"Cleanse" and "detox" are words you hear quite a bit. By now, I’m pretty sure we all know that a juice-only cleanse can send you on a short trip towards a meltdown and not help your cause at all. But there is no need to throw the term "cleanse" out completely. A whole, real food cleanse, can mark the start of a long life of overall healthier eating habits — if you do it right.
The most important aspect is eating whole, nutritious, cleansing foods, but there’s much more to it than that. Here is my go-to guide to help you get your cleanse on, pounds off and keep you smiling happy.
1. Eat consistently throughout the day, approximately every three to four hours.
This will keep serious hanger moments at bay and help you make healthier choices at meal time. Start your morning with breakfast, never skip lunch, plan your dinner and squeeze in at least one, if not two, real food snacks. And, while eating all day, listen to your body. I call this tried and true tool your hunger quotient, a scale of 1 to 10 that helps you gauge how hungry you are at any time. If you master this and nothing else, you are 10 steps ahead.
2. Eat as much fresh, real, whole food as possible.
Try to avoid anything that comes in a bag or a box. Processed foods are your enemy while cleansing. Start your morning with breakfast like two hard-boiled eggs and sauteed greens. By mid-morning, have a snack like a small apple and 2 teaspoons of almond butter. Lunchtime, go for more greens and a source of lean protein such as grilled shrimp or grass-fed beef will do. For dinner, stick to loads of veggies such as broccoli rabe, peppers, cauliflower or salad greens, paired with a protein and a half cup portion of complex carbs such as a sweet potato or brown rice.
And, don’t forget a little fat at each meal such as avocado or olive oil. Still hungry for seconds? Try reloading your plate — with veggies. Eat them to your hearts content.
3. Use vinegar, herbs and spices to flavor your food.
This will help you to avoid chemicals, sugar and sodium found in most condiments and sauces. Not only will these herbs and spices keep your food interesting, but spices are also a great source of antioxidants. Balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, cumin, chili powder, garlic, cinnamon, sage, rosemary — you name it, you can (and should!) add it in. Roast beets with balsamic vinegar, or pump up the flavor and make lemon herb roasted chicken breast.
4. Avoid all added sugars.
This one will be tough. If you’re having a serious sugar craving, satisfy it the healthy way with a half broiled grapefruit or with slices of apple sprinkled with cinnamon. Cinnamon and nutmeg are “sweet” spices.
Over time, your taste buds will actually adapt to what you’re exposing them to. The less sweetness you have in your diet, the less you'll crave it. Plus, you'll appreciate those sweet things even more when you do have them. Ever thought a carrot was sweet? Try cutting out all added and packaged sugars for a week, and then try that same fresh carrot again. You may surprise yourself.
5. Drink at least eight cups of water a day.
6. Avoid all alcohol.
It’s not realistic to tell you to never drink a drop of alcohol again if you’re a drinker (by all means, enjoy a summertime glass of rosé ... Or two!). However, during the short time that you are doing some serious tightening up of your diet, opt out of the alcoholic beverages altogether, and stick to bubbly or fruit-infused water instead.
7. Sleep seven to eight hours per night.
A cleanse isn’t only about the food. To function optimally, your body needs rest just as much as it needs nutrients. Tightening up on your sleep hygiene can provide serious long-term benefits.
8. Exercise every day.
No back-to-back spin class required. This simply means going on a long walk, completing a Pilates class or even a short circuit-training session in your living room. Do something every day to move your body and break a sweat. This will contribute to your “cleanse” goals and provide a major mood boost.
9. Do one thing just for YOU each day that you’re cleansing.
For example, get a massage or set aside time to meditate. It can be as short as a two minute quiet moment you take in the morning. Even if meditation is not for you, don’t worry, this time can be set aside for anything you want, as long it is only for you!