One of the biggest problems I’ve always had with the raw food diet is the inability to enjoy simple, raw salads.
No matter how much I tried to convince myself that a salad consisting of a romaine lettuce, some tomatoes and half an avocado was extremely healthy, I simply did not enjoy it!
For years, I stood staunchly with my “no-condiment” policy, avoiding raw garlic at all costs and minimizing my use of condiments in any raw recipes.
I had no problems eating simple fruit meals and smoothies … but when it came to vegetables, I just didn’t enjoy them as much without some kind of seasonings.
Many raw foodists make an effort to eat everything 100% raw, while worrying about little things, such as whether the dried herbs they are using are truly raw.
Over the years, I have found that it’s better to make some compromises and actually enjoy your food than try to stick with an impossible-to-follow ideal.
Some people are perfectly happy eating a bowl of romaine lettuce and a few tomatoes for dinner. But most people — myself included — would feel pretty dissatisfied after eating such a boring meal.
So should you avoid all condiments? And if you do use them, should they be 100% raw?
I believe that it’s the big things that matter, not the little things.
Having a few relatively healthy condiments on an overall healthy meal is NO BIG DEAL, even if some of these products are not 100% raw.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees. “Better” is the enemy of the good, sometimes!
That being said, here are some condiments you can use, regularly or occasionally, to add enjoyment to your raw food meals:
– Homemade Seasonings: I showed how to make healthy condiments out of dehydrated vegetables in my DVD series, “The Low Fat Raw Vegan Cuisine.” The idea is simple: dehydrate pieces of celery, bell peppers, cabbage or any other vegetables. Then turn them into a powder in a VitaMix or coffee grinder. These powders add a lot of taste to salads and dressings!
– Garlic: A lot of raw recipes taste incredibly better with a little garlic, for example a guacamole dish. The trick is to only use a little. When you blend garlic, you oxidize it and make it less strong. I don’t eat raw garlic daily, but sometimes use it in some recipes. I must say that I don’t experience any negative effects from occasional garlic use.
– Green Onions: Any salad or raw soup tastes better with green onions (also called spring onions)!
– Thai Chili: I must admit that I do love spiciness, even though I come from a background of natural hygiene. Certain recipes, especially if they are Asian-inspired, can be made incredibly tastier and more authentic with a little spiciness to them, such as from Thai chili pepper. The trick is to use fresh ingredients, and not hot sauces, which tend to affect the body more negatively due to everything else they contain.
– Chipotle Powder (by Frontier): This organic seasoning by Frontier is great for those who like a little spiciness. It really adds a kick to a salad or Savory Veggie Stew, even though it’s not raw.
– Salad Sprinkle (by Frontier): A great addition for some kick to your everyday salad.
– Chinese Five Spice (by Frontier): Includes the flavors of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy for a great addition to any Asian creation.
– Mexican Fiesta (by Frontier): For any Mexican-style dish that needs a little more seasoning than just the spicy taste.
– Herbamare: This is a seasoning found in health food stores that contains salt. The raw vegan diet is very low in salt, therefore using a sprinkle of a salty seasoning on top of a salad will not put you in a terrible risk bracket for salt consumption. Most of the raw recipes I make taste pretty good without salt, but sometimes adding a tiny bit makes the difference between an “okay” recipe and a great one.
– Ceylon Cinnamon (soon to be available from us): Tastes WAY better than cassia (regular) cinnamon and has a natural sweet, bright, and not-dry flavor. It’s great in raw dishes, smoothies and puddings.
– Tahitian Vanilla (soon to be available from us too): Larger, more fragrant and soft and flexible, unlike bourbon vanilla. This means you can use it in raw dishes easily by scraping out the seeds and even make your own organic vanilla extract at home!
If you truly enjoy the foods you’re eating, I don’t recommend to “add” anything to make it better. But sometimes having a few seasonings can really make a difference and make the program much easier to follow and enjoyable.
Remember that the body adapts pretty quickly. If you never eat any onions or garlic, you’ll probably feel strange eating them. But if you eat them fairly regularly in small quantities in recipes, your body adapts to it and they no longer bother you.
The trick is to enjoy your food … and be healthy!