7 Not-So-Extreme Raw Food Retreats

Dieters dread the stretch of time between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The turkey with all the trimmings pig-out clear through the bacchanal of the final countdown has marked the downfall of many healthy eaters. So, it may be the best time to plan a visit to one of these seven raw food retreats where "healthy" and "delicious" actually go hand-in-hand.

If a week or even a weekend of raw, vegan food seems extreme, a retreat like Casa Verde in the Honduran rainforest will make the experience seem more like an adventure than a detox. Plus, activities like kayaking in mangroves are great distractions as is the sheer natural beauty. Founder Wendy Green says, "Guests will see wild Toucans, orchids, and other tropical flora and fauna every single day."

On a Raw Trips retreat, gourmet chef and travel guide Kirsten Gum emphasizes the experiential aspect of her retreats. "It's about learning new skills, having new experiences and finding balance," she says. "This comes in a variety of ways: location, cuisine, culture, environment, community, self-love, self-care, self-responsibility." A week in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, where Gum hosts regular retreats, is sure to be enriching, especially surrounded by traditional Andean culture which is alive and well in the nearby valley.

"The cultures and caring communities in Ecuador and Peru... know connection to spirit, to earth and to all other beings and have been living this way for centuries," Gum says. In that way, location is extremely important when choosing a "raw-treat" because it can play a part in the healing that often comes with this type of travel. There's a reason most people who have participated in one feel that the experience is a type of spiritual journey.

The raw or "live" food movement can seem cultish in ways, but most retreat organizers welcome people who've never eaten exclusively raw before, though Gum recommends weening yourself off of meat and dairy in the weeks before traveling.

When talking about the way raw food wakes up the body, she says, "Sometimes an all raw food diet can be shocking to a person's digestive system and to their emotions." But most retreats take that into account, and want to make sure that people don't feel deprived. Wendy Green says that after eating the 90% local Honduran produce "guests are always floored by how delicious our meals are, and they are never hungry!"  

As much as retreats are about relaxing, most also have an educational component, whether meditation at Tao Garden in Thailand, conscious breathing sessions at Cedar Springs in Washington State, or food preparation (rather than cooking) classes like at Arizona's Tree of Life. Guidance on eating raw is common to many programs, and they take care to show people that continuing after the retreat can be manageable.

Saniye Gungor, owner of Sanivan Holistic Retreat in the Catskills, admits a raw diet can be intimidating, but says, "Preparing raw meals is remarkably simple and takes less time than cooking. As long as you have a food processor, you are set to make many wonderful raw dishes and salads as well as raw desserts." In fact, Sanivan shared an easy raw Cauliflower Cilantro Salad Recipe with The Daily Meal.

If you're curious about eating raw or feel the need to detox, a retreat may be the most user-friendly way to try it out. Though it's not without its challenges, with those come rewards. Says Gungor, "It is like going through any change; you will gain confidence and knowledge as you go along and love being healthy and filled with new vitality."

Click here for the 7 Not-So-Extreme Raw Food Retreats Slideshow.