Here is a common question that comes up when I’m chatting with people about the Raw food lifestyle.
What If I’m Addicted to Caffeine?
No problem! Been there, done that, when it comes to caffeine. Boy, do I remember the days… working long hours, drinking 2 – 3(!) triple shot (espresso) soy cappuccinos. Yikes! I’m surprised my adrenal glands are even functioning any more. Better late than never though. I was determined to kick the addiction and I did just that… by doing all of the following tips and tricks. I like variety, so it was fun to change it up with the different options below. That helped to keep me distracted, too, and made it more enjoyable.
So… need some ideas for kicking the caffeine habit? Try any (or all!) of the following suggestions:
Drink fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning to give yourself some pure Raw energy instead of stimulated energy from caffeine. Yum!!!
Hot peppers - These awesome guys can work wonders for your caffeine addiction because they give you a real rush of endorphins. For the hard-core folks out there, think habanera peppers. If you find those too hot, then start with a milder red pepper and work your way up. The idea here is that it must be hot enough to release endorphins—the brain’s mechanism for dulling pain. The endorphins tackle two issues for you: 1) providing energy so you don’t miss the caffeine and 2) fighting headaches that may result from caffeine withdrawal. When I want a quick burst of energy, I just take a couple nibbles. Of course, be careful when handling hot peppers. Wash your hands when you’re done and don’t touch your face!
Drink green juices (lots), including wheat grass if you like, which will help alkalize your blood and reduce cravings for coffee and caffeine. Add carrot juice, either straight or in the green juice. The carrot juice helps give you a little (healthy) sugar increase which can help give you a little energy boost. Plus, it’s satiating.
To help avoid severe withdrawal problems, consider migrating off gradually. You can start with half decaf (or just make the regular caffeine version with fewer coffee beans/ground when you’re making it at home (as in it’ll be more watered down than normal). Back in the day, one thing that helped me when I went to Starbucks was that I had them give me a small regular coffee, but had them put a quarter of it as hot water, and I increased that to half of the cup as hot water with the other half as coffee… and so on). And, of course, you can go half regular coffee with half decaf and eventually work your way to 100% decaf. Get organic when possible.
Tea can rock the house. Both black tea and green tea are reputed to have a number of beneficial health properties, along with a more subtle caffeine boost than coffee. So, it’s a great way to enjoy a hot beverage with a little caffeine as you transition away from toxic, (often)-pesticide-ridden-caffeine-filled coffee. And, finally, you can have herbal tea as a goal beverage when you’re ready to eliminate all the caffeine in your diet (My favorite sources are: Traditional Medicinals, found at health food stores and Mountain Rose Herbs - found online). Enjoy it sweetened with a touch of raw agave nectar (or a little organic maple syrup – not raw) or toss in a tablespoon of goji berries. Those make for an awesome treat at the end of the cup when they’re nice, plump and warm.
If cola, Mt. Dew, Red Bull, etc., is your brand of poison, you’ll get a triple-whammy benefit by weaning yourself off of these antithesis-of-health beverages. You’ll be eliminating not only caffeine, but also 1) a fairly disgusting quantity of sugar (or artificial sweeteners, which bring their own host of problems); and 2) the carbonic and phosphoric acids that are bad for your blood, leach calcium from your bones, and dissolve the enamel in your teeth. As with coffee, it may be easier to reduce your quantity gradually, such as by ordering a medium instead of a large (etc.), or pouring out the contents of a can when you’re 2/3 of the way through it. Another great idea is to gradually cut your fountain drinks with soda water, when available at self-serve fountains (it’s usually dispensed by a little hard-to-see plastic tab that may or may not be labeled). This won’t help reduce the acidity, but it will help you taper off your caffeine levels without denying yourself the refreshing and cleansing fizz—what I like to call “Throat Draino.” Caffeine is much more addictive than bubbles, so once you’ve kicked your chemical addiction to caffeine, it will be much easier to phase out carbonated beverages entirely.
Drink cold-pressed coffee, made with a Toddy Maker. This isn’t Raw and it still has caffeine, but it’s less acidic than regularly brewed coffee, so it’s a start (I’m all about the baby steps!). In the scheme of things, this is better than regular coffee. Use this as a stepping stone on your way to eliminating coffee from your life. You can find these machines online or at some Border’s bookstores.
