How Far is Far Enough? Knowing What Diet is Sufficiently Healthy For You
March 23, 2010

ladderHey all!

Glad that you liked my curry dish as much as I did. I got a particularly thought-provoking reader question last night, which I wanted to share with you all:

Hi Gena,

I just recently found your blog, but I’ve really been enjoying looking through your recipes and tips. I made your green juice this weekend and it was great!

I had a quick question though–as someone who’s experimenting with the idea of going vegan (going raw sounds too extreme for me right now–baby steps), I’m interested in the possible health benefits. I know that many people mention that going vegan helps with their energy, digestion, even more specific things like bags under their eyes, but do those benefits usually only happen when the person has a unique allergy to milk, dairy products in general, or meat?

I’m not sure if I’m posing this question very clearly, but basically I’m wondering if being a highly raw vegan helps you be healthier because you have specific intolerances/allergies to specific foods, or if you believe that all people have these intolerances, and we just may not realize them until we start eating better and see the benefits.

Thanks so much for your time! I appreciate it.

This is a terrific question! If I understand it correctly, what you’re asking is this: we all hear about the benefits of a vegan diet. But how mandatory is veganism to experiencing good health? In other words, even if we know that being vegan might make us feel wonderful, is it possible to feel wonderful without veganism?

My answer? Yes, it is. It is possible to eat well and feel great without adopting a vegan lifestyle–though I also believe that veganism can help you to take basic well being even further. Let me ‘splain:

There are various levels of feeling good, right? With few exceptions, people who eat nothing but processed foods that are heavy in meat and dairy, who do drugs, who never sleep and never exercise, who drink to excess, and who have no emotional stability in their lives are going to feel pretty terrible. Sure, we all hear about Grandpa so-and-so, who ate bacon and smoked Benson and Hedges and drank vats of bourbon and lived to be one hundred. But guess what? Grandpa Jim Beam is the exception, not the rule: for the most part, people who live hard live shorter lives, and experience impaired health while they do.

Each time you improve upon one of the habits listed above — from lack of exercise to smoking to processed food — you’ll see your health improve exponentially. We know this. So the question becomes, where do we stop? How far do we have to take clean habits in order to feel “our best”?

It’s tough to say. “Our best”  is subjectively defined. What’s my definition? A life that’s nourishing and fun, yet healthy and conscious; a life without the constant presence of fatigue and chronic health complaints; a life that’s active and eco-friendly: that’s where I’d begin. So in my world, answering the question of “what will make me feel my best?” means figuring out how a person can meet those criteria.

It’s my belief that eating a diet that’s close to nature — i.e., comprised of foods that haven’t been altered and manipulated beyond recognition — is the first step towards optimal well being. I also think that we need to be mindful of eating a combination of raw and cooked foods. Most people ignore raw foods in their diet, and eat far less than they should. So we should all be mindful of upping our consumption. Finally, I believe that minimizing the use of animal products will help all people to feel their best. This doesn’t have to mean elimination: some people can eat grass fed, organic meat on occasion, while others may choose to eat dairy and eggs on occasion and still feel well. I encourage anyone who’s eating animal products to seek out the ones that have been as humanely produced as possible. Do I feel that animal products contribute to my feeling my best? No, and of course there are ethical dimensions of my lifestyle that are unrelated to health per se. But I understand that, for those who don’t feel compelled toward veganism, a middle ground exists where animal products (consumed in small amounts and with discernment) can co-exist with good health.

So the short answer to your question, is this: no, going 100% vegan is not the only way to feel your very best. It’s one really, really great way. Eating a clean, whole foods diet with some raw foods is the essential goal.

That said, it’s important for me to say this: most people, even those who are healthy, could probably feel a whole lot better than they do. Before I eliminated dairy from my diet, for example, I had accepted chronic IBS and seasonal allergies as a “norm.” Didn’t most people I know get upset stomachs frequently, and don’t most people have allergies every spring? Before I went vegan, I accepted that fatigue every morning was the way of the world. Isn’t everyone sleepy till coffee time? I assumed that it was normal to feel sluggish in the late afternoon, to have morning breath, and to break out now and then.

