By: Sarah McLaughlin
We all know we should eat more fruit and vegetables, especially in their most unprocessed form. Raw produce is rich in vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and fiber that aid in your body’s digestive processes and boost the immune system. But who wants to choke down bunches of raw kale or bland cauliflower? Try these simple tips to make eating raw food creative, delicious, and easy.
Make your blender your best friend
If you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix, this will become your number-one kitchen tool. You can blend up raw smoothies, make your own raw nut butters and nut milks, create deliciously creamy dressings, and so much more. Start each morning with a smoothie packed with fruit such as bananas, berries, and fresh oranges and greens (we’re talking spinach, kale, and spirulina) to pack in as many raw foods as possible first thing in the day. To give it extra staying power, add raw hemp seeds, nut butters, and chia seeds for an added plant-based protein boost.
Massage your kale
If you don’t like kale because it seems too bitter or tough, try massaging it! Yes, that’s right, massage your greens. After removing the bitter stems from the kale leaves, place them in a bowl with a pinch of salt and fresh lemon juice or dressing, and knead with your hands to soften the leaves and release the sugar within them to help balance the greens bitterness.
Spiralize your vegetables
You may have heard the word “zoodles” floating around Instagram or food blogs and wondered what that meant. Zoodles are basically just veggies that are run through a spiralizer to turn them into noodle-like shapes. And really, there couldn’t really be a more fun way to eat zucchini! Grab a handheld spiralizer for $10 from a cooking store and turn zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, broccoli stems, and more into curly noodles that you can toss into salads, top with tomato sauce and pesto, and add into raw buddha bowls.
Make your own sauces
There are a bevy of recipes on the interwebs for DIY raw sauces such as cashew creams, tahini dressings, raw marinara, and dessert-y chocolate sauces that pack in those healthy fats from plant-based sources. Blend avocados, basil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic for a deliciously rich sauce, packed with the fatty acids of avocado and the illness-fighting properties of garlic and lemon.
Swap your tortillas for collard leaves
Turn your beloved burritos and wraps into a lighter, healthier, more vegetable-packed versions by swapping the tortillas for large, tender collard leaves. Pick up a bunch from the grocery store or farmers’ market, looking for those with the largest, widest leaves. After carefully washing the leaves, pat dry and fill with avocado, slices of cucumber, shredded beets and carrots, fresh tomato, and alfalfa sprouts for a rainbow-hued raw meal.
Sprout your legumes
You don’t need to cook your beans and lentils in order to eat them. Time to get sprouting! This process increases the vitamin C content of the legume and helps boost its nutrient profile. Place ½ cup of whichever legume you’re using in a large mason jar, add 2 cups of water to the jar, and cover with a thin mesh cloth or cheesecloth. Soak overnight and then drain, rinse again with clean water, and turn the jar upside down at an angle in a bowl to allow it to drain any excess water. Continue rinsing and draining every 12 hours, and in two to three days, you should see sprouts. Toss these into bowls, wraps, salads, and more for a raw protein addition.
Make one meal a day a salad
Repeat after us: salads do not have to be boring! If the idea of eating a salad a day makes you internally groan, you’re doing it wrong. And this is the easiest way to really up your raw produce intake. Load up a bowl with a layer of greens, raw vegetables like juicy cucumbers, shredded red cabbage and carrots, your sprouted legumes, sweet cherry tomatoes, and fatty avocado before tossing with a raw creamy dressing. Fresh lemon juice can add brightness, raw nuts and seeds can add texture, fresh berries can add a pop of sweetness, shredded Brussel sprouts can pack in more unexpected greens. Get experimenting.
Get familiar with raw desserts
No, going raw doesn’t mean you have to miss out on dessert. It just means instead of flour, butter, and sugar the focus will be put on dates, nuts, and cacao. Whether you’re making your own oil-free, cashew-based cheesecake with a date-pecan-crust (yes, you can make a crust just from dates and nuts run through a food processor)—or bliss balls made from raw walnuts, dates, cacao powder, and cacao nibs—you can still get your sweet fix, minus the processed ingredients and cooking time. Plus, you’ll be packing in the antioxidants, protein, and fiber from those nutrient-rich ingredients.
Sarah McLaughlin is an LA-based writer, editor, and longtime vegan.