Drink Teeccino®, which is herbal coffee. YUM! My husband and I have become huge fans of this during the past year. For my husband, it was love at first sip. For me, although I really enjoyed it and would drink it here and there years ago when I first stumbled upon it, it wasn’t (at the time) the perfect coffee replacement to me. Then again, I was such a hard core coffee lover, I didn’t think anything would ever compare to the real thing. That being said, here I am, loving Teeccino – big time! I can’t imagine not having it. In fact, I don’t know what I was thinking years ago by not thinking this was an awesome coffee replacement. Not only does it taste great, but it’s not acidic and safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s high in potassium, helps restore alkalinity, and the chicory root can help improve digestion. We usually get the Maya Caffe (organic) because it’s the most coffee-like in flavor, but I do enjoy their flavored varieties, too.
We love it plain (black), and we also enjoy it with Raw nut milk or other non-dairy milk for a nice creamy experience. It’s brewed similarly to coffee, using a coffee pot, but recently they launched a new product: Teeccino – “tee” bag style. Now, I can take it with me to restaurants and enjoy it (or Starbucks and just get a cup of hot water there to steep my tee bag). Teeccino is much better for your health than regular (or decaf) coffee, and can help transition you away from coffee. I’ve even brewed coffee mixed with Teeccino for some of my coffee addict friends to reduce the caffeine and help them transition. They love it.
Make a beverage (or food) with raw chocolate powder. Raw chocolate has only small amounts of caffeine, but it has a stimulating effect from Theobromine. Many people love raw chocolate for the feel good, natural buzz they get when consuming it. There are many ways to enjoy this: 1) blend warm water with Raw chocolate and a sweetener such as raw agave nectar (or use a raw nut milk and blend until warm for a hot chocolate type drink). 2) You can also make chocolate nut milk by adding raw chocolate powder and a couple of pitted dates to it to the next batch of raw vegan nut milk you prepare. 3) Make other Raw food recipes. Raw chocolate is satiating, delicious, gives you energy, and is full of anti-oxidants.
REST & ADEQUATE SLEEP! I can’t emphasize enough that getting enough sleep at night (and rest) is one of the big keys for helping to maintain great energy levels so you don’t feel the need to reach for caffeine. I realize that it’s not always possible to do this in our hectic lives, but TRY! Your health is worth it.
Set a schedule for yourself. Decide a plan of attack for eliminating coffee from your diet and write it on your calendar. Try the different methods outlined above for ease and success, and enjoy the healthy transition. You’ll be so glad you did it. Remember, part of the addiction is the experience associated with consumption (such as going to a cafe or wrapping your hands around a big, warm mug), so look for surrogates—ways to replicate the experience without the caffeine. Find new places and new cafes and wrap your hands around a big mug of green smoothie, warm herbal tea, or yummy Teeccino.
Updated thoughts: Now that I’ve broken the caffeine addiction, I can enjoy a cup here and there (when not pregnant or breastfeeding) and not feel guilty about it, or worry about it for that matter. I keep it organic when possible. Usually decaf. There are some things that give you a psychological edge… a spiritual uplift that can be worth their weight in health gold. If having a cup of organic, fresh brewed coffee is that for you, then so be it. It would be my recommendation that it’s not something you consume tons of… keep it in moderation or as a treat – and try some of the other options I mentioned above to help reduce the dependance. Personally, I love my new relationships with Teeccino and herbal teas – thankfully, in spite of it being bumpy at first. Although the heart break was severe when I initially said good-bye to coffee/caffeine, my experience now is much healthier and balanced.
Moreover, I have concerns about coffee production and the environment, which I haven’t looked into a whole lot yet, but I’ve seen snippets here and there about its problems. I plan on diving into that soon and seeing how bad it is (I’ll be reporting on this over at Green Mommy Blog). I have heard that shade-grown, organic, fair-trade is at least better (for health and environment), but I don’t know how much.
I received the following email and decided it would make a great blog post. I suspect there are other people out there with similar Raw food struggles.
Hi Kristen, I love following your blog….. I was wondering if you could give me advice…. and your personal motivation and reasons for being raw…
I have a blender, I don’t have an expensive juicer or a dehydrator….and right now, I’m starting to become aware that I’m probably slightly caffeine/sugar dependant… I have an incredible sweet tooth…. and it seems that every time I try to start raw foodism, I fail….not so much by heating something…. (as I rarely cook my foods anyways), but mainly because I have a hard time staying away from already processed prepared foods, coffee, sugar and sweets.
I was therefore wondering if you would mind giving me some advice, on how to get started…. on how to find the real motivation to go raw…
And on how to adhere to a raw food lifestyle – on a student budget (without a juicer or dehydrator)…
What were some of your personal motivations for going raw? And what have been some of your personal benefits?
I know rationally that I will benefit from it….but every time I fail it’s because I self-sabotage myself by convincing myself that my current diet is ‘pretty healthy already’….
Any books you would recommend as good starters?
