Winter conjures up images of thick soups and stews, steaming hot coco, Christmas feasts and scarves, no? Though very cozy, it is especially during the colder months our bodies could use some extra nutrients and easy-to-digest meals so our immune systems can work efficiently.
When I first started dabbling with raw foods and instantly fell in love with the great food and improved health, I was already worrying about the upcoming winter. A bit dramatic? Maybe. But I know how I always struggle with winter (I am renown for feeling cold even during the summer months, let alone winter!) and I desperately wanted to keep eating a high raw diet. Funnily enough now that winter’s here I do not find it much of a struggle, better yet, not at all.
Though it does seem to come (relatively) easy for me, I do have a bunch of RAWsome tips I’d like to share with you that could help you eat a bunch of fresh, alive, raw foods this winter and loving it!
1. Listen to Your Intuition
Same old same old, eh? It’s not a cliché, it’s only the best advice I can give you. I strongly believe that even in winter, nay, especially in winter, we need a lot of fresh raw foods to counteract some of the more dense, heavy stuff we eat (split pea soup ‘nyone?) and to pack as much as possible easy-to-digest nutrition into some of our meals as we can to stay strong and healthy. But alas, that does not necessarily mean you have to eat 100% raw. In fact, no matter how much I believe in the power of raw foods, I think during winter it’s more about incorporating raw foods for balance than about eating high raw or all raw. It is normal, natural even, to eat more cooked, heavier, denser foods when it’s chilly outside. But for the love of raw brownies, balance it out with lighter, more nutritious foods and don’t eat heavy meals 3 times a day.
I still find myself naturally craving the same foods as I did during summer (too bad there’s not tons of fresh fruit around anymore!) and actually haven’t found my diet changing all that much. Though it is good to consider here I was raw for many months before winter, but also that some months is still a relatively short amount of time and this is my first winter raw. How long have you been eating raw or more raw? What do you find yourself craving naturally? If you find you crave more cooked meals, don’t get upset over this. Instead, accept that it is a completely natural thing, and that it may take some years before your body is comfortable enough eating more raw foods when it cools down. Instead of getting frustrated with your body/yourself, balance your cooked meals with some juices and lighter meals and adding salads to every cooked meal.
Eating raw is so much more than just eating uncooked foods. It’s a lifestyle, and it’s about nourishing your body on a deep and profound level. Listen to the level of fresh, raw foods your body prefers this winter instead of forcing anything. That’s not what raw foods is about!
2. Reality Check
I have corrected a lot of people over the years who thought they could/should eat a lot of extra food during the winter because they ‘burn more calories’ (and inevitably gain weight). Ummm yeah. Maybe if you work outside or cycle 60 minutes to and from work every day. Otherwise, not so much. How much time do you really spend outside in the cold? And how much time do you spend inside your house, the office, school, the car, public transport, where you wear warm clothes and the heating is on? Really, most of us do not expand that much extra energy (calories) during winter as opposed to summer. In fact, it is much more likely we expand less energy during winter because we are outside less and less active!
My point here is, most people face the actual cold only a few brief moments a day. Does that really warrant for a big increase in the amount of food and the amount of cooked as opposed to raw food you need? Nope.
3. Other Ways To Stay Warm
Obviously the temperatures are dropping, even inside the house, but food is not the only way to stay warm (really!). It might sound like a no brainer but if you put on extra warm socks and/or turn up the radiator a bit higher, drinking that juice or eating that salad doesn’t seem like such a challenge. Also, drink plenty of hot tea (fresh ginger tea is especially warming) and warm lemon water between meals.
Another great way to revv up your metabolism and stay warmer is exercise. Anything that raises your heart rate. You will not only be warmer during and right after, but your internal heat will stay a but elevated throughout the day. Score!
4. Warm it Up!
Raw food =/= ice cold food yo. Raw foods can be warmed without losing their nutritional benefits. Make your chocolate or cinnamon smoothie with warm water or warm over the stove (on very low heat, continuously stirring, use your finger to measure the heat) so it’s more like a warm comfort drink. Drink smoothies and juices at room temperature. Get your produce out of the fridge an hour or so before eating them. Add cooked (and slightly cooled down) quinoa or spelt pasta to your raw salad and voila, a warm salad. Take small sips of fresh, warm ginger tea with your meals.
5. Spice it Up!
You don’t need a stove to add fiyahhh to your meals. A lot of spices are very warming and add health benefits at the same time, something which can not be said for cooking food. Warming spices: cayenne, chili, curry, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, garlic, wasabi/horseradish, cumin.
6. Add Nuts & Proteins
Eat more nuts and proteins. Both are hard to digest, protein in particular, and will thus generate more heat in your body in the digestion process and speed up your metabolism. This is exactly why I advocate eating less nuts and little protein but during winter, if you feel you need it, they can be beneficial in warming you up from the inside out.
7. Eat What Nature Offers
I think eating locally and seasonally is just as important as eating raw. During the winter, most exotic fruits vanish and make place for sturdy greens, root veggies, winter squash (pumpkin!!!!!!!!!!!!) and only a handful of fruits like apples, pears and bananas. Don’t overrule this natural shift and go bankrupt over buying out-of-season produce. Instead, embrace this change and the new foodie goodies. During winter it is perfectly fine to eat (way) less fruit than in the summer, and a smaller variety to boot. Rather eat more other stuff (greens, veggies, nuts, cooked or sprouted grains) than eat strawberries shipped in from half-way around the world.
All of this more winter-y produce is suitable for eating raw, even potatoes, just learn how to prepare them (and, more importantly, see if your body likes them raw…). I, for one, love raw squash (like pumpkin or butternut). You could make raw sauces and smoothies with it. Try and finely grate sweet potato and add to your salad. Juice and blend sturdy greens like kale.
8. Raw ‘ Cooked’ Food with the D
If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a dehydrator, winter is the best time to do so. With a D, you can make simple or gourmet raw dishes that mimic cooked foods. You can also use the D to warm up raw meals, like soups. And last but not least you can use it to make heavier raw foods like wraps, pizzas and energy bars.
How about you, are you still eating salads? Drinking juices and smoothies? Is your diet a good balance of raw and cooked?