When I was a kid in Queens, New York, my mother looked at the food everyone else was eating and decided it just wasn’t good enough.
She went vegan and moved us to Ithaca, NY, which is home to Moosewood, a famous vegetarian restaurant that inspired one of the first best-selling vegetarian cookbooks. It also inspired my Mom. Growing up, we mostly ate what my friends and I referred to as "branch sandwiches."
Over the years, I’ve talked to many of the world’s most renowned experts on healthy eating. And I’m more convinced than ever that Mom was right (again).
The (Mostly Raw) Joe De Sena Meal Plan
I’m a big fan of the mostly-raw meal plan. I ate completely raw before I ran the dog-less Iditarod, and had my best performance. So instead of going Paleo, like some ultra-athletes do, I lean in the opposite direction. I’m not saying that a Paleo diet or an omnivore diet is wrong; I’m just saying they’re just not right for me. For those who are interested in a raw (or mostly raw) meal plan, here are my favorite foods.
Raw Nuts and Seeds
Nuts of all types (especially almonds) are rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants, and protein for quick energy. They also lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Raw Peanut Butter
Even though peanuts are legumes (like beans and peas) rather than nuts, they offer the same basic health benefits, including lots of protein and calories for quick energy. Plus, they have many of the same benefits as nuts and seeds.
Related: The Health Benefits of Nut Butter
I find meat sort of disgusting, so I don’t usually eat it. Legumes are a great substitute, because their vitamin, mineral, and protein profiles are somewhat similar to meat. Other than peanuts and peanut butter, I don’t recommend eating legumes raw. (This is a major reason why my meal plan is mostly raw.)
Beans and lentils are great sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and will help keep the beneficial bacteria in your gut happy.
Fruits are natural sources of vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, and calories without unhealthy fats. Raw fruits are great for skin and hair, and they help to prevent cardiovascular issues, cancer, and diabetes. They also boost your immune system. A few of my favorites are apples, grapes, pears, and berries, but pretty much any fruit is awesome.
All raw veggies are good for you. Carrots are especially fantastic. They are filled with beta carotene, fiber, vitamins (A, C, K, B8), and lots of other good stuff like potassium, iron, copper, and manganese. Carrots help with night vision, skin, heart health, and they even help prevent cancer and strokes.
Joe De Sena's Final Nutritional Advice
If you decide to switch to a mostly raw foods meal plan, don’t quit your current meal plan cold turkey. You’ll have all sorts of nasty withdrawal symptoms. Your body needs time to detox and adjust to getting more fiber. Start by incorporating more raw foods and legumes into your diet slowly while steadily eliminating processed foods (bread, cereals, cookies, pastas, frozen dinners, alcohol, and the like). If you slowly transition yourself from processed foods to real foods, you’ll have a much easier time of it.
If you don’t want to go completely vegetarian, I completely understand. Most people don’t. But you should at least switch to grass-fed beef and organically-grown chicken. And if you absolutely have to eat bread, go with minimally-processed whole grains or bread made with sprouts rather than wheat. Remember, what you eat fuels you, so it's up to you to choose the fuel that keeps you performing at your best.
You only get one body. Don’t pollute it.