6 Simple and Inspiring Raw Swaps

Oftentimes, people hear about raw foods and think, “but it’s so extreme. I could never do that. Where would I even start?”

Very few people go raw overnight: most have long, gradual transitions that begin with a few simple changes. Below you’ll find some easy raw “swaps”—raw for cooked—that can help push you in a raw direction. (And if they don’t, they’re still healthy choices to feel good about.) Enjoy!

● Hemp protein for whey or soy protein

Hemp is a nutritional powerhouse. Hemp oil is a rich source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (aka, the “good” fats). Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. And hemp proteins are similar to proteins found in the human body, which makes them easy to digest and assimilate quickly, so they’re a great alternative to whey and soy proteins, which are often heavily processed. Vegan and raw athletes, take note: they’re terrific for athletic recovery and muscle repair. And don’t let the green color scare you: hemp protein is tasty, and the popular Nutiva brand comes in several flavors.

Best of all (and unlike other protein sources), hemp protein is also rich in fiber, boasting eight natural grams per serving. Drink up!

● Larabars for Lunabars, Clif Bars, Probars, Quaker Bars, etc.

Most popular snack and fitness bars are 100% healthy…right?  Not necessarily. Lunabars and Clif Bars routinely list soy protein isolate (a potentially carcinogenic compound) in their ingredients. Probars list brown rice syrup as their first ingredient, which means that it’s the most plentiful ingredient in the mix. Quaker True Delight bars include corn syrup, fructose, and maltodextrin. And don’t even get me started on protein bars.

Enjoying these products is perfectly OK, once in a while. But wouldn’t you feel a little better eating something that’s totally unprocessed and just as satisfying? Larabars have all the flavor of other snack bars, with wholesome ingredients.


● Almond milk for soy milk

While there’s nothing wrong with soy foods in moderation and in relatively unprocessed forms (such as organic, non-GMO tempeh), soy milk happens to be a more heavily processed variety of soy food, and it irritates many peoples’ digestion. For that reason, it’s good to explore other alternatives.

Instead of soy, try almond or hemp milk. The latter is very high in protein, and both are fantastic, tasty, and easy-to-digest alternatives with your morning meal. If you’re feeling super creative, give my recipe for almond milk a try. It’s delicious!

● Coconut water for Gatorade

The next time you reach for a Gatorade after your workout, ask yourself this question: would I like a little high-fructose corn syrup with my endorphins?

No matter how you slice it, Gatorade is lousy for you. Processed, full of sugar, and a scary color, to boot. Try coconut water instead. Naturally rich in potassium and magnesium, coconut water is nature’s Gatorade (it’s also a miracle worker for fatigue, dehydration, headaches, hangovers, and irregularity). It’s widely available in stores now. If you’re really intrepid, go to your nearest health food store and try purchasing a whole young thai coconut. Many will open it for you on the spot, and you can enjoy the water from the source!


● Collard leaves for wraps

I know, I know. It sounds a little crazy, right? Using collard leaves in place of wraps? Trust me, though, this is a truly delicious way to enjoy your lunch. If you’re not ready for the taste of raw collards, just steam them for a few moments. Trim the bottom of the stem, fill the center of the leaf with veggies, hummus, or guacamole, fold, roll and go!

● Green juice for coffee

Uh oh. I can hear the grumblings of resistance now. Believe me, I get it: back in college, I used to drink five cups of coffee every single day. Coffee is tasty, and it makes you alert, and it smells pretty great (at least I think so). Keep in mind, though, that it’s also highly acidic, and it can be addictive. One or two cups daily is fine, but if you start drinking more, it may affect your energy and immunity.

Do your body a tremendous favor, and try drinking vegetable juice in place of coffee once in a while. Start with something sweet, like carrot, apple, celery, and cucumber. I promise it won’t taste too “veggie-like.” If you like it, try a greener combination, like green apple, celery, cucumber, spinach, and ginger, which is my absolute favorite. You’ll be surprised at how delicious—and addictive—juice can be! If you live in any urban area, you should be able to find a juice bar near you with a simple Google search. No, your green juice needn’t come first thing in the morning: I typically make juice as a snack or before dinner. It’s just smart to drink it a few times weekly (daily if you can), especially if it means skipping one of your caffeine breaks.


