By:  Laura Lentz
Senior Associate/Project Manager – Washington, DC Office

A Raw diet is any diet that consists primarily of unheated food or food cooked to a temperature less than 104°F to 115°F.  The most well known of these is Veganism but there are many forms.  This blog takes a look at my journey to understand Raw Foodism and some of the things I discovered along the way.

My interest started with a client who asked us to design a Raw foods station.  As a foodservice design consultant, I figured success would mean working myself out of a job.  I spec cooking equipment for heaven’s sake, what I am going to give them, an empty counter with a refrigerator?  I knew there had to be more and while I had heard the terms before and am a little familiar, I couldn’t figure out how or why someone would want to take meat out of the equation, much less cooking!  Even I need a burger and fries every once in a while. 

 But through a friend I found a local D.C. dietician who offered a raw diet that seemed like something I could live with and was based on a cookbook by Trader Joe’s.   Most importantly, it was only seven days, and I figured I could tolerate just about anything for seven days.  So I went to the grocery store and loaded up on veggies and fruits (8 cucumbers, 5 lbs of carrots, seven large bags of greens and much more).

Day 1: It was the kick off, and I was excited.  I made my morning Green Apple Juice smoothie and packed my snacks for work including a Mango Salad with Corn and Chick Peas.  The day went by easily, mostly I spent the day raving about this new detox diet I was doing, but I really did have more energy and felt a little lighter.  Little did I know, day 2 was the hard day. . . .

Day 2: The article said you might get a headache and on day 2, I’ll admit, MY HEAD HURT.  But the morning shake was Carrot Cucumber and it was a delicious recipe that I immediately liked.  At dinner, I was struggling through the diet and was fighting to make myself eat the veggies on the list.  But I was feeling better and more energetic and loose.

Day 3: I researched to learn that Raw Foodies believe that if you don’t cook the food beyond a certain degree your body retains much more of the energy and nutrients.  Day 3 was proof of that.  I started the day with a Shamrock smoothie that was awesome. I had more energy all day, went for a 6-mile run and didn’t even eat all the food that day.  In fact, I hadn’t really been hungry once during the diet so far and had really liked a lot of the food choices.  Dinner was Veggie Papusas, which were a great menu item that tasted delicious.  I’ll say, not like authentic papusas but they were delicious.

Day 4: This was my first tough day really craving a burger and fries or some junk food. A lack of sugar was harder than I thought too.  I made it through the day and enjoyed a delicious dinner recipe of lentil stew.  Don’t let me neglect to mention the benefits of weight loss. By this time I was seeing results in the scale which helps keep me from that nagging sugar craving.  For a RAW foodie, you see, the sugar must only be natural “raw” sugar found in foods, and in the case of this diet, only before noon. 

Day 5 and Day 6 Continued with better eating and wonderful foods and recipes.  I had a wonderful Kaleidescope Bean salad that continues to be a favorite.  It was only flavored with small amounts of salt and pepper and a delicious vinegar (no olive oil).

Day 7: I’ll admit on my final day, I celebrated with a happy hour beer and a cheeseburger but this was a great seven days and I have more energy, feel lighter and have even lost a few pounds.

My search for exploring Raw Foodism has been enlightening and while I have only touched the tip of the iceberg, I have learned a lot.  The Raw food diet I tried was 80% Raw Food Consumption with 20% cooked food consumption but there are many other formats and diet patterns.  I have a pile of new recipes. 

In terms of foodservice design, mostly I’ll say that a well designed RAW food station has a few must haves: A top of the line juicer, a blender or two, if the facility is large enough, you could need as much as a cutter dicer, a rice cooker for each type of rice is recommended, likely a brown rice cooker and possibly a second for Quinoa or hard rice, lastly a vessel for holding soups warm like a lentil curry and vegetable stews.  It is likely obvious but you need many cutting boards and lots of refrigeration.  You may like to include a sushi refrigerator as well.

Because of the simple preparation, the beauty of a raw foods station is that it can be carved into an existing servery quite easily.  It works great as a feature display kitchen or flexible station because it requires very little equipment and no exhaust hoods.  If done well, this can become a whole feature station in itself with independent choices offering vegetarians and special diets something beyond the salad bar.  As a self serve feature, a grain bar can also provide a consistent offering at this station.  The key factor to success is to recognize that raw foodies are serious about nutrition.  Many Raw Foodies believe that the western diet does not include enough fresh foods, veggies and fruits and that maintaining a proper balanced diet is critical.  Any schools or programs that are looking to implement this type of menu option should contact a local dietician or culinary professional to ensure that the menu items are nutritionally balanced.

Currently, a number of Universities and Colleges offer Vegan/Vegetarian food options and stations.  Oklahoma City University, claims to be the first University to offer a full raw food station beginning in 2010.  I wouldn’t know whether this is a fad or a trend just yet but it certainly puts more awareness on healthy food options and is getting a lot of press.  With a growing population that has a number of food allergies and an awareness of many complications that bad food diets cause later in life, students today are searching for options and better decision making.  A raw food diet may be just what they need to implement a healthier diet.

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