Expert Advice on Starting a Raw Food Diet

Beth Asaff
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo
Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo

Getting started on a raw food diet can be daunting. With a little good advice, however, getting started may be easier than you ever imagined possible.

Expert Advice and Tips

While many people understand the benefits of a raw food diet and may be attracted to the idea of it, they may lack the right knowledge, tips and skills to get started. These six expert tips will help get you started no time.

Begin Gradually

One of the biggest downfalls for people who want to try a raw food diet may be jumping in with both feet. Instead, Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo, a Doctor of Chiropractic, nutritionist, health coach and women's fatigue expert recommends, "First, try one new thing and see how you feel. Try to eat only a raw food lunch, such as a big salad. Begin gradually transitioning away from cooked foods, or omit things like diet soft drinks, coffee, colas and processed foods. How do you feel? Keep changing one thing at a time. Take it slowly."

Be Flexible

Committing to a raw food diet doesn't mean that you'll never cook again. Particularly as you are getting started, it's a good idea to stay flexible and include some cooked foods in your diet, provided you are making overall good choices.

According to Dr. Loscalzo, "Don't drive yourself nuts and say you won't cook anything ever again. That creates anxiety. What I see is that people get really excited about the diet and they go to websites, read a book or take a course, they eliminate all cooked foods, but then realize that from a cultural, sociological and psychological standpoint it's really hard to do. Then they go back to fast foods and binging on packages of cookies, feel bad, and go back to raw foods, and then they do a yo-yo thing back and forth."

"It's better to transition slowly and do an 80 percent raw food diet, and eat some cooked foods that are health promoting, like a baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli or kale, etc. If you follow that type of food plan, it leaves room for social events like parties, eating out with friends, or traveling and finding something on the menu in a restaurant that you can eat."

Face Your Food Addictions

Changing to a raw food diet involves more than just overhauling your way of eating; it involves changing your attitude toward food and eating in general. According to Dr. Loscalzo, "Many people haven't faced up to their food addictions and emotional attachments to foods. They start to feel deprived. Then there's the whole social aspect of eating differently from others. What about Thanksgiving at Grandma's house? She makes her special apple pie just for you. How do you tell her that you don't want it?" Take the time to acknowledge these problems as you go, so you can best deal with these hurdles as they appear.

Go Gourmet

Susan Schenk
Susan Schenck

Many people assume that the only things you'll be eating on a raw food diet are carrot sticks and apple slices. This is untrue, but can be an obstacle for many people. Susan Schenck, who has a Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine (MTOM), recommends, "Take time to experiment with gourmet raw recipes, even if it is just guacamole or simple things, especially the first 6 months while you transition. If you eat tasty food, you will realize this is not a diet of deprivation."

Bring Your Own Food

To help avoid awkward social situations where you may find yourself backsliding by eating the food available, consider bringing your own food instead. According to Schenck, "For some people, that 'one bite' can send them sliding into cooked food addiction. For parties, I always eat beforehand and my rule is BYOF (bring your own food). In other words, I bring some raw trail mix or flax crackers just in case I get hungry. If it's a potluck I also bring a great raw dish that everyone will love and I get tons of requests for the recipe."

Educate Yourself

The more information and support you can get, the better your chances of sticking with the diet long term. Schenck recommends, "Read, read, read about raw to keep inspired! People who read are more likely to succeed. Go to raw potlucks or start your own. Get support with online chat groups."

Loscalzo adds, "Look for support too. Find a raw food group near you or online. Most of all though, have fun. If it's not fun, you won't stick with it!"

Cautions

Safety Concerns

Cooking destroys bacteria on foods that can make you sick. According to David Katz, MD, "Cooking is the best and final defense against salmonella, E. coli, and other microscopic nasties that can hitch a ride on our foods."

When attempting a raw food diet, always make sure to wash your food thoroughly, and when possible, purchase your food from a trusted source. This is particularly important if you choose to eat raw milk or eggs.

If you are considering including raw meat in your diet, speak to your physician first. In addition to harboring bacteria found in other foods, raw meat poses special risks. The CDC warns that eating raw or undercooked meat could result in a parasite infection known as trichinellosis. Trichinellosis can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as other complications including death.

Nutritional Considerations

Katz goes on to explain that, "Raw food advocacy ignores the fact that some foods are more nutritious when cooked." This includes foods such as tomatoes and eggs. Before starting a raw food diet, speak to your doctor about making sure you are getting adequate nutrition from your food, both raw and cooked.

Keep in mind that children have different nutritional needs than adults. Do not put a child on a raw food diet without first consulting with your pediatrician.

Eat Raw

Raw foods can help you live a longer, healthier life. Use these tips to get started on your raw food journey and enjoy every moment.

Expert Advice on Starting a Raw Food Diet