Sometimes, I like to mix things up in my life by giving myself little challenges, and recently I jumped into the raw vegan lifestyle for a month.
Since turning vegetarian when I was 13, I’ve been vegan, lacto vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, and I even went macrobiotic vegetarian for about a year in university (everything tasted like seaweed). Recently, I decided to trial 30 days raw vegan, to see if it would help the itchy feeling I had on my forearms, and also because I like a challenge. Here’s what I learned.
What I learned after 30 days raw vegan… almost!
1) There are lots of things you can’t eat on a raw vegan diet (and some may surprise you!)
There are different levels of a raw vegan lifestyle that people adhere to. Essentially, being raw vegan means that you can’t eat any animal products or foods of animal origin and nothing that has been cooked over 48 °C; not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Largely, people who live like this believe that essential enzymes are lost during the cooking process. Some people think it’s okay to eat rice paper, some believe that toasted nori is fine, and honestly, it’s personal preference, but I wanted to be as much of a purist as possible.
When I went into this, I had largely done my research – I knew that dehydration and freezing were okay, but there were still things I had completely forgotten about. Coffee and tea for example (which were surprisingly easy to ditch for a month) and also condiments like soy sauce. Luckily wine is considered a raw food.
Pro tip: Even some cold-pressed oils have actually been heated at some point, so if you want to use oils, stick to those clearly marked as suitable for raw vegans, or just use avocados.
2) Courgettes are gods in the raw vegan domain
The green, heavenly courgette, or zucchini if you’re that way inclined, is undoubtedly the star of the raw vegan lifestyle. Spiralise them for a delicious pasta substitute or blend them up with garlic, sesame seeds, coriander, lemon and a splash of water for a dreamy and fluffy courgette hummus (chickpeas are yet another thing that you can’t eat on a raw vegan diet, unless they’re sprouted.) They even play a large part in many raw vegan desserts, so I definitely recommend stocking up on these babies.
Pro tip: A spiraliser is a solid investment if you are trying 30 days raw vegan. You’ll want to go for the small handheld variety for a Hong Kong kitchen as it takes up way less space than those big ol’ crank versions.
3) You’d better be flossing to live like this full-time
After 30 days raw vegan, I was cranky, and not just because I hadn’t eaten anything warm for a month (disclaimer: this is a lie; see point seven), but because I was well out of cash. Despite stocking up on cheap fruit and veggies, sans single-use plastic, at the wet markets every weekend, if you want to dabble in the world of raw food extras, it’s gonna cost you. A week into my experiment, I ordered some bits and pieces on iHerb (five things for around $500!), and they were gone in about a week. Also, pounds and pounds or raw cashews don’t come cheap, friends, and don’t even get me started on kitchen equipment…
Pro tip: While I didn’t invest in one myself (and made do with a pretty useless handheld contraption for the month), if you’re living raw vegan full-time, you’ll definitely want to invest in a VitaMix Blender, the ultimate piece of kitchen equipment. It will set you back a cool $6000, but totally worth it for hassle free concoctions.
4) Eating out is a bitch
Say goodbye to social gatherings over food, unless it’s a potluck. While finding raw vegan items on the menu may be easy in L.A., London or Toronto, raw vegan restaurants in Hong Kong are few and far between. I’m not going to lie, there was a lot of garden salad ordering during this month #boring
Pro tip: Prior planning prevents poor performance. The easiest way to success is to prep all your meals in the morning so you have lunch and something to come home to for dinner, even when you just want to crawl into bed and watch trashy TV shows.
5) Cook time is minimal (because there’s no cooking)
Most recipes that are raw vegan can be made pretty quickly, as you can’t warm anything up – yay! So it’s pretty much a chop, blend, roll, spiralise, freeze situation, which I can fully get behind. These blueberry chia pots are a prime example of delicious simplicity.
Pro tip: Coconut aminos are a great investment if you’re trying a raw vegan lifestyle. It tastes like a sweeter version of soy sauce, and is great addition to dressings and as a dipping sauce for raw vegan sushi made with cauliflower rice – yum!
6) We rely too much on convenience
As someone who lives a largely sustainable lifestyle and who really does care about our planet, 30 days raw vegan drilled home even further just how much we rely on convenience. From pineapple cut up into little plastic pots – yes, I’m looking at you Marks & Spencer, to pre-made dressings that line the shelves of the supermarkets, we’ve become a race who chooses ease over effort. I know this is an oxymoron considering my next statement, but surely we can find a middle ground?
Pro tip: By blending 2 red peppers, an avocado, a clove of garlic lemon juice, salt and enough water for your desired consistency, you have a lovely (and easy!) dressing for salads and zoodles. And, no plastic waste!
7) It’s hard!
To be completely honest, I failed at living this lifestyle for a full month. The first time was on the night Anthony Bourdain died. Some friends and I had indulged in a few too many raw vegan wines at the bar, and on the way home I went to McDonald’s for some very un-raw vegan french fries. Whoops. Though I got back on the wagon the next day, a few weeks later, I completely forgot that I was meant to be a cooking a raw vegan three-course dinner for the person who sleeps in my bed, as part of our anniversary celebration. Though I’d prepped two courses, I was running late at work and picked up some vegan dumplings on the way home, that obviously had to be boiled. Whoops again.
Living raw vegan is not easy. I feel like I tried pretty hard, and while I wasn’t largely left hungry and cook time was quick, I did get tired of having to prep every single meal, plus I do love a baked sweet potato. While I understand why people live this lifestyle, for me, it was a bit too extreme. But this experiment taught me some great things, tricks and recipes, and we now have a few raw vegan meals every week. Can’t wait till Macca’s throws a raw vegan Kale wrap on the menu for my late-night munchie fix.
My forearms are still itchy.
Note: The raw vegan lifestyle is not for everyone, so be sure to consult a physician before trialling.