Healthy Body  >  How to Make Raw Foods Part of the Way You Eat {Recipe + Giveaway}

How to Make Raw Foods Part of the Way You Eat {Recipe + Giveaway}

Zucchini Pasta with Mango

[caption id="attachment_3139" align="alignright" width="320"]Choosing Raw Cover by Jeff Skeirik[/caption]

Most of the time when we think about a raw food diet, or hear about someone going “mostly raw”, we imagine complex recipes that involve soaking, sprouting and dehydrating.  Pretty extreme and time consuming.

Enter Gena Hamshaw of the popular plant-based food blog, Choosing Raw, a certified nutritionist with a captivating writing style that leaves you feeling motivated and inspired to run straight into the kitchen to whip up her ridiculously healthy and flavorful dishes.

I instantly became a fan and avid reader of Choosing Raw because of Gena’s non-dogmatic and welcoming approach. Gena encourages people to make raw vegan food a part of the way you eat, moving at a pace that feels realistic, sustainable AND enjoyable.

After getting to know Gena personally and continually soaking in her words of wisdom along with enjoying her innovative recipes, I couldn't wait to get my hands on her newly released cookbook, also called, Choosing Raw. With 125 vegan dishes (many gluten-free), Gena shows you exactly how to integrate more plant-based foods into your diet with the option of  following a flexible 21-day meal plan.

To give you a taste of Choosing Raw, I’ve included one of my favorite recipes (so far) below. Like all of her creations, it’s colorful, full of nutrients and tastes incredible… typical Gena style.

But first, I’m excited to share an inspiring Q & A I had with Gena about her eating philosophy and overall mission behind Choosing Raw, the blog, and also the new book.

Enjoy, and be sure to keep reading to the end of this post so you can enter to win a copy of the Choosing Raw cookbook!

I love that you advocate adding in healthy foods instead of just removing the ones that are less healthful. Can you share how that ties into the meaning and philosophy behind Choosing Raw, in both your blog and now in the book?

Sure—I think the “add first, subtract later” mentality jives quite nicely with my overall approach. When people read the title of my blog, Choosing Raw, they often think that I mean “choosing a 100% raw lifestyle.” I don’t at all. What I mean to suggest is that you can make conscious, individualized choices about how to add raw foods to your life. It is and should be a choice, rather than something you feel pressured to do for the sake of achieving “perfect” health (as if there is such a thing).

Dietary transition is difficult, for all of us. I believe that it’s crucial to move slowly, focus on what you’re gaining (new ingredients, new recipes, a new sense of personal vitality), rather than what you’re eliminating, and also to recognize that you have free will throughout. No one’s forcing you to make changes, and you can move at a pace that works for you.

Why do you think that Choosing Raw would be useful to someone who is not raw or vegan?

While I did hope to inspire folks who might be skeptical about veganism to consider the lifestyle (both ethically and from a nutrition standpoint), I really hope that this book will speak to everyone, regardless of what or how they eat. I don’t like to think about “vegan food” as if it’s some exotic category; I believe that vegan food is good food, period, that simply doesn’t happen to involve animal products. If you pick my book up and feel inspired to experiment with a vegan or vegetarian diet, that’s fabulous. But if you simply want to get familiar with vegetarian cooking, to try meatless Mondays, or to add more plants into your diet, then that’s also great. My ultimate goal is to inspire folks to enjoy healthful, creative, plant-based fare—some of the time, all of the time, or once in a while!

So many people think that they don't have time to eat healthy or prepare healthy foods. Since you’re a busy woman with a hectic schedule, can you offer some advice on how you manage to eat healthy in spite of all the demands in your life?

Sure! This topic—making healthy food doable on a tight schedule—is near and dear to me. In the last three years I was juggling my blog with a full time career as a pre-med student, a hospital volunteer, and I was writing my book. It was tough. My tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to embrace convenience foods. We all love the “eat real food” philosophy, but the truth is that foods like snack bars, frozen vegan grain+bean burgers, pre-cooked legumes, and other easily accessible grocery store foods exist for a reason. They help us stay healthy when we simply don’t have the time to DIY. Expecting to make everything from scratch when you’re struggling with a hectic schedule is a recipe for failure—or at least, for getting seriously overwhelmed.
  2. Make easy recipes. I love a gourmet entrée as much as the next gal, but the foods I eat most often are simple. They feature short ingredient lists and easy instructions. I’d rather eat simple, fresh foods that can actually fit into my busy life than constantly attempt to make complicated meals that are simply beyond the scope of what’s possible for me.
  3. A little planning goes along way. We all live in the real world, and it may not be possible for you to map out an entire week of meal plans or recipes each and every weekend. But try to map out two or three recipes that you intend to make over the course of the week, as well as a few staples (salad dressings, hummus, cooked grains and legumes). Purchase groceries according to what you’ve planned, and then use leftovers for lunches.