My Personal Motivations & Reasons for Going Raw:
For starters, I was looking for energy when I decided to go Raw. My research into the Raw diet showed people with tons of energy and that was something I wanted big time. I, too, was addicted (badly) to caffeine. Even though I considered myself “pretty healthy already” with my vegan diet, I was going to a coffee shop once, twice, and sometimes three times a day for a triple espresso shot soy cappuccino. I had a pretty good inclination that my adrenal glands were shot and I felt acidic internally. Every day I would wake up and my bones and joints ached until I moved around and had my morning (few) cups of coffee.
But, energy wasn’t all I was after. I wanted that GLOW! I wanted the smooth, soft, skin that was the result of Raw food’s anti-aging benefits. I was tired of my dull skin with it’s frequent break outs. I also suffered from migraine headaches and allergies. So, when I stumbled upon Raw, I was hooked. It just made sense! I loved that I was reading about people who felt amazing, knew they were eating the healthiest food in the world and so darn proud of it, had oodles of energy, and enjoyed gorgeous skin and nails (hair, too, but at the time, I was bleaching mine, so I figured that was a lost cause).
Eventually, I was so tired of not feeling great, of not feeling like I was at my peak unless I medicated myself with something like caffeine or pain pills. I was living a life of stimulated energy instead of Raw energy. I had no idea there was such a thing as Raw Energy. And, wow, what a difference that has made in my life! (I go into much more detail about this here on my website.)
How I Started with Raw
When I first started, I made it a gradual process. I started by adding more salads to my diet and simple fresh fruit and veggies. I found that it was great, yet it wasn’t making it easy for me to transition to a more (or all) Raw diet. So, I changed my plan of attack. Instead of having days where I had part cooked, part Raw foods, I decided to pick one day a week where I went all Raw. That was something I could easily do, and it was inspiring. I felt so great on those days that it wasn’t long until I wanted to incorporate more days into my diet like that. Before I knew it, I was going 3 days a week 100% Raw, and then 4 days, and so on… until I was all Raw. It was awesome and everything it promised to be for me.
After a long time of being all Raw, I started to have a little cooked vegan food from time to time. I found that when I did that, however, it was a slippery slope. What would start as a simple, wholesome organic vegan meal of lentils, brown rice, and steamed veggies turned into all that plus vegan cookies! Then, I found that it would throw me from my game for a few days at a time. But! What I discovered was that every time that happened, I found more resolve to get back to Raw. I didn’t beat myself up for it either. I didn’t stress. I knew deep down the right way. I was actually excited that my body was telling me to get back to Raw. It knew what was best for me. Over time, even though I’d have a little cooked food (or even a treat like a vegan cookie or decaf soy cappuccino), I wasn’t doing it very often, and the slippery slope was not so slippery anymore. I came up with many tips and tricks for helping me stay motivated and on my path (I detail many in my book, Kristen’s Raw).
The next period of my diet found me doing more Raw (usually 100%) and that was wonderful. My body needed it and I craved it. There were periods where my body wanted a lower fat Raw diet and times when my body thrived with higher fat Raw foods. I listened and paid attention to the changes my body was going through. I became more confident in my choices and I was learning more about my body all the time, so I found that when I introduced some cooked foods again, I actually did fine. This opened some new doors for me. I found that I could enjoy a High Raw diet at times. In fact, I felt pretty great with it. My body is so used to Raw now, and loves it so much, that I don’t go for long with cooked foods in my diet, and/or I don’t let too many in. My body quickly starts craving the fresh organic goodness that only the Raw vegan diet can provide.
My Basic Take-Home Points:
1) I listen to my body and I don’t presume that just because I thrive with a certain Raw vegan diet at one time doesn’t mean I won’t want to change it up a bit with another variation of Raw vegan another time.
2) I am flexible and don’t stress about it. In fact, I have fun with it!
3) My body naturally self-corrects and always directs me back to Raw. It knows what’s best.
Overall, it’s all about making better choices. There is a continuum on which you’ll find yourself. On one end of the continuum you have the typical SAD (Standard American Diet) eater and on the opposite end you have the 100% Organic Raw Vegan Foodist. All along this spectrum you have rungs, or steps, like along a ladder. With each rung or step being better than the last. It’s not expected to go all the way to the top at first, because that is too hard for most people. But there are always ways to make small improvements. For example, if you’re eating processed bread right now, then switching to a brand such as Genesis Sprouted Grain Bread is that next step along the spectrum of health. It’s better than what you were doing previously. Then, not much longer after that you might find yourself making your own bread from sprouted flax and chia seeds, which would be the ultimate choice for your health. However, each step takes you higher or further along the spectrum, and you’ll feel better and better as a result. Or, if you consume cow’s milk, you can move up on the ladder of health by switching to organic vegan soy, rice, hemp, or almond milk. Then, you can set your eyes on the next step and switch to Raw nut and seed milks like Creamy Dreamy Hemp Milk.
