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Archive for May, 2011

Raw follow-up

After spending about four days eating mostly raw a few weeks ago, I’ve noticed a few things. For one thing, I’ve kept my coffee intake lower since the experiment ended and I don’t miss it at all. I never drank a ton of coffee, but now my daily cup is about 160 mL (we have a coffee machine at work that lets you choose the quantity) when I used to have 230 mL each day. And some days I haven’t wanted coffee at all, so I get some tea to sip on and I’m totally satisfied, and no caffeine withdrawal headache. Like I said, my coffee consumption wasn’t a problem before and I’m not forcing myself to go without it — it’s more a matter of listening to what my body actually wants. If I physically or emotionally feel like I need a coffee, I have one, no big deal. But if the craving isn’t there, I can easily go without it.

I also commented in my raw recap post that my skin was very clear (my skin, like my caffeine addiction, isn’t very problematic, but I have the occasional breakout). For the next week and a half after the raw experiment I continued to eat mostly plant-based with some eggs and dairy thrown in, but no meat. Then at the end of last week I attended a two-day team-building retreat for my department at work. It took place at a tourism farm in southern Estonia and since I don’t have any formal dietary restrictions, I ate the food that was served there, which was pretty traditional meat-and-potatoes stuff.

And guess what? The very next day, my skin was breaking out. I also had some alcohol there, and in the past I’ve noticed a correlation between alcohol consumption and breakouts, so that may have also played a factor. (J has been kind enough to point out to me that this is not enough data to draw a definite correlation between my diet and my skin :). But still, it gives me something to think about and keep an eye on in the future.)

Oh, and one more thing to conclude the follow-up: a few days after the last post, my sister wrote to me and said that my experiment inspired her to start making changes to reduce the amount of meat in her diet! Awww… I was so flattered and I wish her luck in her own food experiments. :)

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Just a quick update

Days since I last posted: 13

Number of days I’ve spent away from Tallinn: 3

Races run: 1 (the same 7k race I ran three years ago and also last year, when I failed to write about it)

Time in 7k race last year: 40:02

Time in 7k race this year: 40:02 (how weird is that??)

Number of meals eaten away from home: 9

Alcohol units consumed: no idea (first I had a 2-day team-building retreat with my department and then J’s parents were visiting, hence lots of eating and drinking out)

Number of new foods tried: 1 (Georgian dumplings called khinkali)

Average hours of sleep per night: about 6 (this is not good; I function best with 8-9 hours)

Number of days until my mother comes to visit: 8!

Number of days before I post again with pictures: hopefully just 1 :)

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Raw recap

Now that my few days (from Friday night to Tuesday night) of mostly-raw eating are over, I’ll share my general impressions.

  • It was easier than I expected. With the fridge filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and a list of raw recipes or combinations I was eager to try, eating more raw food didn’t feel like a chore (of course, I happen to be a person who likes fresh fruits and veggies anyway). It was fun, and there were plenty of things I’m going to continue doing, like replacing noodles with veggie strips and making a big salad with tasty guacamole on top instead of dressing (that was lunch on Tuesday).
  • Some meals left me full, but not satisfied. For example, my lunch on Monday was lettuce wraps stuffed with guacamole, cilantro and veggies, along with some raw cauliflower on the side. I think it lacked variety in terms of texture, so I got really bored eating it and when I was done I felt full (hello fiber) but not at all satisfied. Eating high-raw for a longer period would definitely require figuring out how to incorporate enough fat and protein to make meals satisfying.
  • I said I’d try to avoid processed sugars, but I didn’t. I ate some cookies. Sugar is clearly my weakness (sorry I’m not sorry). The cookies also contained egg, which I was avoiding during the experiment. I made some mostly-raw cocoa bites that were very good, but didn’t always satisfy my sweet tooth (because they turned out not very sweet – next time I’d add more honey).

  • Other than the egg in the cookies, a bit of cheese on Monday night when I had a friend visiting, and honey, I didn’t consume any animal products from Sunday until Wednesday evening. In general I don’t find them difficult to avoid.
  • I missed grains. Not necessarily the processed white flour that was found in those cookies, but oatmeal, wheat bran, and other grain products that are plant-based, healthy and satisfying.
  • I didn’t mention this at the beginning, but I also gave up coffee during the experiment. I decided that tea would be allowed, since it is plant-based and beneficial and because I wasn’t interested in torturing myself. But the coffee thing was surprisingly easy – I got a headache around 4 pm on Sunday that may have been from lack of caffeine. Monday I had some black tea in the morning and Tuesday I had fruit tea and didn’t miss the caffeine at all. I didn’t even really miss the taste of coffee – I think it’s just become such a habit in my workday (I only have one cup a day, which I drink slowly). I think I may alternate coffee and tea days from now on, since I clearly don’t really need the coffee (and I would rather not get addicted, if I can help it).
  • I don’t know if I noticed any huge differences in how my body felt during the experiment – I just went about my days as usual, walking, working, exercising, sleeping. My energy levels were about the same, certainly no lower than usual. This morning I happened to notice that my skin looks very nice and clear. Coincidence? Hmmm…

