No-cook meals are supposed to be easy, but one writer learns that an entirely raw food diet is anything but simple.
Some days you're totally exhausted. Others, you've been going nonstop for hours. Whatever the reason may be, we've all been there: You walk into your house and the last thing you want to do is cook an entire meal. Lucky for you, the whole no-cook thing is a thing. No-cook recipes promise to save you tons of time in the kitchen, and eating more raw foods (specifically fruits and vegetables) may reduce your risk of certain diseases.
Cue my self-imposed no-cook challenge, in which I went cook-free for an entire week. And no, that doesn't mean takeout every night—it means eating raw, largely unprocessed foods. Would I be satisfied living a life sans sauté pan? Here's what I learned.
1. Salads can be delicious (but also boring).
Disclaimer: I love salads. Like, really love them. I'd say four out of five weekdays, I eat them for lunch. Dinner, however, is a different story. Especially when your dinner salad, which we can all agree is usually a larger portion than a lunch salad, involves no cooked proteins of any kind.
Upon eating my first few dinner salads (I ate them every night of this challenge), I was immediately unsatisfied. Despite loading them with a slew of my favorite veggies—like red and green peppers, tomatoes, shelled edamame for protein, carrots, and cucumbers—I wanted more. I quickly became bored despite trying different combinations, adding in fruits, and dressing one differently from the next.
I found myself reaching for raw cashews within 10 minutes of dinner each night, wondering what else I could eat that was raw in my apartment. After consciously not trying to load up on raw snacks at the grocery store, the answer to that inquiry was nada. Result: Most nights I went to bed hungry. Secondary result: I felt pretty slim throughout the week when I woke up in the morning.
2. No-cook breakfasts are tough.
Think about what you usually eat for breakfast, and I'll almost guarantee you that nine times out of 10, it's cooked. My go-to options, like eggs, granola, and oatmeal, were all out. Which meant going into this challenge, I recognized that most mornings would consist of smoothies and fruit. That was until I decided to experiment with overnight oats (try this recipe for Brownie Batter Overnight Oats).
Let me tell you a little something about overnight oats: A lot of people have opinions on them. Upon posting an Instagram story about my first-ever overnight oats fail (they were watery and upon first bite, I deemed them inedible), I got 22—yes, 22—DMs with suggestions and recipe tips on how to make them better. My winning recipe used half of the amount of liquid I used on day one, a hearty dose of PB2, and sliced banana. It tasted like a dessert. Breakfast dessert! And it was totally socially acceptable! Winner, winner. Truth be told, learning how to make overnight oats the right way was probably the biggest win of this entire experiment.
3. "Grabbing food" is hard when it can't be cooked.
On the fourth night of my no-cook week, my boyfriend and I met near his apartment and decided to go grab food. We walked into a local grocery store, and I quickly realized just how limited my options were. All of the prepared items had some sort of cooked item inside, ranging from toasted almonds to grilled chicken. Even the buffet had limited raw options, and I left the store with yet another sad salad while he strolled out with every cooked vegetable that I'd be having dreams about roughly two hours later.
4. Meal prep takes less time when you're not cooking anything.
On my no-cook week, meal prep was simply slicing vegetables for all of those salads, mixing together overnight oats, and tossing bananas in the freezer for smoothies. Within 20 minutes, I had containers lining my fridge filled with different veggies, making it easy to toss together a salad after a long day instead of having to start from scratch. (See also: The Essential Guide to Meal Prep for Beginners)
Would I Do It Again?
Honestly: I was pretty crabby the entire time I was living this no-cook life. While I added plant-based sources of protein to my salads, like nuts and seeds, I craved more. I learned that for me to feel 100, I needed more substance than I was getting from this type of diet—at least how I executed it during this experiment. As someone who works out often, I craved more fuel.
On a positive note: I realized that I typically eat a ton of sweets throughout the day, many of which are processed and cooked, and giving those up for the week made me feel great. Despite feeling slim throughout the week and less bloated than normal, I'd still say the constant "FEED ME" feeling of hunger crushed that benefit.
It also should be mentioned that it made me feel super restricted when making plans. I hated to be the person who others had to accommodate. A pretty go-with-the-flow person, I couldn't just go with it. Would there be salads there? If it's vegan, great, but are there raw vegan options? The questions were abundant. I felt squashed socially. And that was rough.
Will I incorporate more of this no-cook lifestyle into my full-cook lifestyle? For sure. In the sea of DMs I got throughout the week, I was impressed by the women who gave me a shout to tell me that they felt astronomically better after going raw for weeks at a time. I'm totally willing to try more no-cook recipes. But let's just say that while my mind is open, I'm not breaking up with that sauté pan anytime soon.