The middle of winter is a perfect time to do some deep cleaning, not just for your home, but also for your body. We’re in limbo between the craziness and overindulgence of the holidays and the relaxed, more carefree days of spring. This is a perfect time to clean the junk out of your pantry, refrigerator, and your body, and give yourself a healthier start for spring.
I’m not talking about a celebrity endorsed detox diet, colon cleanse, or weeklong juice fast. There is no scientific evidence that these diets are helpful, and in fact, extreme detox diets can be damaging or even dangerous. They can destroy the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract, disrupt the body’s electrolytes, and not eating enough calories actually ends up slowing down your metabolism. Probably not the results you were looking for.
Instead, I recommend – for 4-5 days – eating several meals and snacks each day, but sticking to a “Clean Eating Plan” which consists mostly of fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes for protein, and healthy fats. During this time, don’t focus on how much to eat, but rather, focus on mindful eating – eat only when hungry and stop when you are full. Take time to taste and appreciate the food, and notice how your body feels before, during, and after you eat.
Following this clean eating pattern for just a few days allows your body’s own detox system (the kidneys and liver) to flush out any toxins or unhealthy chemicals. Practicing mindful eating makes you more aware of your body’s hunger and fullness signals. The end result is that you’ll feel (and probably be) lighter, more energetic, and more alert in just a few days – hopefully so much so that you’ll be encouraged to continue eating clean.
The following foods are good to eat during the challenge:
- Any fresh or frozen fruits, or unsweetened dried fruit
- Any vegetables – especially broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and dark leafy greens
- Brown rice, quinoa, oats, or limited amounts of whole wheat or other whole grain bread
- Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, kidney or black beans
- Nuts or nut butters except for peanut or soy (e.g., almond butter)
- Olive oil
- Beverages – plain or lemon water, herbal teas, almond or rice milk
- Any fresh or dried herbs
- Sweeteners – organic honey or maple syrup (small amounts)
These foods should be eliminated during the challenge:
- All dairy products – milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
- All meat and fish
- All soy and peanut products (they can be major sources of allergies)
- All products that contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners
- Butter, margarine, mayonnaise
- Caffeine and alcohol
How to prepare:
Try to start gradually by slowly limiting caffeine and sugar the week before. Both of these can be addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms like headache or irritability if stopped suddenly. Eliminate alcohol, stock up on healthy groceries, and get rid of any junk foods which can tempt you to get off track.
Don’t stop taking any prescription medications and check with your health care provider to make sure your medications won’t be impacted by a sudden change in your eating habits. The doses of some medications, like Coumadin or insulin, are prescribed based on your “typical” diet, so a change can be dangerous.
Clean Eating Sample Meal Plan
Any of the foods on the above “good to eat” list are fine to eat for meals or snacks. Since they’re all low in calories and high in fiber, there are no restrictions on portion sizes, except to eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel full. Also make sure you drink plenty of water or herbal tea throughout the day. Some examples of meals include:
Upon rising in the morning:
Drink a warm glass of water with the juice of ½ of a lemon. This is a vitamin C rich diuretic, which also gets the digestive tract moving and starts the cleansing process.
- Fruit and/or vegetable smoothie
- Fresh berries with oatmeal
- Whole wheat bread with nut butter and fruit
- Almond milk
- Herbal tea
- 10-15 raw almonds
- Piece of fruit
- Sliced apple or pear with almond butter
- Raw vegetables with bean dip, hummus or guacamole
- Fruit or vegetable smoothie
- Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with hummus on whole wheat bread
- Salad with lemon juice and olive oil
- Lentil soup
- Spinach salad with pine nuts and orange segments
Afternoon snacks ideas
(same as above)
- Homemade vegetable soup with whole grain crackers
- Black bean and vegetable chili
- Chopped vegetable and kidney bean salad with quinoa
- Lentil and vegetable stew with brown rice
- Mediterranean salad with chickpeas, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil
Try to follow this plan for a few days, or up to a week. After that time, feel free to add back lean proteins like chicken, fish or turkey and low fat dairy if you like, but try to keep the “junk food” out as much as possible. Let me know how you do!