It didn’t have to me my norm. Becoming vegan–even transitioning toward being vegan–made all of the conditions above disappear. Poof. Sure, I did lots of other great things to facilitate this process aside from veganism. I quit smoking, for example, and reduced my consumption of packaged food, so it wasn’t purely veganism that made the difference. But I do know that it made a huge difference, and not because I had any food allergies or intolerances. And it reminded me that we’re all socially conditioned to accept a lot of conditions–fatigue, acne, insomnia, allergies–as part of normative human experience, when in fact they’re not. There are some people who will be predisposed to allergies or acne no matter what, and it isn’ttheir fault: some conditions are inherited. But many of us–I’d say most of us–could avoid at least a few of these conditions simply by making better food choices.

So if you’re not sure of “how far” to go, I’d say this: begin with a few upgrades, and see how you feel. You may feel 100%, and decide that you’ve found a place that you’re comfortable with. You may also suspect that you can feel even better, in which case I’d challenge you to continue exploring what does and doesn’t affect your health.

On the flip side, it’s important not to imagine yourself as constantly ascending a ladder toward dietary “perfection” or “cleanliness.” Understand that there’s a point at which you can still have some freedom and inclusion, and yet feel great. Me? I drink coffee more than I’d like to admit,  don’t consciously avoid gluten, eat tempeh and edamame on occasion, and vary my consumption of raw foods. There are some who would remind me that, if I were to never touch coffee, and eat 95-100% raw all the time, and eliminate all common vegan allergens (gluten, wheat, soy, nightshades, corn), I’d achieve even more optimal health. OK, this might be true (though I’m fairly certain I don’t suffer from any allergies). But I feel really, really, really wonderful living as I do, and it’s also the way of living that allows me the kind of social and gastronomic freedoms I want.

In the end, finding “optimal health” means finding a place wherein you don’t willfully choose to ignore symptoms of ill health (like constant fatigue or headaches or insomnia), but you also realize that we don’t have to be Jesus in order to feel healthy. It’s tough to negotiate this middle ground, sure, but I believe it’s possible. And each of us knows what our own middle ground is. I wish you so much luck in finding yours!

In other news, I owe you a recipe! A few weeks ago, in sharing my work lunches, I mentioned a yummy pumpkin seed pate I’d made. Here, at long last, is the recipe.

Coconut-Pumpkin Pate (makes about 1 1/2 – 2 cups)

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, soaked
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
Dash pepper
1 large stalk celery, grated
1 large carrot, grated

Blend all ingredients but the veggies in a food processor till quite smooth. Add the celery and carrot, and pulse till the mixture is broken down and well incorporated. Scoop into romaine leaves, serve on salad, use as a dip, and enjoy!

pate1pate2

Because of the coconut oil, this pate will get pretty hard in the fridge. Just defrost it for a few before you eat it.

This is definitely one of my favorite new pates. Let me know if you guys try and like it!

On that note, back to work. Happy Tuesday.

xo

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    55 Comments
  1. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account
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  2. I just stumbled across this post and I have to that I am surprised (and also not surprised) to hear what a more plant-based diet can do.
    Over the past 2 or 3 weeks, I’ve been including a lot more plant-based and raw foods in my lifestyle, just because you make them look so GOOD on your blog, and in that short amount of time I have noticed my skin clearing up, my energy level increasing to where it used to be years ago (before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety), and I have been having fewer migraines. These are things I never expected to be affected by changing my food habits, especially not in such a short amount of time.
    While I still have some regular milk in my tea when I’m out of almond milk, and I still eat meat if that is what my parents have made for dinner (yes, I live with my parents, for financial reasons until I am done school), I have almost completely lost my craving for meats, eggs, dairy, starchy breads, and refined sugars.
    I don’t believe I have any food intolerances or allergies, but I just feel better eating primarily plant-based foods And when I started adding more raw foods to my diet, I was not expecting to change my eating habits completely. It is just starting to happen naturally. And quickly.
    I am hoping that it helps with my Spring allergies too, because it’s that time of year…

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  4. Hey Gena! I REALLY enjoyed reading this post!! I am not Vegan, but I thought you did a great job of explaining ‘how to find that middle ground’!! Thanks for the inspiration to keep reaching higher and working towards optimal health!!!! This was my FAVORITE quote from your article–>
    “In the end, finding “optimal health” means finding a place wherein you don’t willfully choose to ignore symptoms of ill health”
    Thanks!

  5. Gena, this was such a thoughtful, comprehensive answer that it’s helped me to see it’s not all or nothing. I can do what I’ve been gradually doing, eliminating this or that and opting for more whole food choices. When a plate of chicken wings comes waltzing by, it might be easier to forgo if I can remember that tangible reward of feeling better. Well, maybe.