Your book is filled with 125 mouthwatering recipes. How do you recommend getting started so that making raw foods a part of the way we eat can feel natural easy, and sustainable?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about eating raw food is that you have to “go raw”—either immediately or eventually. Not true. Cooked food isn’t superior to raw, and one doesn’t have to plan on transitioning to a raw diet as a means of living healthfully. My whole point with the book was to suggest that raw foods have a lot of healthful properties—they’re hydrating, they’re often higher in micronutrients, and they’re wholesome—and that you can boost your diet simply by eating more of them, whether that means a smoothie once a day or a salad at lunch.

So: I would say that folks should get started with a single recipe. Maybe one becomes two, and two becomes three. Maybe this turns into a weekly plant-based ritual. See where the journey takes you, and have fun.

Speaking of starting with just one dish, why not try out this scrumptious & innovative zucchini pasta recipe from the cookbook. I can tell you firsthand that it's easy to prepare and deeeelicious!

[caption id="attachment_3138" align="alignright" width="320"]Zucchini Pasta with Mango Photo by Hannah Kaminsky[/caption]

Zucchini Pasta with Mango, Avocado, and Black Bean Salsa

Makes 4 Servings

2 ripe Haas avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 3⁄4-inch cubes 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice 2 ripe Ataulfo mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more as garnish ½ teaspoon sea salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon agave nectar or pure maple syrup 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 ½ cups cooked black beans, or 1 [14-ounce] can 4 medium zucchini, spiralized

1. Toss all the ingredients except for the zucchini in a mixing bowl. Combine well. 2. Divide the zucchini onto four plates. Top each with a quarter of the mango mixture. Sprinkle with extra cilantro, and serve.

To store, keep the zucchini pasta and the mango mixture separate. Both will keep, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, for 2 days.

From Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014.

Now it’s your turn: Share one way you’re going to make raw foods a part of the way you eat. We’re picking one lucky person to win a copy of Choosing Raw!

*UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who submitted comments for the giveaway.  We randomly selected Mamaste to receive a copy of Choosing Raw. 


  • Carol Herndon says:

    Thanks for this recipe. The spiralizer is a fun kitchen toy. Thanks for reminding me to play with it some more.

    A raw green smoothie (kale, spinach, swiss chard, parsley, cucumber, fruit etc) is a daily treat in our house. Our 3 year old granddaughter helped me this week by licking the pusher from my Vitamix just after making the smoothie, and exclaiming “This is AmAAAzing!” I served the smoothies to my guests in shot glasses, much to everyone’s delight. I aim to serve some sort of raw salad with every dinner.

    My smoothie, fortified with tofu or raw plant protein, holds me for 5 to 6 hours, with ltos of energy.

    • Carol! So many awesome parts to your comment, but I am still imaging your 3-year-old granddaughter enjoying the green smoothie. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.

  • Janice says:

    I made zucchini “pasta” last night!! I wish I’d seen this recipe beforehand, but I’ll definitely try it next time. Love the mango, avocado, black bean salsa idea!

    I’m trying very hard to add more veggies into my diet. Often just want a big salad for dinner, especially in the heat of summer. I think the challenge of a raw diet would be in wintertime.

    • Hey Janice,
      Nice to hear that you have jumped on the zucchini pasta bandwagon. Definitely try this recipe. It’s great!
      I agree that it is much more challenging to eat as many raw foods in the winter. I usually make a salad that has a combination of roasted veggies, especially the root veggies, to add in so that it feels more warming and hearty. Also, I use warming spices like ginger and turmeric into my smoothies.
      Thanks for sharing!

  • Meredith says:

    I love making gazpacho and tomato salads in the summer! Thank you for sharing this awesome-looking recipe and cookbook. Can’t wait to try the zucchini pasta- I will likely shave into ribbons, though, since I don’t know how to get the beautiful spirals! And the last thing my kitchen needs is another gadget…. Thank you, ladies xoxo

    • Meredith! Great point that you can make the pasta into ribbons. You don’t NEED to buy another gadget to make zucchini pasta. Thanks for the reminder to make some more gazpacho. Sounds like you have a great raw repertoire in place. xo

  • Adrienne says:

    I will be making and eating more salads as we have a garden this year!

