There’s something special about the bite of fresh, cold air as it reaches your lungs, icicles hanging from the boughs of coniferous trees and the crunch of frost-covered ground under your feet. There’s no doubt about it, winter in the Northern Hemisphere is a magical time of the year.
Winter is a time for curling up by a wood stove with a blanket, hot drink and good book. It’s the time of the year when diets and exercise take a back seat to celebrations that focus instead on food indulgence. Thoughts of fresh fruits and vegetables are long forgotten in favour of eating warm, comforting foods like bread, pasta, stews and chocolate.
Now, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with a little food indulgence. After all, eating an abundance of delicious foods without a thought given to calories or macronutrient ratios is what a raw food lifestyle is all about. But there’s a key difference between indulging in winter comfort foods versus fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The difference is how you’re going to feel once you’ve finished eating. I believe it’s a given that eating a diet comprising fresh, whole foods is going to help you feel healthier all around, but then comes the important question of whether it’s sustainable or even possible to eat this way during the winter season.
There’s a misconception lurking within the health-minded community that living a raw food lifestyle is best confined to the summer months when fresh produce abounds. But is it also possible to eat an all-raw diet when snow covers the ground and the last item in your garden is wilted, half-frozen kale? I believe that not only is it possible but that it can also be healthful, delicious and comforting.
I’m not going to claim that it’s easy or effortless to live a raw food lifestyle in the winter. It comes with its own set of challenges, and you’ll likely require a strong desire to live healthfully to survive the plethora of unhealthful food choices available at holiday celebrations.
There are a few key tips, though, that I’ve found to be incredibly helpful over my years of living a raw food lifestyle in the harsh Canadian winters. It’s my hope that they’ll help you along your raw food journey.
1. Your mindset and attitude will dictate your success with living a raw food lifestyle, no matter the season. The way I see it, there’s two avenues of thought that you can use when thinking of eating raw during the winter. The first is to place your focus on the lack of quality food and the frigid temperatures outside, wishing for summer to arrive sooner rather than later. The second is to feel grateful for the abundance of produce that we have access to, even when we cannot grow it ourselves due to the cold. Ultimately, focusing on gratitude instead of a lack mentality is going to help you feel more optimistic and enthusiastic about eating healthful.
2. Learning to become creative with your raw food winter staples will help you feel more satiated and excited about your raw food meals. If, like me, you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re going to be well acquainted with bananas, dates, oranges, apples, pears and persimmons. Make friends with these fruits. Come to embrace them. Try new recipes using these fruits like smoothies, raw pies, fruit salads or fruit-based “ice cream.” Sometimes, all that’s needed to add more variety to your winter staples is blending, chopping or combining your foods differently.
3. Spending more time outdoors, regardless of the weather, will increase your happiness and help you feel warm and comforted. The truth is that it’s easier to bask in hibernation mode than to brave the outdoors when it’s raining or snowing. Spending time outside in nature is well worth the effort, though. Snuggle up inside a warm coat and go snow shoeing, skiing or simply walk through a forest or park trail. The outdoor activity will increase your blood circulation and serotonin levels in your brain. You’ll be happier—and all the warmer—for it.
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4. The fresh produce available during the winter will be more limited and of a lesser quality than the fruits and vegetables available during the summer season. Accepting this fact is the first step toward learning to appreciate the abundance of food that we do have access to over the winter. Because the availability and quality can be so low, it’s essential to shop around at different grocery stores for the best price and brands of fruits and vegetables. Don’t be afraid to approach produce managers to ask questions about quality or discounted bulk foods.
All in all, living a raw food lifestyle during the winter can be as easy or difficult as you choose to make it. Be sure to take time out to enjoy and appreciate the bounty of beautiful winter fruits available to us for only a few months of each year.