Tips For Incorporating Raw Food When Your Family Is Not 100% Raw
You want to eat more raw food. You want your partner and your kids to start eating it too, but you’re struggling to convince them of the deliciousness of raw food, and let’s face it – they couldn’t give two hoots about the benefits. You’ve tried to ramp up the raw component in your diet and theirs, but it’s such a struggle. You’re on the verge of putting the whole raw thing into the “too hard” basket.
Don’t give up! One of my favourite things about you guys is that you get it – you get that raw food does not have to be an all-encompassing, rule-abiding, politically contentious stressful endeavour. You’re happy to incorporate raw food into your family’s lifestyle without worrying about what the Raw Police might say about your (gasp) non-raw choices.
So here are some clever ways to incorporate raw food into your family’s diet when they may be a little resistant to raw. I’d love to hear your feedback on what works for you, and any new and inspiring ideas you have to ramp up the raw in your household!
Raw vegetable noodles are the ultimate weapon in ramping up the raw. Just one simple spiraliser or julienne tool can transform family meals from stock-standard stodge to rockstar raw, just by replacing grain or egg-based noodles with fresh raw vegetables. Rather than eating bowel-blocking processed noodles, they’ll be eating highly nutritious veggies.
Plus, I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love watching bouncy veggie noodles springing out of a spiraliser, and once you make food fun for kids, the eating bit is effortless. This is a great way to get them eating plain raw vegetables – a plate of colourful spirals is so much more appetising than a plain old carrot!
Here are some ways to swap your noodles for raw veg:
- Rice paper rolls and seaweed wraps – Little rolls are a great snack for kids, so rather than fill them with the usual noodles or rice, use a mix of thin zucchini and carrot noodles. Start with just a small amount and pad out the rest of the filling with lettuce, tofu, marinated mushrooms, avocado or whatever your kids enjoy. Thin noodles are best here so they can bend and roll easily.
- Pasta – Make your usual spaghetti dish, but replace half the pasta noodles with raw carrot, zucchini or beetroot noodles. Mix it all together so that the pasta and sauce gently warm the veggie noodles. Beetroot is a fun option for this one because the vibrant colour blends well with tomato-based sauces.
- Noodle soup – On cold winter’s nights your family might love a spicy Asian-inspired soup. Those thick, soft rice or wheat noodles are a big part of the slurpable comfort, and you think you’ll be hard-pressed to change that. Try thick spirals of potato or sweet potato, but do actually soften them in the hot soup before serving (you’re not going to win anyone over with raw potato). Potato is a good option if you’re planning to cook your veg noodles because it will hold its noodle shape rather than disintegrate. Although it won’t be raw, it’s a nice way to transition to vegetable noodles so that you can start using truly raw veg noodles down the track.
There are literally hundreds of raw pizza recipes out there, but how many of them actually taste like or resemble pizza? Kids aren’t easily fooled into liking a food. If you call it pizza but it tastes and looks nothing like what they know as pizza, chances are they will sulk, throw a tantrum and demand home delivery.
If you’re happy to keep “normal” pizza in your food repertoire, it can be an excellent way to ramp up the raw. Ditch the takeaway and make your own, for starters. If you can make the dough from scratch, great – otherwise choose a relatively healthy option like wholemeal lebanese bread or Mountain Bread as a base.
The sauce is your first port of call for getting sneaky with raw. Before adding your toppings, blend up a fresh, nutritious, simple sauce using a combo of fresh raw ingredients:
Season with a little salt and pepper. Blend to a paste or thick sauce and spread on your pizza base. It’s going in the oven so of course it won’t be raw, but you’re starting with a fresh raw blend, not something heated or overly processed.
Once you’ve added a little bit of cheese (be sparing with dairy), add just a couple of toppings before putting into the oven. Think chopped olives, thinly sliced red onion and grilled eggplant.
Once cooked, take it out of the oven and then ramp up the raw! While it’s still piping hot, top with loads of fresh raw ingredients that will soften a little with the heat of the cheese. Slice your veggies very thinly so that they do warm through. These options are great for topping a pizza:
- sliced tomato (any type)
- extra fresh basil and parsley
- rocket or spinach leaves.
You can then drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
When you take this middle-path approach with pizza, the result is more like a salad sandwich than junk or fast food.
Sauces and condiments
Sauces, condiments, dressings and dips hold so much opportunity for ramping up the raw in your diet. If it’s a topping you’d normally have hot, you can gently warm your raw version. Otherwise if it’s a salad dressing or sauce, you can create a totally raw, nutrient-dense blend of pure goodness that will make a convincing stand-in for your old favourite while adding an insane hit of nutrition that you and your family would otherwise be missing.
Here are some smart swaps:
- Swap pasta sauce for a raw tomato-based blend (the pizza sauce above works well). Either warm gently before pouring over your pasta, or add raw and let the pasta heat it through.
- Make a pesto minus the parmesan and use untoasted pine nuts (or other seed or nut).
- Blend your favourite fresh herbs with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and a little water for a quick salsa verde. This is great as a salad dressing too.
- Guacamole is an eternal favourite raw recipe and can be used as a dip, a puree, or thinned out with olive oil as a creamy green dressing. Simply mash or blend avocado with garlic, lime juice, fresh chilli, coriander leaves and stems and a dash of salt.
- Stir-fry some vegetables with a dash of tamari, remove from the heat and while still hot add a dressing made of blended raw capsicum, fresh ginger, lime juice, fresh chilli, coriander leaves and lemongrass, thinned out with a little water. Top with sesame seeds.
Raw food positively wins the dessert category. There are so many raw dessert recipes out there that the best step forward is to just leap in and start experimenting.
Because desserts are often laden with sugar, gluten, dairy and additives, it makes sense to start with sweet treats when slowly incorporating more raw food. You might want to make a deal with your family – their most-loved meals can stay as is, but all desserts will now be raw. (Or just go ahead and make the swap without telling them. You’ll have less resistance and chances are they won’t even notice!)
The best desserts to convince kids to eat more raw are the ones that they can help you make or can make themselves. Since most raw recipes are set in the fridge or freezer, there’s no messing around with ovens and temperatures so kids often find them nice and easy.
Any kind of bliss ball is a winner, partly because you can adapt the recipe according to what’s in the pantry, but mostly because kids love getting their hands dirty and rolling the balls.
Recipes that don’t involve soaking overnight also have the advantage of more instant gratification for little kids, though if your kids are a bit older they might quite enjoy a pre-planned project. Raw cheesecakes for instance usually involve blending pre-soaked nuts, but if you throw some nuts in a bowl then cover with water the night before, you’ll have done half the work! Cheesecakes are one of those things that work really well in the raw versions because they really do have a similar texture and mouth-feel to the “real” thing, so kids won’t feel like they are being cheated.
And making raw chocolate from scratch is a pure delight for kids. Take them shopping and let them choose their own chocolate moulds for the ultimate chocky adventure. Kids who are used to eating store-bought chocolate are amazed that it can be made at home – like magic! The great news is that they’ll be eating treats that are actually quite nutritious, unlike the rubbish confectionery sold in shops. Starting kids out with fun stuff like chocolate is a great way to introduce the concept of raw food, get them talking about it and interested in it. From there, they’ll be much more receptive when you start talking veggies!
Ramping up the raw is all about getting creative. Find ways to make family mealtimes as familiar as possible while introducing tiny changes. Bit by bit, you’ll revolutionise your family’s eating habits and their health, and you’ll be well on the way to making raw food a natural part of your everyday life.