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Slightly different sushi

Check out what I had for dinner on Sunday night (and also tonight actually, since I had leftovers of the ingredients):

No, I didn’t cook sushi rice during my raw experiment. Instead, I made a “nut paté” following a recipe I found on the blog Choosing Raw. The mixture of cashews, ginger, lemon juice, soy sauce and water blended together can be used in lieu of rice to make veggie sushi rolls! My sushi was not all-raw because both the nori sheets and sesame seeds are toasted, plus I believe soy sauce is also non-raw. But the cashews for the paté and the fillings for my rolls (carrot, cucumber and avocado) were certainly raw. I love using vegetables in sushi anyway, so for me these crunchy rolls weren’t lacking anything.

The cashew paté is beautifully creamy with a bit of freshness from the ginger, and it worked perfectly for making the rolls. It’s softer and doesn’t have the same sticky qualities as rice, but I was still able to carefully roll up and slice my rolls without any problems. I tried not to go overboard with the cashew concoction, since it was of course very rich! Whoever thinks raw food can’t be decadent is so wrong — you can make such amazing stuff with nuts!

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For my attempt to eat a diet higher in raw foods for a few days, I wanted to create a substitute for my usual (processed) peanut butter. So I took 150 grams of unroasted almonds, put them in my little food processor, and with a bit of patience got them from this:

to this!

It does take a pretty long time to achieve this texture. I would say that it’s creamy, but not soft. It’s quite stiff, almost like halvah or something. I added a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla extract for flavor. I’ve never been a fan of natural nut butter (where the oil separates from the butter and you have to stir it back in), but it seems like I am a fan of the stuff I make myself :).

So far I’ve eaten this almond butter with banana as a snack, and I added a spoonful to my fruit smoothie this morning for protein and staying power. I also used it as a component of my dinner last night. I used the almond butter as a base for the peanut-sesame sauce I like (added rice vinegar, soy sauce, fresh ginger, chopped green chili, toasted sesame oil and a bit of honey), and instead of serving the sauce over noodles, I poured it over strips of carrot, cucumber and bell pepper (made with a vegetable peeler). I topped it all with green onions and sesame seeds. To be honest, I was skeptical that this bowl of mostly carrots would be a satisfying dinner, but it was! The flavor of the sauce was so good and I enjoyed my crunchy “noodles”.

When I described this dish to J, he said he’d be interested in trying it too! It’s funny that I decided to do this raw experiment when he’s out of town because I didn’t want to inflict any “weird” food on him, but actually I’m discovering that these raw meals are fantastic and satisfying, and things that I’m eager to make for him as well!

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The crazy busy period I mentioned a few weeks ago is almost over. The exam I had to take at work? It was scary, but I passed!!! Such a weight off my shoulders. However, I discovered that I need to take another (unrelated) exam soon, so unfortunately my evenings of studying aren’t over yet. Studying for the next exam will be more fun, though, because it’s a topic I actually like — I need to get a certificate to verify my proficiency in Italian, so I have a week or so to brush up on my italiano!

Now onto food: you may recall that at the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to try to eat a raw vegan diet for three days. Since J had to go out of town again for a few days, I decided that this upcoming Sunday through Tuesday would be the perfect time for my little experiment! It’ll be much easier to do when I’m only shopping and cooking preparing food for myself :). I’ve found a bunch of raw recipes that I’m excited to try.

However, as the end of this workweek approached, I found myself stressing out about a few days of living all-raw. It’s been a stressful few weeks, plus it seems like I just finished the last period of restriction (giving up chocolate and candy for Lent). I realized that I want this raw experiment to be fun, not something that I’m dreading, and also that going all-raw is a big step for anyone and something that’s meant to be done gradually. Rushing into it just isn’t healthy. So I’ve changed the terms slightly: instead of three days of all-raw, I’m doing five days (starting last night) during which I will incorporate more raw foods into my diet and try out raw recipes. I may not eat 100% raw on any of these days, and that’s OK. I’ll still be focused on eating a clean and plant-based diet. I will still avoid all meat and animal products and will try to avoid processed sugars, and once I finish off some dairy products in the fridge I won’t buy any more until after Tuesday. I’ll use honey because it’s the least-processed sweetener I have, although I realize it’s not vegan. Once again, I am OK with this.

Reframing this challenge for myself makes it seem much more enjoyable and reasonable, and I’m excited once again! As mentioned before, I started last night already because I found a raw recipe that looked so good and I was dying to try: raw tortilla soup! I omitted celery and added chipotle powder to give it some smokiness and heat. Then I topped my bowl with extra cilantro and diced avocado (and enjoyed it with a piece of Finnish rieska bread alongside).

This was SO GOOD. All the seasonings (lime juice, cilantro, cumin, chipotle) gave it an amazing depth of flavor, and it was so satisfying yet of course so light. The fact that it was cold didn’t bother me at all. I’m already looking forward to making this for J, because I think he’d like it too.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my adventures in raw food over the next few days!

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