  • Brenda says:

    As I travel through Italy this July, I’ve been looking for fruits and salads from the local markets. It’s the best way to be healthy and “beat” the heat.

  • Rebecca says:

    For breakfast I will be making your famous chia seed pudding! I love to garnish it with shredded coconut, sliced almonds, cacao nibs, and goji berries 🙂 Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to try some of Gena’s recipes.

  • Anne Omland says:

    I love this Q & A and I can’t wait to check out her website! I began eating vegan 2 days a week and it’s much easier than I thought it would be once I got used to it. I agree with Gena’s philosophy on adding in more veggies or raw food, etc. In order to avoid eating what’s easy, I love finding new recipes to try. This one made my mouth water so I’ll be trying it soon! Thanks for sharing!

    • Anne,
      I love that you are able to become curious and try a different way of eating without falling into that all or nothing approach. I hope that you can check out Gena’s site and book for more vegan recipe ideas for your two days a week… or anytime. Enjoy the zucchini pasta!

  • I’d love to include veggies in every meal I eat. That’s definitely a goal of mine! 🙂

  • Michelle Marcinowski says:

    Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to try out this recipe tonight! My hubby and I like to start every morning before work with a quick and easy mean green juice. It includes, kale, cucumber, avocado, pear and chia seeds with ice and water. It helps us kick start our morning and reminds us to continue eating healthy throughout the rest of the day.

    • Michelle,
      I love that you and your hubby are starting the day out right together. I agree with you that the first meal of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.

  • Mamaste says:

    I just harvested the world’s biggest zucchini! 21 inches long and 5 pounds! I have to personally thank you & Gena for posting such a scrumptious recipe. And it looks so simple! I think I just might have to incorporate more “rawness” into my diet, if it really is THAT easy!
    Zucchini Pasta Party at Mamaste’s!

    • I am RSVPing yes to the Zucchini Pasta Party at your house… just to see the 5 pound zucchini! I’m happy to know that you are incorporating more “rawness” into your diet. Enjoy your homegrown veggies!

  • I love Gena’s points about starting slowly – I have been eating vegan for almost 2 years, but find when I cook for my family I have to be more forgiving. The biggest thing for us has been having 1 green smoothie a day. Love them!! Can’t wait to try this zucchini recipe. I think it will be a family favorite (mango is always a BIG hit!).

  • Simona says:

    I love dehydrated veggies!

  • Saman says:

    This is such a comfortable approach to changing one’s diet – adding on and trying new things. It is such a change from the “cut out” and “stay away from” that is 99% of the changes encouraged out there. I have a spiralizer but I need to dust it off and can’t wait to try this recipe. I also just started my clinical rotations, and taking raw snacks to the hospital everyday is my plan to keep my energy levels high while also feeling full and satisfied. I find having a large cooked lunch gets me feeling really heavy and tired afterwards, I can’t wait to get some raw snacks made (like trail mixes, granola bars, anything avocado, and even her raw cashew yogurt! The book looks awesome! Congrats!

    • Saman, Congratulations on starting your new rotation! You will definitely feel more energized and fueled for your long hours with raw snacks. Now, go dust off that spiralizer. It makes zucchini pasta so easy!

  • Miet says:

    It’s been so much easier to have some raw food each day since we started growing our own salad greens this spring. Just step outside and go pick some!

  • Amber says:

    I’ve started adding a lot of raw veggies to my diet, and a lot of green smoothies! =] Raw food has always intimidated me a bit, but after reading so many reviews, I feel like Gena’s book has taken the “intimidation” out of it. :]

    • Amber, Yes, Gena’s book does break it down and is very welcoming for everyone, no matter what stage you are in. I hope you find the book as useful and delicious as I do:).

  • Lauren says:

    I always have a smoothie or chia bowl for breakfast and salad for lunch. It would be great to get some inspiration for raw dinners too!

    • Lauren,
      Try this zucchini paste for dinner! I make sure to always serve a simple salad, no matter what we are eating so that we get those live enzymes at dinner, too. Arugula is my personal fave. Hope this helps.

  • Becca F says:

    I’m buying a spiralizer so that I can make zucchini noodles with the zucchini that should be coming into my garden soon!

  • Christina says:

    I am also making gazpacho with all the tomatoes and fruits I find at the farmers markets, and am trying to start soaking/sprouting my grains, as well.

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