  6. I am in total agreement that you don’t have to go full blown anything (pick your eating style of choice) in order to feel your best. It isn’t just about the physical digestion/metabolism of the food, but has to take into account your social and emotional circumstances. And because genetically we are all different, we can consume different things and have different effects. I think it’s important for people to remember that, and to appreciate everyone’s different eating style.

    Although, I’ll agree that eliminating the majority of processed foods will ultimately make everyone feel better 😉

  7. Fabulous post, Gena. I mean really, who cares what someone else eats, what someone else does, it’s all about what works for the individual. But yes, a vegan dietary path for me, and you, was the shortest distance between two points and feeling optimal type of thing. Everything you said, 100% agreement.

    The coconut/sunflower seed pate. LOVE the no onions or garlic or salt OR raw nuts. I mean I love nuts but too many of them just feel like they sit in my gut which is why i am not the hugest pate girl in general but this looks so good.

    Glad most of all, that you liked my dairy smack down. Tasha the Voracious Vegan had high praise for the post, so two of my most fave, intelligent articulate women liking the post? I felt so good 🙂 Thank you 🙂

    As always, I am not judgmental and try not to be preechy on my blog; I try to keep things very light. And also wanted to come at it from the health reasons, not the ethical/animals reasons as I felt the former was not done enough and the later, done plenty. So glad you liked the post 🙂

    xoxo

  8. Delicious pate, Gena! I didn’t have the celery so I doubled the carrot, but it was still delicious! I unfortunately added too much salt, but I was able to remedy this by adding a tbsp of pumpkin seed butter. Yum!

    As far as “how far is far enough” I definitely never expected that I could/would move as far as I have! When I moved to veganism I thought that was a big step, after being vegetarian for 12 years, but I always thought raw was “too extreme”. Hell, I thought veganism was “too extreme” and even ate vegan for a YEAR before I was wiling to call myself a vegan. Now I eat mostly raw until dinner, and I feel better than ever. I don’t always realise how good I feel until I stray from my normal pattern. Far from making me feel guilty when I do stray from eating more raw foods, it makes me appreciate the humble salad and green smoothie so much more!

    As always, Gena, your posts are thought-provoking and well-written.

  9. I love your philosophy on this subject. I’m not 100% vegetarian or vegan, but lately I’ve been eating more vegetables, more fruit, and more raw foods. These choices make me feel GOOD both on the inside and the outside. I’m not quite ready to give up greek yogurt and cheese, so rather than focusing on what I should omit from my diet, I’m thinking about what I can ADD (more smoothies, salads, raw foods, healthy fats, etc). Thank you for the inspiration!

  10. Thanks so much for this post! Such useful, interesting information, and I really like how you look at food/eating/etc. I’m new to veganism, and your site has already given me so much better perspective on what it means to eat healthfully and cleanly.

    The coconut-pumpkin pate looks great!

  11. I love the way you explain eating. I completely agree with you on eating clean and doing what is best for you. The way we eat is constantly evolving and I think that is really important for everyone to learn. Educating ourselves and understanding each other will help everyone benefit as far as achieving healthy food goals. So many people give up on “diets” (veganism, vegetarianism, raw) because they don’t understand it completely and they are feeling that they are missing out on things they love. It is all about evolving and changing the way we eat which then changes what you crave. Great post!

  12. […] other great read check out our friend Gena’s great post on going vegan and searching for better health. We believe you really just have to find the balance that works for you. Everyone will be different […]

  13. Gena awesome post. Loved everything you said. Michelle and I are still on our journey of better health. We kn0w that our best is out there for us to discover we just have to be patient. We are still trying to figure our bodies out. Though not everyday we are perfect either like we might have one to many macaroons or something 😉 But overall we know what we are doing for our bodies is only going to help and provide us with a better life that is not full of headaches, fatigue, or any other health issue that most people think are the norm, when they are not! HAHA

  14. What a beautiful, thoughtful response to a great question! I struggled with finding “my” diet when I started reading blogs last summer. For a while, I thought I had to become some extreme and that if I ate a meal outside that diet I had undone all the progress I’d made. Then I reminded myself that, looking at the next two months or two years, or 20 years, what matters is a general trend toward health. If I’m taking care of myself and nourishing my body and mind, I don’t have to be perfect. The good news, of course, is this wonderful blog world, and people like you, inspires me to try new meals and dishes that encourage my path to improved health!!

