Many people find cleanses and detoxes appealing as a way to reaffirm a commitment to healthy eating. While I certainly understand the desire dial down cravings for sweets and processed foods and create a pathway toward eating well over the long haul, the trouble I see with juicing and other similar cleanses is that too often, they leave people hangry, sluggish and distracted by constant thoughts of food. Cleansing can also lead to unwanted issues, like constipation (from lack of fiber) and bloating (due to excess fructose from juice cleanses).
If you want to reboot your diet without the unnecessary restriction and potential downsides that comes with detoxes and cleanses, clean up your eating with these nutritionist-approved tips instead.
Go green (and orange and purple and red)
“One of the best ways to reboot your diet is to rethink your fruits and vegetables. Both fruits and vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (natural plant chemicals that help fight and prevent disease),” Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of "Smart Meal Prep for Beginners," says. Most Americans aren’t anywhere close to meeting their needs. (90 percent fall short of vegetable recommendations and 85 percent aren’t meeting their fruit quota.) To help you boost your intake and your overall health, Amidor offers these suggestions: “Add sliced strawberries to your oatmeal at breakfast, opt for a vegetable salad topped with lean protein at lunch, and fill half your dinner plate with a steamed vegetable medley. And don’t forget snacks! Enjoy sliced carrots, celery and jicama with hummus or top your Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries.”
One extra note here: Chewing your produce has benefits over sipping it. It could take two heads of romaine lettuce to produce one cup of juice, and while two heads of romaine would leave you satisfied, a small cup of green juice probably won’t put a dent in hunger. Though you’ll get many of the same vitamins and minerals, juicing removes the fiber, which not only helps you fill up, but also provides important nourishment on its own.
Cut out added sweeteners
While Americans fall short on fruits and veggies, we’re overdoing it on sugar, consuming close to 20 teaspoons a day. Health authorities suggest capping added sugars at 6 teaspoons (equivalent to about 25 g) a day for women and 9 teaspoons (or about 36 g) for men. Challenge yourself to cut back on added sugar from sweetened yogurts, cereals and granola bars, as well as the usual suspects (soda, cookies, ice cream, cookies and other baked goods). You’ll appreciate the natural sweetness of fruit so much more when you cut unnecessary added sweeteners from your diet.
To reboot your diet and reset your gut, remember to eat the three P's: prunes, pulses and pears.
Be good to your gut
Many people are drawn to cleanses to reset their GI system, but there’s no evidence that the cleanses and detoxes you typically read about have any benefit. Instead of trying to flush out toxins, take measures to boost your gut health so it can do its job well. “A healthy gut is important for almost every aspect of wellness — from boosting your mood to helping you sleep, from weight management to preventing chronic diseases, the list goes on and on. To reboot your diet and reset your gut, remember to eat the three P's: prunes, pulses and pears,” says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, nutrition and healthy cooking expert.
“Prunes help maintain good digestive health and can positively affect the bacteria living in the gut, potentially reducing the risk of colon cancer. And pulses (which include lentils, beans, chickpeas and peas) can improve gut health by strengthening the gut barrier and reducing the risk of gut-associated diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Pears contain prebioitic fiber that helps promote intestinal health by providing food for beneficial probiotic bacteria.” The point is, you need a variety of fiber sources to optimize your gut health so make sure to include these foods, as well as others rich in fiber (such as whole grains and an array of fruits and veggies), often.
Take a break from booze
“Alcohol may lower inhibitions, which could make you more likely to reach for unhealthy foods,” says Keri Gans, RD, Nutritionist, and Author of The Small Change Diet. Anyone who has tossed back a couple of margaritas and some chips and guac at happy hour can relate! Save the booze until after your reboot. “Once you’re firmly back on track, if you want to reintroduce alcohol in moderation, go for it,” she says.
Eat hydrating foods
“The human body is about 60 percent water, and your body needs to be continually hydrated throughout the day in order to optimally function,” explains Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “In addition to drinking H20 and water-rich, low-calorie beverages like tea, you can also prioritize eating foods that are full of water — including fruits, veggies, broth-based soups and even oatmeal. These foods are also full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will benefit your body. In the summer, I love blending fruit into a breakfast smoothie and grilling peaches for dessert,” she says.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of "The Superfood Swap," offers this tip: Swap grazing for plated snacks. “I have a tendency to graze mindlessly, and even if it’s on healthy stuff, it adds up,” she says. “Grabbing a spoonful of ‘this’ while standing in the kitchen, scooping a handful of ‘that’ while working at my desk, or eating just a few little bites of ‘something’ while watching TV.” Anyone else familiar with this scenario?
When I need to give my diet a reboot, I focus on having two nourishing, planned snacks per day.
“When I need to give my diet a reboot, I focus on having two nourishing, planned snacks per day, like a pear and pecans, or grape tomatoes and string cheese, or berries and yogurt. And I put the snacks on a plate, sit down and enjoy them.” This part is especially key. When you graze or snack mindlessly, you don’t register those foods as well as when you plate them. No plate? No problem! Use a paper towel, napkin, cup or whatever is available to you to help you eat more mindfully.
Do a social media cleanse
This is the one cleanse I can get behind! You’ve probably seen news reports that social media can heighten feelings of isolation and anxiety, but it can also increase feelings of body dissatisfaction. If certain accounts make you feel down about your body, your weight or the way you eat, it might be worth using the handy “unfollow” tool. Ditto for any accounts that recommend overly restrictive eating behaviors. There are healthy ways to lose weight that honor and respect your body so rid yourself of all the social noise that might be toxic to your overall wellbeing.
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