For more than 20 years, Ottawa-based chef and health pioneer Natasha Kyssa has been promoting the benefits of a raw vegan diet.
As the owner of the popular SimplyRaw Express in Hintonburg, the former fashion model-turned-entrepreneur has demonstrated that healthy eating can be both delicious and easy.
With years of experience in the kitchen, the talented chef has now published The SimplyRaw Kitchen, a cookbook filled with mostly raw, whole-food recipes that also contains important tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle.
“Nowadays it’s so easy to be vegan, vegetarian and raw,” says Kyssa in a phone interview.
That being said, many people who want to eliminate meat and/or dairy from their diet often do not know where to start. As a result, many novice vegetarians and vegans end up eating poorly because they do not know how to prepare a proper meal.
“They get caught up in the processed stuff,” says Kyssa, when asked what common mistakes vegetarians and vegans make. (By processed, she includes anything that is manufactured and which comes in a box, bag, cartoon, can or jar).
Cue The SimplyRaw Kitchen, which provides excellent information for anyone wanting to eat healthier foods. Good eating, however, must also appeal to the palette, which is my Kyssa explains how to make numerous yummy dishes.
“Enjoy your food,” she tells Apartment613. “This is what the book is about.”
The collection of recipes in the cookbook will satisfy a wide range of tastes, as you will find instructions on how to make such things as smoothies, lassis, borscht, salads, dips, pasta, pad thai, mushroom goulash and various desserts.
Another great thing about the book is its sense of balance. While Kyssa is a strong advocate of a raw diet, she also is keenly aware that everyone must follow their own path towards good health.
“I know only too well, as someone who’s recovered from a eating disorder, that stressing about food or treating diet like a religion is unhealthy and counterproductive,” she writes in The SimplyRaw Kitchen. “It’s healthier to consider your dietary habits as a transitional journey over time, to eat with joy, and to find a balance of food options that work well for your lifestyle.”
When asked what advice she has for people who want to follow her recipes, but who also want to make any dietary changes at their own pace, Kyssa replies that people should first concentrate on introducing foods to their diet, rather than cutting things out.
“Start adding (to your diet), don’t subtract anything,” says Kyssa, who is also the author of the Canadian bestseller The SimplyRaw Living Foods Detox Manual. “Add a salad to every meal; add a green drink – a green smoothie.”
The key is not to put too much pressure on yourself, but rather to make lifestyle changes slowly, she adds.
“I see so many people who want to be raw and then they fail,” says Kyssa, as she recalls examples of people who became overly strict vegetarians or vegans from the get go, only to burn out.
On the other hand, while people should follow their own path to health, Kyssa also recommends that people reduce their consumption of processed food as much as possible, while buying as much local grown food as they can.
“Better than (buying cow’s milk) is Almond milk, but that still comes from a box,” says Kyssa, who has spoken at TEDxOttawa. “Even better is making your own Almond milk, which takes five minutes.”