  15. Another killer post. This is so interesting because I am basically figuring all of this out right now and really enjoying the experimenting. I have recently almost 100% cut meat out, which is crazy because a few years ago I probably ate it 1-2x a day [turkey samich + chicken with dinner]. I don’t think I’ll ever classify myself [which I’m going to post about soon] but I am mostly vegetarian, frequently vegan and usually have raw foods with lunch + din. I feel like I do have much more energy in the morning and feel less cloudy when I wake up. I don’t get the afternoon slump but I’m also not currently sitting behind a desk all day…so that would be the true test! 😉 My husband’s food choices have changed along with mine which I am soooo grateful for. There are only a few things that we have differences about. He’s still eating meat 2-3x per week too. He definitely admits to feeling SO much better with our newer diets, after basically being a meat + potatoes guy. He’s even hooked on morning green monsters! I just adore you and your blog. So inspirational.

  16. Gena, Thank you for this. I’m also new to your blog and new to walking down a different path for health. I started doing yoga and thought that was enough but the more I do it, the more I find myself thinking about my health and the food I eat and while I’m nowhere near raw I’ve been incorporating raw foods with most of my meals lately. I even bought a juicer last week and have been enjoying green juices every day.

    I had been asking myself similar questions so it was perfect timing for me to read the answer you had.

  17. […] posts in the blog world as of late that have had my wheels turning. Posts about daily food intake, dieting lifestyles and the pros/cons of healthy living blogging. I’m not sure where I stand on any of the […]

  18. Great article as always, Gena! This is such an important topic, and it relates a lot to a topic that the lovely Mama Pea blogged about – guilt!

    I often feel guilty for not eating “perfectly”, but I need to remind myself that even the “bad” choices I make (having about 4 handfulls too many of granola for a late night snack, for example) are still wise choices compared to the choices that I COULD have made.

    Instead of feeling disappointed that I don’t always listen to hunger cues and sometimes eat more processed food than fresh on some days, I should be proud of how far I’ve come and give myself credit for the healthy choices that I DO make!

  19. I really enjoyed reading this post.
    Just a question about the recipe though, what is the reasoning behind soaking seeds and/or nuts?
    Thanks!

  20. Yesss! The pate recipe! I’ve been on a pumpkin seed kick recently. I also finally bought nutritional yeast, and it’s a new must-have for a lot of my dishes! Love this post- I think about this a lot. My diet is never quite as clean as I ideally would like, but I’ve been eating this way long enough to know when I’m on-track- feeling fresh and energetic, lean, and craving healthy foods, and when I’m off-track- anxious about food and my body, craving sugar, or overeating and feeling lethargic. On-track is truly a great state for me, and I know that pushing it further when I’m in that state usually backfires, so I think I’ve found my ‘zone’ for the time being. My zone includes occasional eggs and cheese, well as occasional soy and wheat. Fish happens on very rare occasion- I don’t feel good about eating any seafood anymore. The less processed soy and cheese I eat the better, so I avoid these most of the time, whereas I haven’t noticed eggs or wheat bothering me, from what I can tell.
    My best practice is to make my grocery shopping for ideal foods only (mostly the foods represented on this blog), and that way the extras that sneak in from meals out, snacks on campus, or social gatherings are a small part of my diet and not too worrisome. I love shopping at my coop because it makes these choices so much easier. If I shopped at a regular grocery store I might feel more stress about limiting my selections, but when I shop in an environment that reflects my priorities I just feel positive about my options and my choices. Same thing with keeping my options at home healthy. If I’m surrounded by foods I don’t want to eat, it causes me stress, anxiety, guilt, etc- in other words, it’s taxing to keep myself on track. But if my environment is on track, I’m happy.

  21. I’ve missed your blog! Great post Gena, as always. 🙂

    Looking forward to trying out the pate! Can I sub olive oil or other for the coconut oil? Can’t seem to find it over here. xxx

  22. what a great post – this completely sums up my philosophy on health. i think determining how far to go, or what is far enough is incredibly individualized, and not only that, but it continually changes! i’ve discovered throughout my entire health journey that shaping the lifestyle i feel best living is always a work in progress. i didn’t set out to become a vegan enthusiast or eat more raw or support only organic dairy. every change i’ve made has happened organically over time. they also include my own “concessions” – wine whenever i choose, coffee every morning. even my decision not to become an official vegetarian is a part of that.

    also, this pate recipe looks great and couldn’t come at a better time, since passover is beginning in a few days. with all grains and legumes off limits, vegan eating is a bit of a challenge and i’ve been trying to dream up something exactly like this!