For some people, the only way to start the Raw diet is by jumping in with both feet 100%. Some people need a gradual entrance. They’re both great… you just have to find what’s right for you. One of the best ways for staying motivated is with community and education. The community can be found online (join Raw forums, read Raw blogs, and blog yourself!) and through meetups (check meetup.com for local groups), and the education comes from DVDs, books, classes, magazines, etc. I’m constantly putting all of those things in front of me. And, every time I pick up a book or magazine, or read someone’s blog about what they’re doing with Raw food, I’m excited and inspired! My cells start salivating for green juice, salads, and Raw lasagna, etc.
Raw Tools in the Kitchen: Only Have a Blender?
Having only a blender is no problem! You don’t need a juicer to be a Raw foodie, or a dehydrator for that matter. Those are just excuses for some people. With a blender, you can make smoothies, soups, salad dressings, pates, ice cream, mousse, even nut butters (with a high powered blender). You can even make juice! Just blend the fresh produce with some water and strain it with a nut milk bag (or a cheaper paint straining bag from a hardware store).
A dehydrator is fun and I use mine all the time, but it’s definitely not necessary. For starters, you can buy many things at health food stores that are made in a dehydrator. They’re not always cheap, but I’m just sayin’… they’re available as very convenient treats and snacks.
Sugar & Caffeine Addicted? No Problem!
Being addicted to those things really sucks. I know! But, it’s not hard to get off them. You just need a plan! My first tip is Green Smoothies. Getting more greens into your diet will help alkalize your body, which will help you fight the acid addiction. Don’t give up and be consistent with it. Having fresh fruit is also great for those sugar cravings. Because fruit is filled with natural sugars, fiber, and nutrients, you’ll find yourself satiated right away. Having them with greens is great, like with green smoothies, because the greens add lots of minerals, but I’m also a fan of fresh fruit on its own. Heck, I just polished off two organic persimmons before writing this blog post.
Another great tip for fighting sugar addictions is with fermented foods like Raw, organic, unpasteurized sauerkraut and kim chi. These are well reputed for helping with sugar problems. And, they’re so delicious! I make my own at home, but I didn’t always (you can buy it at health food stores). Here is a blog post (with video) detailing how to make it.
Your transition doesn’t have to be overnight, just start somewhere. And, you don’t have to eliminate your caffeine or sugar right away. Do it in stages. Look at your current diet and set up a plan for cutting it out, bit by bit. And, reward yourself when you hit those milestones!
Being Lazy?… Stop It!
There is no excuse for not making a green smoothie when you’re feeling too lazy to make something and wanting to open up a box of processed crap. Green smoothies are so freakin’ easy. And, you know what? If for some crazy reason that is even asking too much on some days, then just make sure you have bananas, oranges, persimmons (seasonal), dates, carrot / celery sticks (washed, trimmed, and ready to eat), apples, watermelon (seasonal), etc… all ready to grab whenever you get hungry. IT DOESN’T GET EASIER THAN THAT!
Candidly, if you can’t handle whipping up a green smoothie or peeling a banana, then you probably just don’t want it enough. And for that, I don’t have much advice beyond forcing yourself to try it for awhile and seeing how much better you feel. Obviously, something turned you onto this path; you just need to get back and focus on that. Do some soul searching and decide if you’re indeed ready to take control of your health. The good news is that it’s really easy. And, the better news is that it gets easier and easier, partly from practice, but mostly from just developing habits, a routine, and a little confidence. You’ll find yourself getting into your own groove and building upon each successful day you have. It’s an awesome feeling!
We all have our own personal motivations for turning to Raw. And, most people who do turn to it stick with it, at least to some degree, if not all the way. It’s as though they’ve seen the light and they know it’s the right thing to do. Even when they come and go… the key is that they keep coming back. The Raw vegan lifestyle rocks. It’s worth it! It’s awesome! It’s addictive!
I’ve written a book (available as an ebook as well) that covers these topics in great detail, Kristen’s Raw: The EASY Way to Get Started and Succeed at the Raw Food Vegan Diet & Lifestyle. It’s the perfect way to help you start on the Raw vegan path. You can get more details and purchase it here.
I should add that it also makes a great gift!
And, here are some related blog posts that are chock-full of good tips and information.
I’ve just whipped myself up into a motivated frenzy writing this post, so I’m off to make some organic green juice. :)