Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Tips for Being Raw Vegan in an Omnivore World

by Kristen Suzanne in Kristen Suzanne, vegan

Note: This is an article I wrote for the wonderful One Green Planet. And, the image you see above was compiled by them from photos I submitted to them.

Sticking to a raw vegan diet is relatively easy in the controlled environment of your own home and kitchen. But staying raw out in the real world takes some extra effort.

Whether you’re eating out with friends, going to a family gathering, or joining your co-workers for happy hour, there are plenty of social and logistical situations that are not very conducive to eating nature’s most healthy food. It might be easy for some people to just be hungry and eat later when they get home. But hungry and I do not get along well. There is a better way.

The key is to explain your situation to others when necessary and to always be prepared. It’s about thinking ahead and having options or a plan.

Explain and Train

First, explain your diet to your family and friends. Then train them how to accommodate you if they’re interested, or at tell them not be offended if you just fend for yourself and decline food they may offer. This upfront effort pays off. My husband and I have trained our family well. By now, everyone knows that when we’re invited to a function, we’ll probably bring our own food, and that’s just us, so don’t be offended. Or we may eat beforehand and bring snacks. The important tip for succeeding here is two-fold: 1) Let your family know what and why you’re eating raw or vegan. Share your excitement with them about it, while still letting them know that it doesn’t mean any extra work on their part. Depending on their tolerance for new things or alternative lifestyles, this may seem weird the first few times. But eventually, it becomes the new “normal.” Eventually their questions and comments stop coming up when it’s no longer new and different.

It also helps that the food we bring is gorgeous. It’s so self-evidently healthier, without lacking substance or deliciousness, and you can tell just from looking at it. While our family eats plates filled with monotone processed greasy foods that lack life and nutrients, we fill our plates with vibrant, rainbow colored foods. It’s a stark contrast – almost laughable – when you look at our plates of food versus theirs. After a few times of seeing our plates loaded with enticing colors like green, orange, red, purple, blue, yellow, white, etc, and then they look down at their plates filled with brown mush, they started to appreciate our choices.

Inevitably, new people ask questions and sometimes even want to try a bite. Sometimes we bring extra (only if the host would like us to). I’ve discovered that many people actually want to eat healthy, at least some of the time, but they don’t even know where to begin. So when they’re presented with the opportunity to have a tasty, healthy meal that is brought to them, they’re usually excited, even if it’s not something they’d normally eat. It is intriguing after all… Lasagna… without pasta? Really? Yes, try it!

Always Have a Plan

Dealing with family dinners and social functions like parties and get-togethers with co-workers require some planning ahead of time. Either check the details about the function or venue and see if there will be raw or vegan options, or bring your own food. If you frequently bring your own food, keep a ready supply of some raw foods in your freezer that you can just thaw and take. Don’t be shy about it either. This is your health, your responsibility and no one else’s. Don’t feel weird about bringing a few raw food bars and a green smoothie wherever you go. In fact, my husband is known for showing up at client meetings with a green smoothie in hand. His clients sometimes ask him what’s in it. “Kale, cilantro, tomato, celery, carrot, cucumber, raw cacao, and maca.” Wow. It sets the tone. This guy doesn’t mess around.

That’s what it amounts to. You have the capacity to be a bad ass, so be one! Your body deserves the best and you don’t need to think twice about what others might think. And in my experience, I almost always get asked questions and people are impressed at the level of dedication to my health.

Eating Out

Going to restaurants is a little different because it’s hard to bring food into a food establishment (they’ll sometimes say it’s forbidden due to health code regulations, but I’m skeptical because they never complain when somebody brings juice for a baby, etc). Still, I do it all the time, and I don’t feel guilty if they don’t offer healthy options. When they do, I’ll eat ‘em. If they only have a few items, I’ll mix-n-match. For example, if we’re going to a Mexican restaurant, I’ll bring along raw flax crackers and organic red bell pepper strips to dip in their salsa and guacamole. Authentic Mexican? No, not really. Delicious? Absolutely! And so much healthier than chips deep fried in fat.

If it’s another type of restaurant where I can get a huge salad, I do that, and sometimes I even get two since one doesn’t always fill me up. Here is a situation where it’s smart to look at the menu online ahead of time and see if you can build something from it. Call ahead if you like and talk with the manager or chef. I peruse the menu and see what veggies are offered throughout the dishes, so I knew they have them in stock. I simply asked for a plate of raw or lightly steamed veggies. Sometimes I bring in my own raw dip or some organic lemon and sea salt. And, if you’re afraid you’ll be tempted by your family or friends’ options while you’re gnawing on a plate of veggies, then be sure to bring yourself something sweet and decadent like a raw brownie or chocolate! Heck, sometimes that’s all I bring!

My favorite and simplest thing to bring to a restaurant is a green smoothie. I’ll bring it in some form of a travel cup, which is less conspicuous and I usually carry it in my purse. If the wait staff ever gives me grief about bringing my own food, I say “I’m on a special allergy diet from my doctor and I can’t eat anything grown with pesticides or herbicides or that has animal products.” This has never failed me… I think the medical aspect scares them in this litigious society.

What it boils down to is that I really don’t give a hoot what others think when it comes to my health. It bears repeating… my health is my responsibility, not theirs. It’s up to me to take care of myself. Maybe one day all restaurants will offer raw vegan, healthy food like they now provide a smoke-free environment. But until then, I do whatever it takes to ensure health for myself and my family, and with a little bit of planning and practice, it’s actually really easy.

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