We love catching up with courageous, purpose driven women – I recently caught up with Tamara Brown, Founder of Raw Food Girl. She’s driven by her passion for health and nutrition and luckily for the rest of us, she loves to share this passion through workshops, catering and recipe books.
Tell us about your business, Raw Food Girl.
I started The Raw Food Girl at the end of 2013, teaching about raw food to participants at my workshops. The yummy food is just to get people there – what I really want to teach them is about health and nutrition. My last workshop was about sugar – how it affects us and how to reduce the amount of added sugar we have in our diet. The dishes for that workshop were focused on what to replace sugar with and healthier alternatives. I have six or seven workshop options with different nutritional focuses – the savoury ones are my favourites to teach (lots of veggies!). I really love to teach people why we eat this way and why they never want to go back to eating what they were eating before.
What drives you, what motivates you to be the Raw Food Girl?
When I was pregnant with my third child, Stew (hubby) was working away and I was completely stuffed, no energy and feeling a little bit flat… My whole day was with my two kids, who I love very much but after they went to bed I just flaked out. My friend Kim started talking about raw food and how she felt so much better eating more plants. I thought I was already healthy, but then the more I learnt about what real health is and how healing raw foods can be, I realised how dead my diet was.
I started with breakfast, swapping my Weet-Bix and muesli for green smoothies. Then I tackled lunch, then dinner. It took a good year to get into a good way of eating, which means eating a lot more vegetables and fruit. My energy went from hardly anything to heaps and the more plant food I ate, the better I felt. People ask why I don’t crave M&M’s and other junk foods but I now have less than zero desire for these types of foods. I crave spinach and broccoli, seriously I can’t wait to eat it! The more I learnt about health and nutrition, the more I implemented. Every night I was studying health, not because I had to but because I really wanted to.
How do you balance being mum to four children and running your own business?
Quite a few times I have got very stressed out and thought, “I can’t do this,” and kind of gave up and knew I had to change something. Before, I used to be mum all day and work as The Raw Food Girl at night, but then it started to feel like work instead of a passion. So I scaled it back to teaching one workshop a month and small catering orders. I’m very comfortable saying no – I don’t want business to take over my kids because they are what’s most important.
The Raw Food Girl business helps me to be a better mum, I needed something just for me, outside of my children. It ticks all my boxes! Balance can be hard, it’s about asking what is the most important thing today and focusing on that.
What does ‘raw’ mean?
Once food has been cooked over 47 degrees it is no longer considered raw. The enzymes available in raw food can’t survive heat over this temperature – they go out of shape and are useless to the body. I do cook some of our food though – some nutrients become more bio-availabile heated, and cooking can also help with digestion for the cruciferous vegetables (like kale, broccoli etc). Many nutrients are, however, lost though heating. Vitamin C, for example, is destroyed by heat.
My typical day would start with a raw breakfast (usually a veggie based smoothie bowl and supergreens drink), raw lunch (huge green salad with raw dressings like avocado or tahini) and dinner would generally be a big salad paired with some cooked food (like Lentil Bolognese on raw zucchini noodles). Any treats are always raw. When l first started out, I used to eat A LOT of raw treats – they are what got me through (the change).
Can you tell us what it means to be vegan and what kind of differences have you felt and seen in your life since switching to a vegan lifestyle?
It was such a gradual thing, not something I ever though I would do, living without cheese… I was eating a lot of dairy, yogurt, ice cream, cheese – it was at least 30% of my diet. Getting off dairy took me ages, but when I did my allergies practically disappeared. I used to have bad hay fever – I would drug myself up all through September to get rid of the snot! Now, I might get a slight sniffle and that’s it. My allergies are pretty much gone. When I started learning about how mucus forming dairy products can be, the desire to eat them became less and less.
Researching where our food comes from, what animals have to go through, and the environmental impact of our food choices made a huge impact on my desire to change my diet. For example, it takes 50-100 thousand litres of water to produce a kilogram of beef compared to 1-2000 litres for rice. Switching to a plant based diet saves far more water than shorter showers ever will.