  23. I have all of those ingredients so I’m definitely going to try it soon. May have to substitute some pumpkin seeds for cashews but I think that’ll work too.

    Great words of wisdom as well. Thanks!

  24. Great, great post Gena. I agree with you entirely on this one- optimal health is doing the best you can do for YOU and your situation. I also truly believe that healthful eating starts by eating close to the source.

    That being said, I can not be a vegan in my current situation, nor do I think I could ever become a complete vegan. I am in culinary school now, where we have to taste everything we eat. And I will be a chef one day who will likely have to do the same thing. I also truly enjoy non-vegan foods like eggs, greek yogurt and goat cheese.

    However, I believe the high-raw vegan diet, done right, is one of the most healthful diets on the planet. I embrace raw foods with open arms and am trying to include them more in my life. Ever since being a vegetarian I have loved vegan foods and continue to cook vegan dishes frequently. I would like to become a vegetarian again one day, if I can. If I can not, I will contine doing what I am doing now- the best I can for my body in my particular situation.

    I feel SO much better when I eat tons of veggies, organic food, drink tons of water and limit the meat and dairy in my life. That is my “optimal health” and I am striving every day to reach that perfect balance.

    Oh, and that pate looks delish =D

    xo
    K

  25. This post was AMAZING. 🙂 Thank you for clearing that up for the public. I think it is very important for everyone to realize that we all make our own choices in diet to feel our best.

  26. I absolutely LOVED your comment about “living like Jesus”; it made me laugh. Also, I totally agree with everything you said, since if I gave up nightshades (well, really only tomatoes) I would cry. That being said, treating gastronomy like a little science project is a great way to find out more about ourselves, our tolerances, and the freedoms we need (aka coffee for me).

  27. You always have a wonderful reply Gina!
    I greatly benefited years ago when I cut out dairy. Right away my bowels started to work properly.
    My brother the other day mentioned how thin he is and yet he eats meat and dairy, and excercises. I asked if he had a physical recently and he hasn’t in years. He eats so much salt and will share in his snacking of the chips/crackers etc. My dad’s side of the family has lived short lives due to health issues and that’s why years ago I changed my eating habits. My mom luckily hasn’t had the issues of my dad but she got arthritis in her 40’s, sinus headaches, allergies, stomache problems, had her gallbladder out so with my brother responding and saying “look at mom” I thought, “well yah look at her”. Just cuz she has great skin and her heart is well she has had all of these other issues that people think are the “norm”. So when people say, uncle “so and so” or grandpa lived to 100, well were they on medication? Did they have high blood pressure or have heart surgery? Probably one or all so living to 100 wasn’t smooth sailing without any health problems and I bet if they cleaned up their eating years before they would have lived a very healthy life.

  28. I wish more people would see healthy eating on a continuum, not on a black and white basis. If the SAD with its processed, packaged, chemical-laden and factory-farmed food is at one end of the spectrum, and the 100% raw vegan diet at the other (though I wouldn’t put it at the other, as I don’t believe under pristine environmental conditions it represents the ideal), let’s open our eyes and see all the possibilites in between, and all the room for improvement, wherever we’re at. Let’s also realize the spectrum is different for everyone. Some will benefit more by eliminating dairy, others by eliminating soy … I for one noticed more improvements in my health and well-being eliminating gluten grains, soy, and corn from my diet than I did from eliminating fermented dairy. In fact, I noticed no improvements in my health, skin, or energy levels at all on giving up whole milk yogurt. I do feel better when I’m not drinking coffee, but I drink it anyway 🙂 We all make tradeoffs, and it’s important to have fun with all this. I think it’s important to take the health of the planet into consideration as well … I’m healthy enough that I can make some less-than-optimal health choices (sticking to citrus fruit in winter versus eating berries from south of the equator, drinking Boston water vs. bottled water, avoiding all fish) for the sake of the planet, drinking occasional cup of coffee, etc. Someone whose health is compromised will not have as much leeway.

