Every year as the days become shorter, darker and colder people begin asking me how anyone can eat a raw foods diet in the winter. It always makes me think back to my first raw winter. I learned to make adjustments to some of my favourite cooked comfort foods, things that would remind me of the holidays and celebration, and then I made them raw.
"I couldn’t do it, I’d be too cold” is the one thing I hear most often. First of all people all over the world, including climates much colder than ours, do it every winter, so it can be done. No pressure, I’m just making a point! Being raw isn’t a competition; you must listen to your body and know your limits. When eating well becomes stressful it is no longer beneficial to your health, it is detrimental. Balance is always the key; we should treat ourselves more gently, focusing on our good choices rather than our poor ones.
It is safe to assume that if you are still reading this article you are very determined indeed! I would like to share a few tips that I found helpful during my first raw winter.
Foods are considered raw if they haven’t been heated above 118 degrees, so use this to your advantage. Gently warming foods in the dehydrator not only takes the edge off temperature wise, it also adds a cooked texture. While you are at it why not heat up your plate before dishing up! When making soups blend them for an extra minute to warm them. As long as you can still comfortably touch the liquid it is well within the appropriate temperatures. It is also helpful to let cold foods sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes so that they don’t shock your system.
Many foods and spices have a warming effect on the body that we as raw foodists can use to our advantage. Winter squash, lentils, nuts, seeds, root vegetables, ginger, and garlic are all warming to the body, so enjoy a warm gingered carrot and pumpkin soup, or a sprouted lentil stew. Try a fruit cobbler with a nut crumble topping from the dehydrator. In fact, do this in front of a cozy fire and tell me that you can’t eat raw when it’s cold outside!
On the flip side, many foods can also be cooling and are best avoided or eaten at room temperature if you are trying to stay warm. These include leafy greens, summer squash, tropical fruits and sprouts. While raw/cold fruits may be cooling, these same foods when dehydrated can be warming. It is important that we replace the liquids that have been removed from dehydrated foods by drinking warm water or herbal teas.
If all else fails do a few jumping jacks or put on an extra pair of socks! On the plus side, many long-time raw foodists claim that they are far warmer in the winter now than they ever were eating cooked foods.
I wasn’t 100% raw my first winter, and I probably won’t be this year either, but I remind myself how far I’ve come and how worthwhile it is.
Lindsay McInnes is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Owner of Rawk On Cafe, an organic raw foods cafe in Campbell River. She loves opening peoples minds to raw foods and creating desserts that you can feel good about eating.