June 2, 2009

Rad-ventures in Eating

It's no secret by now that I've been giving a lot of thought to different dietary lifestyles lately, raw foodism in particular. After scouring Choosing Raw, the idea really made sense to me. At the same time, I couldn't fathom how to reconcile that with my current lifestyle and preferences. Above all, I hate the thought of poisoning my body with what I choose to eat, or even the skin products I use. I only get one body and I'd better treat it right so that it doesn't crap out early!

In order to be well informed regarding my dietary choices, I feel the need to explore all sides of the topic. I enjoyed this post on Oh She Glows today, which posed the very question, "Is raw food really better for you?" Angela cited various sources of research, the common factor being that certain foods are indeed better for you when consumed raw, while others are more beneficial after cooking. This is a great way to get confused, but what I take from it is that a mixture of raw and cooked foods is likely a solid and healthy compromise, and most importantly, the option that would keep me from feeling overwhelmed, at least to start with. In fact, I think it's safe to start with this notable quotable from Michael Pollan, which I'm sure you have come across before: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

That said, no one's diet is perfect, and yes, food is nutrition and fuel, but it is also a cultural source of enjoyment. Ultimately, my way of eating has to keep me both healthy and happy, so in the spirit of adventure, I've decided to embark on what I'll call Radventures. The R stands for raw, because that is the eating style that is currently most foreign to me and therefore peaking my interest, but whatever it is I try doesn't have to be raw to qualify as a Radventure. Anything I can do to clean up my eating habits, no matter how miniscule, is rad, after all. 

Last week, I documented my first two Radventures here and here. Today, I bring you my latest Radventure: juice!

An unexpectedly fantastic mixture of spinach, carrots, beets and ginger ("Blood Tonic #40," in case you're interested). I bought this fresh juice from the stand that is attached to Coffee Shop in Union Square, nearby my office. 

I could definitely get used to drinking that every day! However, at $4 a pop, it ain't happenin'. I will contemplate the idea of buying a juicer, but in the meantime, fresh juices like this will remain a special treat.

From what little I know about raw foodists who are successful with that lifestyle, juice is a fairly major daily component. From today's Radventure (and building upon last week's), I learned that eating/drinking this way doesn't feel especially alien to me, despite it being drastically different from my current habits. So far, cravings for these kinds of foods/drinks have come naturally. This is something good to know about myself, should I decide to incorporate more all-raw meals into my diet.

On the flip side of this quasi-project, if I find that I'm using the Radventures to a control-freaky or restrictive end, a rethink is in order, because this isn't what raw eating is about. If it's going to make me depressed to think of life without pizza and ice cream, heretofore some of my favorite things, then pizza and ice cream I shall have. Ideally, the more Radventures I embark upon, the less I will want that pizza and ice cream. For now, however, it's baby steps. Toes in the water, not cannonballs. 

I want to use my newfound interest as the the motivation and momentum towards fine tuning my already-decent eating and healthy habits to be that much purer, as opposed to a full-blown overhaul. I think that would end up overwhelming me and would lead to a spectacular crash-and-burn off the wagon, out of frustration from the drastic change if nothing else. Best case scenario, I'll enjoy the changes I feel in my body so much that I want to build upon them and I will cast nary a glance backward at my old ways. 

In the meantime, my eats as they appear here on the blog may not appear to change much, unless I point it out. You'll still see me eating a mainstream diet. For example, even though I think I'm convinced that soy and tofu are no good for me, I will eat up what I still have in the fridge and/or cupboard in favor of economics. However, food items like that won't be replaced once I've eaten them up. I'm phasing out as much of the junk as I can live without, including skin care products such as those containing parabens. A sudden and dramatic purge of all no-no items doesn't interest me, though. That's not how I roll. My practical nature collides with idealism here, so I have to compromise on that front.

Case in point: this afternoon, I chased that beautiful juice with a Luna Cookie.

It was the Berry Pomegranate flavor, and it was tasty, but this is a good example of something I neither want nor crave very often anymore. I won't refill my desk's bar stash with things like this, as no argument could be made for eating this over a whole food or juice instead. However, I was hungry, and it was in my desk, so I ate it.

No eating guilt involved here - I was on my way to Physique 57 for my second free class and needed something in my tummy to ensure I didn't pass out halfway through. Missy and I did the Beginner level together again, and it is a killer! Here we are afterward, looking especially glamorous:

Speaking of Missy, she is hosting a giveaway for CLick Espresso drinks, which is exciting to me since I don't plan on phasing out coffee just yet. :)

I did manage to hobble home afterward and rustle up what I would consider a pretty clean dinner, especially relative to the time it took to prepare. This is what I called "Goddess Fried Rice" in a post many moons ago...

