We readily consume sugars, pastries, and meats without much thought in everyday life, not to mention alcoholic beverages. What is a night out without it or a day out with friends without at least some dessert or heavily sugared coffee?

Noting our habits broaches tough subjects of food and nutrition. What are we really putting in our bodies? Is this sugary feast really good for us and are there healthier alternatives?

Raw food educator Debi Brummel of Nanaimo has all the answers up her sleeve. Her 30-year mission to rid her cupboards of pre-packaged, sugary foods and promote healthy eating habits has made her well versed in nutrition.

Having decided to take back her health after a personal tragedy in the early 1980s, Brummel signed up to take a raw food course back when no one really knew what it was all about. Working alongside dieticians and doctors, raw food educators like herself make specific diet plans and tailor it to the individual.

Since becoming a raw food educator, Brummel has been able to help many people streamline their diets and provide useful tips and recipes to make the transition process easier.

While most of us think changing our diet is hard and time consuming, Brummel begs to differ. “Most of us don’t have a lot of money,” she says. “When I make raw foods it takes me less time, and less money due to the fact that I’m not using my stove. Plus, I’m saving time on clean up.”

When most of us think about the raw food diet, we imagine hard, complicated recipes requiring extra time and effort we can’t afford to take. This is true to some extent, says Brummel. “If you’re doing a complicated dessert it can take longer than regular desserts.” But she says the change in nutrition and the effort is always worth it.

“It’s one of the worst changes that people can think of. It’s so hard, and food has been ruling us for so long,” says Brummel. “That’s one of the things I teach people: You have to quit letting your tongue be your boss. This brain is bigger than your tongue.”

Since switching to a raw food diet can be a big adjustment for most of us, Brummel suggests a few minor changes to start off with to not shock the system. Small modifications such as using a collard green leaf as a substitute for bread or eating cut fruits like pineapples for a snack instead of a sugary granola bar are just a few measures she suggests as a start.

“You don’t have to eat everything raw in a day or have to be 100 percent raw,” says Brummel. “But if you’re just trying to have a long healthy life, then you don’t want to be putting things in your body that make the wrong people money.”

According to Brummel, most things in a grocery store aside from the fresh foods are something to avoid. Since many things on shelves have been heated, processed, and filled with sugar to preserve them, most have lost their full nutritional value.

“All foods are in a more nutritious state raw —from the ground—than they are when they are cooked. If we’re going for maximum nutrition we aren’t going to cook it, or we’re going to lightly steam or dehydrate it because we don’t want it as runny and wet,” says Brummel.

Since sweet side dishes are a staple in common households, raw alternatives are something that can easily be implemented. Traditional recipes can be altered to suit the raw diet, says Brummel. An easy recipe called Date Kisses can be made in less than 15 minutes, consisting of cut dates, coconut powder, and walnut halves, providing all the desired sweetness and sugary goodness in a nutritious dessert.

A rise in awareness of nutritional value in food has made society rethink what is really being consumed. Dispelling myths and preconceptions about healthier living is something that many seeking to change their ways are on the look out for.

Before loading your grocery cart with processed and easy-to-make foods, it may be worth considering what healthier alternatives can be added or implemented to traditional foods. With a variety of options out there, changes towards a healthier lifestyle could lead to a healthier you and a good start to the school year.