  29. I’m so glad I came upon this morning. I keep telling myself that personally and as a family we eat very healthy. Healthy enough, I tell myself. Me personally I still have stomach problems, acne, sluggishness. I have lots of nutrition schooling and try and follow that part of my training that is technical, but not that deeper aspect of health that they don’t dive into. A little voice in my head keeps coming to your site (and other high raw), and reading articles, and checking out raw cookbooks. I think I’m in a state of denial of sorts. I feel like we do eat healthy, but yet I still don’t feel healthy.

    I’m so glad that you have opened my eyes so I can examine what I am calling healthy. I think I need to do some redefining, and some serious letting go. I’m not sure why I feel I need to hang on to some of these foods that I think I shouldn’t give up. If they make feel so horrible, how can they possibly taste that good?

    Your blog is such a great breathe of fresh air. Not too preachy, not too judgmental, but it is still the truth that I need to hear. Thank you!

  30. I always thought my break outs were a genetic thing. For years I saw a dermatologist who prescribed medicines, topical and in pill form. I never saw any improvement though, until I cut out sugar, dairy, soy and peanuts. I am not vegan but I am definitely closer than ever and my skin looks SO much better.

    Great post!

  31. Great post Gena! Articulated very well. This will be so helpful for so many – it answers so many questions and hopefully eliminate any guilt and provide other avenues to consider.

    Yummy lunch!

  32. Hi! New to your blog! Love reading other nutrition professionals blogs. Veganism and rawism interest me, so I’m excited to learn more! Looking forward to following you!

    Nicole

  33. Great advice! Even though I’m vegan and I feel great most of the time, I still drink too much on the weekends and don’t sleep enough during the week. As a result, I still feel kinda crappy sometimes. But at least I know what I need to do if I ever get fed up with sometimes feeling crappy.

    Didn’t going raw really cure morning breath though? That’s amazing!

    The pate looks delicious. I’m fresh out of coconut oil, and this post reminds me that I must restock.

  34. Fantastic post, Gena. It kind of takes me back to that post you wrote about Amanda Seyfried (sp?), if your diet, not in the weight loss sense, makes you miserable, it is quite clearly not the diet that is going to provide your “optimal health.” Feeling deprived, unsatisfied and punished by a regime is going to be a short lived venture.

    I don’t push my vegan lifestyle on others, but if I can make a vegan meal for family or friends and they see that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, that as you said, they can take bits and pieces that fit for their life, their optimal health, then I feel like I’ve succeeded in part. Like everything in life, I’ve learned to see the ebbs and flows in my diet (more coffee, less green juice, more leafy green salads, less gluten) as just the normal cycle of things and as long as I feel emotionally balanced and am not suffering any ill physical effects, well, that’s good enough for me.

  35. How is it that your posts always manage to capture something that I am thinking/feeling in my life? This post was a wonderful view on how to maintain a level of health that works FOR YOU. Since going vegetarian, I’ve felt a lot of guilt about not being vegan…I need to realize that going vegan doesn’t work for me right now, and that the little steps I’m taking towards a more vegan-based, raw-based lifestyle are enough for the time being.

    Thanks, Gena!

  36. Great answer to a common question. Although I do believe we were not made to ingest animal protein, so I think everyone could benefit from a vegan diet! 🙂
    Making the pumpkin seed pate tonight, got all the ingredients!

  37. Gena,
    I really appreciate how non-judgmental you are in discussing your veganism with non-vegans. My vegan friends often struggle to understand that because gluten and soy make me feel pretty awful if I include them in my diet too often and I enjoy eating out at restaurants with omnis, I include some raw goat’s cheese, free-range eggs and sustainable seafood in my diet (no more than once or twice a week). For the most part, my diet is highly raw and contains absolutely no processed food. You really understand that the correct diet strikes a balance between what is ideal and what is realistic and offers some flexibility.

    -Andrea

  38. This is such a good lesson. I’ve struggled with “guilt” before for not having a perfectly labeled diet, even wanting labels at one time and not another. In the end, I had to learn that doing what I could when I could was what mattered.

  39. This was a great post, Gena. Since I started eating mostly vegan, and basically getting more and more healthy in my life, I’ve become a sort of “kitchen commander” around here, making changes to my fiance’s diet as well and stressing over things like, omg he ordered buffalo wings, or omg he’s eating turkey bacon. This post is a good ground leveler and really made me think about how small, gentle changes, can make a bigger impact than going all crazy on somebody to eat better.
    @Meredith, I love how you say your boyfriend handled your different style eating, without criticizing or pushing you into any one direction. Thanks 🙂

  40. Finally a true and honest point of view on being vegan, being raw and being healthy. I applaud your non-totalitarian, full of common sens advices. I feel that so many blogs out there are written in a way where it almost make people guilty of not being 100% raw or vegan or any other diet they advocate.