The recipe in the original post linked above is better, but since I needed an express version, into the skillet went:
  • Plain, cooked Kashi pilaf
  • Lots of frozen veggies: tri-color bell peppers, carrots, green beans
  • A scrambled egg
  • Annie's Goddess dressing
This was all stir-fried together in some cooking spray heated with a little minced garlic and ginger.

Quite a virtuous meal, in light of all I've learned lately! No, it wasn't raw, but it contained whole grains, tons of vegetables, good fats and lean protein. These are the things we all know to be healthy by now. I also incorporated some organic ingredients, such as the green beans and dressing. Furthermore, frozen vegetables are said to often retain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts because they are flash-frozen shortly after harvesting. Score one for me! I eat frozen veggies all the time. Still, to preserve those nutrients as much as possible, I chose to steam them in the microwave briefly before dumping them in the skillet, at which point I was able to stir everything together just long enough to be heated through with no raw egg remaining. And of course, none of the above contains artificial colors or flavoring; no preservatives, no gobbledy-gook. This borders on Radventure status. :)

As if this post wasn't long enough already, I feel compelled to answer the unspoken question: "So why the sudden interest in raw and/or clean eating?" 

Here are just the first few reasons that come to mind:
  1. DIGESTION. There's nothing like a good vom to make you consider the intricacies of how your food choices affect your digestion (or lack thereof). This weekend was a bit of a wakeup call, and all of a sudden I can't stand the thought of meat or movie popcorn and candy. We'll see if that feeling lasts, but I had to state the obvious.
  2. SKIN & HAIR. I've always had fair, sensitive, oily, acne-prone skin. Raw foodism in particular is known to improve the skin's condition, so I would be a fool not to at least try a way of eating that could potentially end a lifelong battle with something that affects my self-esteem as well as my appearance. This goes for skin products, too - as I run out of various items such as mainstream lotions, cleansers, etc. I will be replacing them with their natural, paraben/ick-containing alternatives.
  3. HAPPINESS. Raw foodism is said to promote "vibrant health." For me, this conjures up a goofy yet admirable image of someone literally vibrating with health and good mojo. Whatever I can do to create that from the inside out will make me better off at the end of the day, as I will be less prone to whatever external stressors may come my way.
This has been quite the opus on healthy eating, but now you have an idea of what has been swimming around in my head for the past week or so. I'm sure you will forgive me this post's length in favor of immortalizing these ideals, for my own benefit more than anything else. And yet, we can all use a little extra inspiration to live out the best version of ourselves, whatever that means to you.


Gena (Choosing Raw) said...

Diana --

I am SO proud and excited about your forays into juicing and raw foods! As you know, baby steps are my mantra about the transition, so I really encourage you to start with small changes and see how far and deeply you want to take it all.

Look out for a post on soy tomorrow.


Emma said...

Everyone is looking into the Raw food diet! I agree with you - I'm not going to completely give up some of my favorite things, but incoorporating more fresh vegetables and fruits is always a good idea!

Take care,

Dori said...

Great post, Diana! How good is that juice! I started with beet/carrot juices and eventually transitioned into green juices, which worked perfectly for me and made the transition smooth. I also just got the juicer Gena has!

I'd love to incorporate more raw but with my GI problems I need to be careful. I have the same skin issues as you except mine isn't that oily. But it is fair, sensitive and extremely acne prone under my mouth. I'd love some extra help in that department.

It sounds like you really did your research and I need to try some more frozen veggies myself. Can't wait to hear how your Radventures go!

Missy said...

I like your version of the picture much better! My legs hurt! Love your thoughts on raw foodism! I would love to try eating more raw foods too! I need to take a pit stop at that juice stand!

fitforfree said...

I had fresh juice yesterday too! It's so great!

Love the small steps you're taking - and your reasons for taking them. I'm excited to read more about your radventures!

K from ksgoodeats said...

I think even incorporating just a little bit of a raw diet will pay off for anyone! Good luck with your radventure ;) Love the name!

Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

Love your Radventurous plan! I'm trying to incorporate more raw foods myself when I can, but I'm still loving on the cooked stuff as well. Life without warm oats...couldn't do it. Don't want to.

I just finished reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. So good - it will make you want to clean out those cabinets and eat nothing but real, whole foods.

Best of luck with your new plan. Looking forward to following you on your journey.

ttfn300 said...

great post! i identified with alot of what you were saying, and i think i need to revamp my habits to adjust to what i'm really craving and doesn't bother my tummy!

Anonymous said...

after searching your blog for 30 min I finally found this stating-raw post. I like your approach to it and like your writing style.
Now, a question for you, since you went on more raw, have you experienced the improvements on health and skin that you went for?