The Clever Cookstr chats with Stacy Stowers, the "Raw Nanny" and author of Eat Raw Not Cooked, to get her tips and tricks for eating well on the road, and for getting kids to love their vegetables.
CC: Stacy, you’ve traveled around the country living with all kinds of different families and helping them to change their diet. What are some of the biggest issues you see folks struggling with?
SS: Well, we're all really busy! When you add kids and pets and work and home--families are extremely busy today, and that's why we've found it so easy to eat out of boxes and cans, popping things in the microwave and going through drive-throughs. So getting away from that, and into food that does take a little more prep time, can be a challenge.
CC: I think it's really important to acknowledge that. Especially when you're trying to eat raw food, it's going to take more time than takeout--but that time pays off.
SS: Yes, that time does pay off. I created a class I call "Raw Foods 101" for busy people. So whenever I visit a family--I meet a new family every week, and we spend the week together--I include their community and their friends in the process by holding the class and a dinner party for their friends and family. I show people some easy tricks to make things quick, easy, and fast.
But also, when I go into a new family's home, not everyone is excited that I'm there. Some outright rebel! The creations that I make have to be easy, the ingredients have to be found at their local grocery store, and more importantly, it all has to taste good. It can't taste like that typical "healthy food." I give people the equivalent of creamy key lime pie, or a cheesy cracker. Simplicity is important, and definitely taste is, too.
SS: Raw food is food that has not been heated above 115 to 118 degrees. The belief is that that's when the enzymes and nutrients start to be destroyed.
I think the most important foods out there are green leaves--they're very alkalizing! But not everyone wants to sit down to a salad, especially three times a day. That's where creativity comes in. One meal that's a big favorite for everyone is the Happy Shake, which is a salad in the form of a decadent chocolate soft-serve ice cream, that you eat with a spoon. I serve chips and dip, cheesy kale chips, and other dishes that do creative things with those green leaves.
CC: I think one of the things that people struggle with is, how do you get your kids to eat healthy food? How do you get them excited about eating vegetables? How do you address picky eating?
SS: The best thing parents can do is model good eating, rather than becoming overzealous and hovering over a kid's plate. If you back off, kids will be interested. And then get in the kitchen with them, go grocery shopping with them. Not focusing on what foods are being taken away. My position is easier, because I'm the new person who walks in and makes friends with the kids. That makes it fun and new and exciting. I have a recipe I call "banana roadkill," which is what happens when bananas don't look both ways when they're crossing the road!
CC: It seems that one of the roadblocks people run into is around traveling. What are some tips you have for eating well when you're not in your home environment?
SS: I'm rarely in my home environment! I'm in the car, I'm flying, I'm out to dinner. Even when I'm home in New York, I'm going out to restaurants. So I'm rarely in that day-to-day home environement. The biggest thing is to keep it simple. Avocado is really satisfying, and full of good fats, so that's one of my favorite things to travel with. I'll take romaine leaves and raw dip. I'll take a travel blender on the road.
As far as eating out, I believe that we can eat anywhere. It's all in the attitude. Are we going out to eat the best raw food meal or the best salad in town? Really, when I go out, I'm going because of who's sitting in front of me. Not everyone I go out with wants to go out to a raw food restaurant, and I enjoy lots of different restaurants. So if I don't get the best salad, I'm okay with that.
CC: Let's talk about your food philosophy. I know you don't eat 100% raw. Can you tell us how you came to that place, and how you tell people to approach decisions about what they should eat?
SS: My food philosophy is, "people first, and then food." People are the most important thing. Whenever I walk into a family's home, it's about how to bring people together around the table.
I had been disabled for 17 years after getting valley fever, which turned into chronic valley fever, and was called a "disease without a cure." I got well eating a really boring raw food diet, so that's where I started being creative. I started as a raw vegan, and I thought that worked really well for me in healing and cleansing. But after that time, it wasn't a diet for me to stay on. I opted to start adding eggs and cooked fish into my diet.
I also believe that what works for me isn't always going to work for you. I really approach every family as individuals. I think the best thing we can do is stop judging what's on someone else's plate. My diet works for me, but I'll never believe that my diet is what everyone should be eating. Treating everyone as individuals is so important. The only two things I know for sure are that we need to get off processed foods, and that raw food heals. So I try to get families off processed foods and adding more raw foods into their diet,
CC: So maybe thinking less about eating one specific way 100% of the time, and more about creating a flexible and sustainable framework?
SS: Exactly. I don't walk into a family's home with Stacy's Plan. I try to recreate the foods that families already like, that will work for them.
Photos courtesy of Stacy Stowers.