Natural Foods Merchandiser: How do I know whether a food is really raw?
Store (Natural products store in the Mid-Atlantic): It should say so on the package.
NFM: But some of the items labeled raw just don’t seem like they could be. Take cheese and olive oil, for instance, and some granolas. Don’t those things need to be processed?
Store: Processed foods can be raw. They just can’t be processed with high heat. That’s why some olive oil labels say cold pressed.
NFM: Should I trust the labels?
Store: I don’t see any reason why not.
NFM: OK, so if they say they’re raw, I’ll believe it. But maybe I should wait until next summer to go raw. There’ll be more fresh fruits and veggies to choose from, and I won’t have to rely on these products. Do you think I should wait?
Store: Probably a good idea if you’re just starting. Raw is tough, but people do it. You just really have to do your research.
How did this retailer do?
Our expert educator Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet (McGraw-Hill, 2010), is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics. She is the nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs, a food and nutrition blogger with Huffington Post and a nutrition expert on the advisory board of Fitnessmagazine. She has a private practice based in Chicago, Ill., providing personalized nutrition counseling and educational workshops.
The retailer should have said that no standard or legal definition exists for raw as it pertains to food labeling. Therefore, the term can mean many things, including not roasted, not pasteurized or not heated at more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit during processing. It’s up to each shopper to read more about particular products and companies to see what constitutes raw by their definitions.
The season or time of year isn’t the main factor to consider with a raw food diet; more important is making sure you’re getting all of the necessary food groups and nutrients. A person can’t live solely on raw fruits and vegetables, even though they are extremely healthy. The diet should be rounded out with grains, proteins and healthy fats. If you don’t have a registered dietitian on staff to explain these tenets to shoppers, direct them to eatright.org, where they can enter their ZIP code to find local dietary assistance. Tell them about the newly popular “uncooking classes” or play host to one yourself to help customers get started with basic, balanced raw recipes.