    I think everyone should see for themselves and do their own experiment with their diet. ‘Cause the goal here is not to tell everyone “I’m a rawfoodist” or “I’m a vegan” but more to make simple changes in our own diet to achieve a better, healthier self.

    Can’t wait to try your pumpkin seeds pate. But, as a nutritionist, what’s your point of view on coconut oil? I thought it contains a lot of saturated fat, doesn’t it?

    Great post!

  41. Great post and something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I transition into a higher raw diet. It really is about finding what works for you and for me – my digestive system is so much happier since cutting dairy and gluten.

    Perfect timing with the recipe, I just got a huge shipment of pumpkin seeds from Amazon and can’t wait to try, thanks!

  42. Great post Gena ~ Thank you to the reader who asked, too! I’ve recently been considering this for myself. Like, what are my own personal boundaries. As you know, I went through a phase of conundrums (is that the right word?!) but after examining my motives, I have found that no one can really answer specific questions for me. Somethings work for others that don’t work for me, and vice versa. I’ve found that it’s a time and place thing too (vacation means seafood for me!). …All this to say I really enjoyed reading your take on this 🙂

  43. I really appreciated this post – and not just because I have been dying to know what the ingredients of the pumpkin seed pate were, though can I saw how happy I am you posted this recipe. I myself have been on a journey this past year to “change my normal state” – ie I did not want to accept fatigue and digestive issues and sinus problems and allergies as the normal state anymore – fast forward a year later, i eat a plant-based diet most days, but I still supplement with grass fed chicken or bison a few times a month, or maybe some wild salmon, and I feel really torn about it. SO I am still searching for my middle ground. I know it does not involve dairy or factory meats at all, but that little bit of Daiya cheese and tempeh makes my life really happy, and I have enough adrenal and thyroid problems that finding the balance of eating soy versus grass-fed animal protein is tricky. Posts like yours are so encouraging. Thank you 🙂

  44. Gena – I loved this post! I’m not a vegan, and not even really vegetarian (I eat a small amount of (sustainable) seafood). I thought this post was terrific, because in part it made me think of exactly how I ended up with the diet I’m on today.

    Just 6 months ago, I was eating hot pockets, kraft mac n cheese and tons of TV dinners. My boyfriend is a vegetarian, but he never preached or tried to force me into diet changes, never criticized my eating habits. Slowly over time, and after a lot of cooking together, I realized I hadn’t eaten red or white meat (other than fish/shellfish) in 3 weeks and I was eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods. And I felt GREAT! I wasn’t breaking out, I had so much more energy during the day and didn’t have to take a nap (I could if I wanted to, but it wasn’t necessary to making it through my day).

    Reading this post really sent the point home of how important it is to pay close attention to the diet that’s right for you, for the well being of your body and your mind. I’m really glad you emphasized the importance of incremental changes. I don’t think I could ever go raw-vegan. Not 100%. I don’t think a lot of people could, especially “cold turkey,” so to speak. But more and more we can use less animal protein in our meals, or choosing raw salad options of cooked ones. And they taste great! It’s amazing how you develop a taste for healthy foods once you kick the processed food habit – bagged pastas and hamburger helper meals taste terrible now. It’d be interesting to see if preservatives and additives have any chemically addictive properties. Maybe not.

    Thanks again =) Your encouraging words and recipes are always refreshing!

  45. wow this post came at the right time. I have been thinking about finding my optimum health. This was great and I need to reflect on my diet and my healthy point and stay there.

    Thanks for your well written answer Gena 🙂

  46. Great post Gina! I absolutely agree that a whole foods diet is the goal – but which whole foods depend on the individual (rather, which whole foods to leave out).

    I’ve never considered the ‘semi-raw’ option you included in that before, but you are right – fresh salads, smoothies and juices are a great (raw) way to get clean, whole foods.

  47. What a great answer! (as always!) I would add that eating more raw foods/going raw is not necessarily an extension of veganism. From what I gather, there are raw foodists who are not vegans, and there are tonnes of vegans (myself included!) that aren’t striving to go raw. (though I love to include raw foods in my diet!)
    This pate sounds so healthy, I love that it includes veggies as well as seeds! 🙂

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