Embracing a semi-raw lifestyle doesn’t have to come in leaps and bounds: sometimes it comes with small changes like these. So try one or all of the above: you may fall in love with these raw alternatives. At the very least, you can feel great knowing that you’re making a more natural choice for your body. Happy eating!


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  1. LARABAR should pay you for the Advertisement! I just went to the supermarket and grabbed a dozen of them to try all flavors…

  2. Hi Gena! Thanks so much for this post. It’s very interesting and informative! I’ll definitely keep a lot of this in mind 🙂

    Since you are using Wordpress and are replying to a lot of your comments, you should activate the Comment Threading function (http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/comment-threading-is-here-plus-other-cool-comment-settings/). It allows you to reply to each comment individually in an awesomely organized manner 🙂 See my blog for an example, if you’d like. Enjoy!

  3. Lo,

    Thanks! I am thrilled they help. Hope you visit again!


    Just emailed you back 🙂


  4. I met with my nutritionist this morning and she gave me the OK to try out vegetable juice – I am excited! Thank you for putting the idea in my head.

    No yeast problems and I never eat grains anymore because fiber causes a lot of problems with my stomach. I’ll email you and explain. Thanks!

  5. Great post. We’ve not gone raw at our house, but we definitely try to make strides in that direction every now and again.

    These are GREAT suggestions that I think anyone could REALLY do. Collard leaf wraps ROCK!! And sprouted grains are so very good. Ezekiel breads are the best!

  6. Zesty,

    So glad you’re learning! Maybe I’ll make a semi-raw convert out of you 🙂


    Hi! So happy you found my blog, and am enjoying reading yours. I totally think that raw Larabars, a la Heather and you, are genius. In fact, I plan on experimenting with a recipe of my own very soon. It’s so economical and worthwhile to make something from scratch.


  7. I really enjoyed reading this post! Just yesterday, I made my own “Larabars” and I don’t think I’ll be buying any more prepackaged bars.

  8. Heather,

    Yes ma’am. Natalia is my mentor! I’m taking her teacher’s training program this summer.

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog! I want to hear all about your raw progress and am very happy you’ve fallen in love with raw rice protein powder! It’s a nice alternative to hemp.

    Gena 🙂

  9. Gena,
    Thanks for your email letting me about your blog! Love it so far. 🙂

    I’ve been interested in raw foods for a while, and although I don’t think I would ever go 100% raw, I do like the thought of incorporating more raw foods into my daily eats. I’m also trying to eat a more alkaline diet, and so these tips were very helpful. Thank you.

    Are you a fan of Natalia Rose? I see some similarities between the two of you. 🙂

    My one complaint…hemp protein powder…I’ve tried so many, and they all taste like dirt to me! Currently, I’ve loving Sun Warrior raw rice protein powder. Yum!

    Have a good night.

  10. Actually, I misspoke. There is a decent amount of sodium in coconut milk. My apologies.

  11. you ought to note that coconut water doesn’t contain much in the way of sodium, which is a crucial ingredient in sports drinks since that is what you are tying to replace. its not an equal swap.

  12. Interested in Raw,

    Welcome! So glad you’re interested!

    1) Sure, you can use frozen fruit. Raw food purists will only eat fresh, but if you’re transitioning into raw foods I would definitely say to eat frozen if you like and it’s easier for you.

    2) Sure. I’m actually going to post more extensively on this, but drinking is OK as long as its occasional (i.e., weekends, rather than nightly). I definitely recommend red wine as your beverage of choice: it’s a better alternative to hard alcohol. If you do drink liquor, try to keep it in moderation and hydrate well.

