Fall and winter weather can pose some interesting challenges in terms of sticking with a healthy eating strategy. Temptations to indulge in sugary treats and higher calorie options are plenty, and in an effort to simply stay warm and comfortable, it might be easy to go days or even weeks without hardly any fresh, raw foods. Salads and smoothies can lose their appeal as the body starts naturally craving heavier and more grounding meals. Shifting the diet with the seasons, and listening to your body always along the way, is the best option. No two person's diet should look exactly the same - our bodies, our constitutions, our activity levels, and our lives are all so vastly different. However, it's still important to make sure we're getting a plentiful amount of those heat sensitive elements such as phytonutrients, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and enzymes - even during the winter. Here are our tips for balancing a raw foods-based diet when the temperatures plummet.
1. The 80% Raw, 20% Cooked Rule
Instead of swearing off of cooked foods entirely, it can be really helpful to commit to eating majoritively raw during the day, allowing for a warm dinner meal that involves cooked plant options like quinoa, brown rice, legumes, steamed or grilled vegetables, soups, etc. Or maybe keeping the balance looks like enjoying a slightly higher ratio of raw foods with your cooked meals - even if you're enjoying cooked foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try adding more fresh fruit to that yummy bowl of hot oatmeal in the morning, and try eating an extra large salad or more raw vegetables in general (we love marinated kale salads in the winter!), with dinner and lunch. Nut butters offer a great source of energy, protein, and healthy fats during the fall and winter; get a little more nutritional bang for your buck by choosing raw nut and seed butters over roasted. They'll also make the best sauces and dressing for those veggie bowls!
2. Spice it Up!
Image credit: Geisha Boy via Flickr Commons
Certain spices can do a world of good as far as igniting that digestive fire and bringing a sense of heat to the body, without actual heat. This may be a raw foodists best keep secret for the winter. Be generous with spices like cayenne, chili peppers in general, ginger, cumin, black pepper, cardamon, and turmeric. These delicious and aromatic spices also have so many health benefits from helping to fight inflammation, to boosting the immune system with their anti-viral/anti-bacterial properties and antioxidant capabilities. You can't go wrong.
3. Using a Food Dehydrator
A food dehydrator is a great investment if your intention is to stick with mostly raw foods. Having this appliance will allow you to make raw versions of the heavier foods you may be craving this time of year: breads, crackers, baked goods, kale chips, etc. A food dehydrator will allow you to make denser raw snacks and sides that will help keep you from feeling deprived. You can even do fancy things like make a raw lasagna, or desserts like apple pie, then place them in the dehydrator to "bake" at very low temperatures. The result is a warm dish, more concentrated flavors, and a softer, more cooked-like texture while still being technically raw. For those who aren't feeling quiet as hard core, you can also use the lowest setting on your oven for a similar effect.
4. Incorporate More Warming Beverages and Tonics
We're talking miso soups, matcha and turmeric lattes, herbal tonics and herbal teas. If you missed it yesterday, check out our recent recipe post for a Creamy Miso Chowder that can be gently warmed on the stove top. You can also simply sip on miso broth, and don't shy away from warm herbal teas (we have a mug on our desk most days all day), and our absolute favorite: matcha, turmeric and yerba matte lattes. While not technivally 100% raw, these liquids are packed full of benefits like probiotics (miso) and antioxidants (teas, tonics and lattes), can be made without overheating the water, and can also incorporate a raw nut milk of choice for healthy fats and protein. You'd be surprised how sipping on a warm beverage will bring heat to your entire body, even if the majority of your food during the day is raw. You may even end up peeling off some of those layers! Speaking of layers...
5. Keeping Warm Other Ways
The tendency during the winter may be to slow down and hibernate a bit, and while it's good to embrace your inner grizzly bear and get cozy by the fire, it's also equally important to keep your body active and moving. This will help keep your metabolism burning smooth, help encourage healthy blood circulation (so importand for staying warm!) and proper lymphatic drainage for immunity and detoxification. Movement and exercise will also vastly improve your energy levels and mood overall, even during shorter, darker days. Invest in some key clothing items that will enable you to get outside and move comfortably, even in the cold weather. Embrace it!