Friday, May 31, 2013

The Experts Weigh In: Going Raw!

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Soaking, sprouting, dehydrating, blending, juicing... welcome to the Raw Food world! When I was first introduced to raw foods over 3 years ago, it was one of those synchronicity moments. I went to an Earth Day Fair and there it was, a beautiful zucchini spiral hanging off a veggie slicer next to a bowl of chocolate treats with a big 'Try Me' sign next to it. With a fervor, I managed to push the stroller over the bumpy lawn and through the heavy foot traffic to arrive in front of the table that would change my eating habits forever. 

I learned about the benefits of sprouting foods, how to make meals with uncooked whole foods and the beauty of healthy desserts. A business card went promptly into my purse, a chocolate macaroon went straight into my mouth and a new veggie slicer was purchased and transported home in my daughter's stroller.

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When I got home, I started sharing this new discovery of mine with my friends. Lo and behold, one of them already knew about it and pointed me towards a book called The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. I read that book from cover to cover in 3 days and my refrigerator suddenly turned into a forest preserve.

Why did I start making changes?

Because I was at a plateau with my weight. I gave birth to my daughter 18 months prior and could not lose the last 25 pounds. I needed this change, but little did I know ALL the benefits (and challenges) that this diet makeover would bring to my life and my body.

For years I suffered from intense abdominal pain and mistakenly thought I just had to live with it. At Thanksgiving (which was 30 days after I had switched to an 85% raw diet), I ate food that I hadn't consumed in the last 4 weeks and just like clock work, I was doubled over in pain about an hour after dinner. That's when it hit me that the raw diet was benefiting my body in more ways than just weight loss.

And by the way... I lost ALL of my baby weight within a couple of months! SHAZAM! I was a believer!

I felt incredible! I was drinking a green smoothie every day for breakfast, eating a large salad with all kinds of raw extras for lunch, snacking on dates and nuts and then making sure to eat a properly combined meal for dinner. We started weaning off red meat first, then chicken, then eventually I was not eating meat anymore (though my daughter still was). Obviously there was a "glow" about me because less than a year later, I was pregnant with my second child. Interestingly enough, I was not as sick with my second child as I was with my first. There's a saying out there that if you are plagued with sickness during your pregnancy, it's your body's way of ridding itself of toxins. It didn't hit me until then that I had been able to control some of my pregnancy illness by eating raw foods for the last year.

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Though I'm truly a believer, I have a confession - I went through my second pregnancy as a carnivore. In fact, that's how I knew I was pregnant. Three weeks into my pregnancy, I drove up to a drive-thru and ordered a burger! (Yeah, that hadn't happened in a year and a half!). I'm a firm believer in listening to what your body is telling you, so I chalked it up as "that's what my body needed".

But not to worry, two months after I had my son, I started back on my raw food diet and within months, I lost all 60 lbs. I had gained. I was wonderful!

So what am I eating today?

Well, I still love my raw foods. I have one smoothie a day as a meal and I add so much into that smoothie that it can't help but make my body feel great! Foods such as kale or collards (not so much spinach because of oxalic acid), frozen fruits, chlorella (protein), carrots, beets, hemp seeds, chia seeds, coconut milk, and cacao and maca make the top of my list (though not all together at once). Even my children, especially my youngest, LOVES smoothies! He does a morning dance with high-pitched screams to let me know he'd like some.

These days my lunch usually consists of a raw salad with cooked quinoa or beans on top. Since my daughter is 5 now and has become more of a picky eater, our meals are not combined as well as I'd like them to be  (they are mostly cooked), BUT they are whole food based. We do mostly home-cooked meals and save one night a week for a meal out. Our desserts consist of raw ice cream, raw brownies, raw peanut butter cups, raw chocolate mousse and whatever else I can strum up. Needless to say, they love dessert and I never feel guilty feeding it to them. Once in awhile, I will eat animal products, but I am very careful about the source from which they come. My daughter really enjoys meat and because I'm a big advocate of eating the same meal together, I will join her, making sure that there's no factory farmed meat in our home.

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My occupation, other than a Personalized Health Coach, is a toddler teacher at a Montessori school. I have been able to bring my raw food passion into my classroom where we make raw food items weekly. From zucchini pesto pasta to raw ice cream, we are making it and making it WITH the children! They have enjoyed transforming zucchini into noodles, cutting veggies, grinding sea salt with a mortar and pestle, mashing avocados, peeling bananas, husking corn and watching frozen bananas turn into ice cream! It's been a wonderful opportunity to not only introduce these foods to the children, but to the parents as well. They have learned healthier ways to feed their children and their children have been more inclined to eat what they have played a part in preparing. Rule of thumb!

I'm not an advocate of the "all or nothing" way of eating. I do believe in the benefits of eating raw foods for I have seen the results for myself, but I also enjoy a warm cooked meal, especially in the winter months. Making the leap to a raw food diet is no joke and should be done carefully and slowly. There's actually a transition guideline in Natalia Rose's book to help you get started (you can do more harm than good if you go cold turkey). But no matter what you choose for yourself, balance is key! If you can fill your plate with more veggies than anything else just two meals out of the day (most days), that will be a huge accomplishment!

Heidi has been a teacher for over 10 years and lives just outside of Chicago, IL. She recently became a Personalized Health Coach and is working with clients one-on-one to meet their health goals. She has two children, 5 and 2, who love to dance, cuddle, make discoveries in the forest, play in the kitchen and laugh at just about anything. She gives raw food demonstrations to people in their homes as well as at wellness centers. She also caters small events. And if that wasn't enough, Heidi is gearing up for her second triathlon this June. Her team name is RawK House Mamas and was inspired by the shared love of raw foods and house music amongst her community of friends. You can visit her raw food blog at and her health coaching website at  

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