    I don’t drink, as you know, but this is more a personal choice than a raw choice: I don’t love what it does to my energy, and I have a family history of alcoholism. But I certainly encourage those new to raw foods to keep red wine in their lives 🙂

  13. Laura,

    I def don’t mean to disparage smoothies, which are wonderful creations, with my love of veggie juice! You’ll get all the nutrients with a smoothie, too, so go for it: I just prefer to digest lightly in the morning.


    I am so jealous!


    Glad you find it helpful!


    Yes. Soaked and germinated means that they’re not “raw” in the sense of “exactly the way they would be found in nature,” but they are indeed “raw” in the sense of “not heated.” I actually advise sprouting and germinating grains and nuts to make them more digestible.


    I only tried it once, essentially to see what it was like so that I could be honest with clients about it. It sort of grossed me out as a vegan, but it tasted EXACTLY like what I remember sharp cheddar cheese tasting like. So, if you like cheddar, you’ll love it.


    If you have problems with candida (yeast) or you eat a lot of grains and sugar, it may be slightly bloating. But if you have a healthy system, it ought to help reduce bloating because of the potassium and magnesium, which regulate hydration. If you ever need to discuss your GI issues with an IBS survivor, feel free to email me.


  14. Hi Gena,

    I found your blog on EatLiveRun and am already really loving it. Thanks so much and please keep it up.

    I have two questions. I’m interested in going raw for a time, like you did, to try it out and see if it will help some health problems. I read your How to Get Started. I’m wondering:

    1- Can I use frozen fruit for the morning smoothies? (won’t have a juicer) Frozen just seems way less expensive and easier to keep on hand

    2- How does drinking feature into this? I know you don’t drink, but do you think I could still feel the benefits without stopping drinking on the weekends? I’m trying to be practical and I can’t keep that up forever.

  15. Well now I will definitely try coconut water! Also, I need to ask my nutritionist if veg juice might be okay (with my GI probs). Is it at all bloating, do you know? Thanks!

  16. Yumm, I love collard wraps with hummus and sundried tomatoes 🙂

    Question: are grains considered raw if you soak them overnight and “germinate” them? I love barley and wheatberries when they’ve been soaked overnight, but wasn’t sure whether they’re technically raw . . .


  17. thanks for all of these tips Gena! I really want to incorporate more raw foods into my diet and I have been looking for a way to start 🙂

  18. I’ve been wanting to try collard wraps!

    I know you’re talking about juicers in this post, but do you think there are similar benefits from vegetable smoothies? While I’ve thought about purchasing a juicer, I can’t really justify buying one right now. I do have a Blendtec blender though that makes excellent juices, but the fiber is still mixed in.

    Thanks for the tips!

  19. Good swaps! As far as bars, I sometimes laugh when I think what we will eat when it’s a “bar” that we would normally avoid. I personally am not a larabar lover, but I’ve made a very easy and delicious homemade version. It’s cheaper and tasty!

  20. Great idea, I think a lot of people think Whole Foods and organic=healthy, but when you are paying a fortune, you may as well know what is actually good for you, particularly in the packaged food realm.

  21. Love this post Gena! I already adore Larabars – obviously! – and I actually just tried almond milk for the first time with breakfast this morning! Vanilla, unsweetened. It was great – I could totally taste the hint of almond flavor.

  22. Thanks Liz!

    Mel: great minds think alike!! One of the things I hope to do with clients is walk throughs of health food stores with the theme of “worst, better, best” — which is pretty much your idea of upgrades. 🙂

    None of these are groundbreaking, but they’re all simple and easy and I thought they were worth saying. Sprouted grains are touch and go, I admit. I could never do the Ezekiel wraps: I’d SO much rather have a collard leaf. But I haven’t tried the Alvarado St. Wraps yet!

  23. I was just going to do a post just like this. It is half written! It is part of my whole “upgrade” theory. Great job, fabulous suggestions! I really need to move toward sprouted grains, but they always taste kind of dry to me. happy monday, babe.