I was approached recently by a private client to create a two-week detox plan. I am not one who truly believes in elongated cleanses, juice fasts, or detoxes, but I happily obliged and created my version of a detox meal plan. Why am I not pro detox? Because I don’t believe in quick fixes; I believe in making permanent, sustainable and realistic changes to your diet that will improve your well-being long-term.
From a scientific perspective, your body has a natural innate filtration system and, if you are healthy and treat it right, your body eliminates toxins and dietary undesirables that should not be hanging around. Needless to say, most people do not have a "perfect diet" and there are toxins that your body absorbs that are not related to diet and are unfortunately almost impossible to avoid. I also understand the philosophy and the desire of needing to reboot. Whether you are fresh off a Coachella/birthday bender or coming to the realization that your diet is literally and figuratively weighing you down, “detoxing” or, as I see it, cleaning up can allow you to reassess what you put into your body and look at the effects that different foods have on you inside and out.
For my clean-up plan, which is what I prefer to call it over detox, I agree with the typical rules of no alcohol, no caffeine, and no sugar.
Hard alcohol is not utilized by your body and is viewed as a toxin that your body filters out. There is a component in red wine that comes from grape skin called resveratrol, which is longitudinally beneficial but, for clean-up purposes, no alcohol. Alcohol also increases the appetite and reduces inhibition which, when cleaning up, can be counterproductive. Additionally, alcohol is digested and utilized as energy, but your body can only utilize so much at once. If you consume food during alcohol digestion, it may likely get stored as fat if energy is no longer needed. During food and alcohol consumption, your body is also focusing on eliminating the toxins from your body, so much of the nutrients you may have absorbed from food gets bypassed in lieu of alcohol digestion.
Caffeine a stimulant, alters your body’s ability to recognize if it is tired and may inhibit a good night’s rest. When cleaning up, it is important to get your “beauty rest” in order to fully allow your system to recharge.
Sugar should always be consumed in limited proportions and, when it is, I innately feel that the simplest most natural forms should be used such as honey, maple syrup, or maple sugar
As I stated in my clean eating “manifesto” in my previous post, processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. During the clean-up, whole grains, vegetables, and lean protein should be the center of the diet and, if feasible, all meals should be home cooked so you can control all ingredients, including levels of salt and oil.
For the first week of my two-week clean-up plan, animal protein should be limited and the food which is consumed should be wholesome and very easy to digest. Personally, my diet is primarily plant-based, so avoiding animal protein for me would not be as challenging as it would be for others who feel that their meals are incomplete without a piece of chicken or steak in front of them. Additionally, when cleaning up, be mindful of portions. Ideally you want to eat on a nine-inch plate, with half of the plate consisting of vegetables and salad, a quarter with whole grains or starch, and the other quarter with lean protein.
I hope that this helps those of you who are contemplating “detoxing”, and instead opt for a baseline clean-up regimen that sustains good eating habits long-term as opposed to a quick short term elimination diet.
One more note about juicing. I think that it's fine during times of clean-up or routinely to have veggie packed juice for a snack or with a meal, but I would not recommend replacing a juice for a meal for multiple days. You miss much needed protein and fiber (through juicing, a lot of beneficial fiber is lost) and consume minimal amounts of calories which will likely leave you hungry, grumpy, and starving. This could lead to poor dietary choices in order to alleviate mounting hunger.
So with the spring time weather in abundance, maybe its time to consider some spring cleaning of your diet and do a little “cleaning up”.
Below are the recipes for two items included in Week One of my clean-up plan:
Carrot Ginger Soup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp diced ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 clove garlic diced
- 1 bunch carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 qt sodium free vegetable stock
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1 scallion thinly sliced
Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil. Add turmeric and toast spice for 1 minute.
Add ginger and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add carrots and mix well.
Add stock and simmer for 20-30 minutes until carrots are soften.
Turn heat off and let cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, puree soup. Turn heat back on to warm up soup. Serve with scallions as a garnish and finish a pinch of salt and pepper.
Roasted Broccoli and Chickpeas with toasted Sesame Seeds
- 1 head broccoli, florets cut into bite sized pieces, stem peeled and chopped
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 400. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss broccoli and chickpeas with olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until the chickpeas are slightly crisp and broccoli is just tender. Top with sesame seeds.