A lot of people who “go raw” start out with loads of enthusiasm. They may vow to be 100% raw straight out of the gate, or to never touch a morsel of cooked food for the rest of their lives. How often do they succeed? Almost never.
Let’s face it: most restaurants are not great at providing vegan (let alone raw) options on their menus. However, when armed with the killer combination of flexibility and creativity, no restaurant meal can derail your healthy lifestyle. Here’s how to cheat on your raw food diet–sans guilt–when dining out.
Dietary flexibility delivers the psychological benefit of choice. Choice is powerful. The option of being able to eat cooked food—whether or not you actually choose to—more than outweighs the slight physical benefit you may receive if you decided to follow a strict raw-vegan diet. And for most people, simply making room for that option usually makes them less likely to stray from their healthy diet, because nothing is designated a “forbidden” food.
Toe the Line Between Raw and Cooked
Sure, there’s always the salad option. But if you want something heartier, warmer, or just different, try combining cooked and raw foods in your restaurant meals. Need a few ideas to get started?
At a Mexican restaurant, get beans and rice topped with salsa and crunchy raw veggies, or try fresh vegetables and guacamole wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla, or over a bed of cooked grains or lentils. Having Mediterranean? Hummus and raw veggies are another healthy option. At an Italian restaurant, order pasta primavera tossed with olive oil and crushed fresh tomatoes. If the menu lists steamed vegetables, request them raw. Love Japanese? Sushi is a perfect fusion of raw and cooked ingredients. And no matter what type of cuisine is on the menu, many restaurants will happily serve fresh fruit for dessert if you just ask for it!
Although not every restaurant will be able (or willing) to accommodate a request for a raw meal, it’s always worth a shot to try. With a simple request or two, you can keep on track without depriving yourself of the pleasurable experience of dining out. If you do end up at a restaurant that has nothing but cooked options, don’t panic. Almost every menu still offers plenty of healthy vegan choices—even if they’re not listed. How’s that? Check out How To Eat Vegan When It’s Not On The Menu.
In the end, particularly if you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to take baby steps toward eating raw, or even vegan. As long as you’re drifting in the right direction, you’re doing just fine. Remember, since bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, your health forecast will keep looking better and better every day you stay on that path.
Editor’s Note: Raw foodist, vegans, dieters and eaters of all persuasians, we want to know: how do you stay on track when you eat out?
Amber Shea Crawley, creator and author of the popular food blog Chef Amber Shea, is a classically trained chef, linguist, and writer in Kansas City, Missouri. Specializing in healthful, plant-rich food, she is the author of the cookbooks Practically Raw and Practically Raw Desserts as well as the ebook The REAL FOOD Cleanse. Amber blogs at www.chefambershea.com and can also be found on Facebook and Twitter (@ChefAmberShea).