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Trying a summer cleanse? Stay healthy with these alternatives to juice

by Rebekah Lowin / / Source: TODAY

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Calling all cleanse-haters: It’s time to get off your high horse and consider the positive effects of a cleanse before writing the whole concept off as unhealthy.

Okay, so it's true that the scientific jury is totally out on this one. Cleanses — namely of the no-fiber, high-sugar juice variety — can hurt more often than they heal, with side effects ranging from minor (hunger and low energy) to major (low blood sugar, muscle aches, dizziness, and nausea, to name a few).

Woman with green juice tying sneakers
You definitely won't be running too far while on a juice cleanse.Maridav / Shutterstock

Doesn’t sound too fun, does it?

“We’re a little ‘over’ the whole juice cleanse thing, sure,” Lauren Slayton, R.D. and founder of Foodtrainers told TODAY.com.

“But the truth is, it’s fine to do a different kind of cleanse for a few days, as long as you keep things sane and go with one of the healthier varieties.”

As Slayton told us, these rituals allow us to feel like we’re able to flip a reset switch on our eating habits. And while that may not be true in the physical sense, the long-term, placebo-driven, psychological benefits might outweigh that.

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Yes, we're saying it's all in your head. And yes, that might be okay. All those people who claim to feel fabulous after completing a cleanse can’t be totally delusional, can they?

So, even though it’s always better to adopt a full-on lifestyle change rather than diet in spurts, we’re cool with mid-year kick-starts. Here are TODAY’s tips on alternative (read: better) ways to clean up your eating habits without passing out halfway through the work day.

Minestrone soup - healthy, cleanse
Soup: your newest cleanse option.Olga Nayashkova / Shutterstock

Try a soup cleanse.

“At Foodtrainers, we like to chew,” Slayton admitted. And presumably, if you’re a human being with a mouth, you do, too. “We’ve all heard that digestive rest is one reason to go all-liquid, but that seems iffy. Any regime that forbids a few baby carrots should be questioned.”

In other words, don’t go blaming cucumbers for all your problems. But if you can’t help hating on the crunch factor, compromise by going for a soup cleanse. They’re a far more satisfying option than juice cleanses and typically have less sugar, too. Plus, we think you’re not as likely to fail if you like what you’re eating.

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Make “food resolutions.”

There’s nothing wrong with simply taking out a pen and paper and resetting that way, rather than putting your body through a week of torture.

“Just as you do at New Year’s, this can be a great way to get yourself back on track any time of year,” said Slayton. (Just try not to get all sneaky on us by adding “do a 10-day juice cleanse” to that list.)

Limit your “no’s” to one item.

“For instance, no carbs one week, or no booze in the summertime,” advised Slayton.

Or, consider totally abandoning your fruit juices to join TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer in our ten-day #NoSugarTODAY detox.

These are the sorts of deprivation detoxes that are okay to try, since they still allow nutrients and fiber to make their way into your body — and they're varied, too, so you won't lose interest (or consciousness).

Instead of juicing, go for smoothies.

You’ll feel like you’re really changing up the look and feel of your diet, but you’ll still be getting the fiber that’s lost in a lot of juices.

“It just doesn’t make sense to go from junk to juice,” Slayton said. “Try to compromise with whole fruit or veggie smoothies, and add other varied nutrients like dairy.”

And because you’ll be aware that you won’t be totally starving, you won’t experience the night-before binge-fest that Slayton has cleverly termed the “last supper syndrome.”

Can’t kick the juice? At least limit the contents of your concoction to one fruit alone.

“Pick one!” urged Slayton. “Apple or orange or pineapple, whatever it is. The rest should be veggie-centric.”

Try a green juice loaded with veggies, then add one fruit and a touch of lemon juice (okay, that’s two fruits, but the lemon’s alright by us) to keep things bearable.

You’ll be surprised at how delicious green juice is all on its own, and you’ll also be helping to wean your taste buds off of the overly-sweet sensory overload of pure fruit juice. After all, there’s just no point to “cleansing” if you’re only going to be increasing the amount of sugar you normally eat.

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