We spent two months travelling around Australia last year, camping and staying with family, and eating food we wouldn’t normally eat. With camping, it was hard to get the volume of fresh food I would normally eat, so I supplemented with lots of grains. We were eating lots of decadent Christmassy food with our Melbourne family, and I was feeling really rank. I had been wanting to try living 100% vegan, but it was actually my husband who said “we would go vegan in the new year and see how our bodies would feel.” The first it was hard. But after a few weeks, the cravings for junk foods went. In the beginning, I would have a raw treat to satisfy my cravings but now I just crave spinach and broccoli. Seriously!
I often talk with people who are experimenting with their diet. Some have come back to me and said that, from what I’ve taught them, they’ve decided to go fully raw. When this happens I always encourage people to go and do their own research first. People need to know how to swap out foods they used to eat (like meat) with foods that will give them the nutrients their bodies need. One of the best tools I’ve found is the Cronometer App, it will tell you if you’ve had your daily recommend intake of nutrients. When I started transitioning to vegan, I tracked all my food using this app but now I just know what I need to eat to hit my nutritional targets. I feel great as a vegan – I don’t think I would stop being vegan, though it can be quite restrictive at times. Maybe I would consider being a little less rigid with it but for now, I don’t really want to.
What else do you do to stay fit and healthy?
I train every weekday at Cube43, which is group training with a fabulous coach. I get a bit slack in the school holidays – with four kids sometimes it can be hard to get there! I normally wake up at 5am and go for a walk from 5.30-6 just to get my body moving and flush some of those toxins. Ideally, I’d do my morning walk every day but in reality I only make it out a couple of times per week.
You have several recipe books – which is your go-to recipe when you’re making a healthy treat?
When making for other people, the Snickers Slice is the hands down favourite. I have made that hundreds and hundreds of times, it’s on my website and in the new edition of my chocolate book.
When making treats for me, Double Choc Protein Balls are my absolute favourite, closely followed by Ferrero Rocher Protein Balls.
When Stew and I have a home date night, it’s always raw ice cream. Blending frozen coconut milk with peanut butter or almond butter, coconut nectar syrup and carob is the best thing ever. It’s dairy free, and so much yummier than traditional icecream.
Do you have a favourite go-to meal for dinner time?
To get my kids to eat salad, I always give them their salad first, and they have to eat half or more. My easiest go-to meal is sweet potato chips (made by cutting sweet potato into wedges) and baked without oil, paired with a huge salad.
Another family favourite is lentil bolognese on zucchini noodles, it’s so easy to make in the Thermomix – vegies, tomatoes, and beans or lentils to bulk it out. I don’t know how I ever cooked without one!
Lastly, what are your top five tips for someone who is just starting out at eating healthier?
- Drink more water. Water helps to flush toxins and rehydrate the body, most of us are dehydrated without even knowing it. Start with 2 litres per day and see how much better you feel. I drink 4-5 litres a day.
- Dont stress about food. Start with one meal, and build from there. For me it was breakfast. It’s so easy to do a raw breakfast like a smoothie, chia pudding, smoothie bowl or even a warm veggie soup.
- Get more green into you. The majority of my diet is alkaline based: spinach, cucumber, broccoli, lemon – foods to balance out pH. If you struggle to eat greens, do smoothies. Its easy to pack heaps in while still tasting great. Supergreen powders like wheatgrass and spirulina are great to add in extra nutrients. Aim for greens that are locally grown and unprocessed.
- Eat lemons! Adding lemon to your water helps to alkalise the body. Lemon can erode teeth enamel so just be sure to rinse your mouth out with clean water afterwards.
- Have a positive mindset. Love yourself! If you eat something bad, don’t beat yourself up. Just own it and remember tomorrow is a new day. Instead of berating yourself over the bad things you ate, increase the good foods, and over time, the bad will naturally be crowded out. Please be kind to yourself – remind yourself that you are a good person and that you are trying your best. Look in the mirror every day and say loudly, “I LOVE YOU!”
Inspired? You can find the Raw Food Girl website here, and follow her on Instagram or Facebook here. Check out the Raw Food Girl Facebook page before the 20th of July to win tickets to the next workshop! Thank you Tamara for sharing your passion with us!