Navigating the Holidays: Tips and Tricks for a Healthier, Happier Season – Week Two: Booze Bets and Surviving the Day-to-Day (i.e., Watch out Office Donuts!)

It’s here! Thanksgiving week. As you gather with friends and family don’t forget to remember the reason for the season and all you are thankful for. One activity I love is sharing what we’re thankful for around the dinner table – actually saying it out loud. It can mean so much to our loved ones – who we don’t tell nearly enough how important they are to us. I know that personally, I have so much to be thankful for — this year especially. In addition to my loving family, health and career, I am thankful for my partner in life. To my husband on our first thanksgiving as a married couple – you are what I’m most thankful for this holiday season. Your patience, smile and calming nature truly has swept me off my feet and I’m so in love with and thankful for you. So now it’s your turn: I want to know, what are you thankful for?

And now, on to this week’s tips and recipes. Enjoy!

Be Bashful Around BoozeCelebrating Christmas

Why? Alcohol has 7 calories per gram as opposed to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein. That means it’s calorie dense – and those calories can add up quick if you aren’t careful. Just because you are celebrating shouldn’t mean you should send your weight maintenance plan on holiday as well.

Alcohol interferes with blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose into the blood stream. Alcohol also breaks down your inhibitions and can impair your judgment, making you less likely to resist (and often times eat more of) the foods you might otherwise pass up.

Here’s how a typical drink adds up:

  • 90 calories/5 ounce glass of wine
  • 150-170 calories in a pint of beer
  • 75 calories in about 1.5 ounces of spirits

So what to do? For starters, try to keep visual evidence around of what you’ve consumed so you don’t forget. Leave an empty bottle of wine or beer in view and you’ll be less tempted to drink more. You can also follow each beverage with a glass of water to ensure you stay hydrated and potentially drink less. Last – watch the added mixers. Stick with clear spirits mixed with calorie-free beverages like sparkling water or club soda vs. juice or soft drinks.

Survive the Day-to-Dayoffice-snacks

Again — just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean you should forego your healthy habits. Continue to meal prep, bring your own lunches, and keep healthy snacks at the office so you’re not as tempted by the treats that will begin to pile up. It’s hard – I know! Just last week a coworker brought in a box of donuts and I felt peer pressured into eating one – even though I truly didn’t want it. Stand your ground. And if you want to indulge – do so mindfully. Not while typing away at your desk. Take a minute to truly enjoy the treat. You’ll be less apt to go back for a second or third.

Some other tricks to try: keep those communal office goodies out of view or in an area that is less trafficked like the kitchen or a break room. Why? Out of sight, out of mind.  Another idea: before you splurge, consider doing something healthy. We are on the 8th floor of our office building. So instead of just diving into that cupcake or cookie, I’ll sometimes walk up/down a few flights of stairs or go for a walk first. Often times, when I return, I’m no longer in the mood for that sweet treat. And if I am, I enjoy it – without multitasking.

Recipe Inspiration

Since it’s Thanksgiving week, here are a couple of my favorite side dishes you can swap out for more traditional sides. They are still healthy and delicious but without all the extra calories, sodium and healthier sources of fat. If you try one of these recipes out, I’d love to hear what you think!

Coming up next week, I’ll discuss why it’s so important to get, or continue to get, moving as well as why it’s so important to plan ahead before heading out to an office party, holiday shopping or cookie exchange. Cheers!

Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrettegreen beans

Serves 8

A tasty alternative to green bean casserole with less sodium and calories than the traditional dish. The walnuts add healthy crunch and the vinaigrette really makes this dish pop. This is one of my go-to recipes during the holiday season. Enjoy

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup walnut oil or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Remove peel from lemon with vegetable peeler and cut into very fine strips.
  2. Cut lemon in half. Squeeze enough juice to measure 2 tablespoons and transfer to a small bowl.
  3. Whisk in mustard, then oil and shallot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cook green beans in pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 5—6 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
  5. Combine beans, walnuts, and lemon peel strands in a large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat and serve.

Smokey Apple Butternut Squash Soupapples

Serves 6-8 (Makes 7 Cups)

Adapted from the U.S. Apple Association

I love this simple soup as a holiday starter. As I mentioned in the tips, starting with a broth based soup can fill you up so you indulge less in the calorie dense foods served next. This soup has a nice added kick from the chipotle powder. If you find it too spicy you can back off or omit that ingredient entirely. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large onions, finely chopped (about 4−1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (about 6 cups)
  • 1 pound sweet apples (I like Galas), peeled and cut into chunks (about 3−1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup apple juice (more if necessary)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and butter in large saucepan; add onions and chili powder; cook and stir until onions are tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add squash, apples, apple juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper; bring to boil.
  3. Cover and cook on low heat until apples and squash are very so, about 30 minutes. Cool.
  4. Puree with an immersion blender or a food processor; return to saucepan.
  5. Add additional apple juice or broth, if needed.
  6. Garnish with toasted pecans, plain Greek yogurt swirls and thin apple slices, if desired.

Navigating the Holidays: Tips and Tricks for a Healthier, Happier Season

It’s hard to believe it – but the holiday season is just around the corner! I recently had the fortunate opportunity to give a nutrition seminar to Orange Theory Fitness members around the Chicago-land area on how to navigate the holiday season while keeping your health and fitness goals in check. Since the tips were pretty well received – I figured why not share them with you! But instead of all at once – I’ll share a couple every week so as not to overwhelm you!

Holiday-weight-gain.jpgBut before I dive in – why bother? “It’s the holidays – let me eat what I want,” right? I wholeheartedly agree that you should celebrate and enjoy yourself – but also feel that just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to derail your health and fitness goals. There’s a misperception that we gain a ‘ton’ of weight during the holiday season. And while some may gain more than others – the truth is the average person only gains about one pound during the holiday season. The issue though is we don’t lose that pound leading to an increase in weight over time.

Second – let’s face it – the holidays are stressful (amen!). Between work, holiday parties, family, friends, church, and other obligations you may have – there just isn’t enough time for everything and often our health takes a back seat. That shouldn’t be the case. If anything – now is when you should make it more of a priority to ensure you ward off illness and stay healthy during this festive time.

So on to my tips and tricks. I hope you enjoy this series of posts! Let me know – I always love feedback!!

Tip #1: Party Time Prep

Holiday season likely means a slew of get-togethers filled with hor ‘douerves galore. How do you navigate them when pigs in a blanket or creamy artichoke dip are calling your name? First – never – if at all possible – show up hungry (or in my case, hangry). Why? You are more apt to eat everything in sight and alcohol will hit you faster. Have a snack before you leave the office or house. One of my go-to snacks when I’m in a pinch are Health Warrior Chia Bars (full disclosure: I serve on the Health Warrior Dietitian Council). These little goodies pack a punch of fiber (5g per bar) and healthy fat with only 3g of sugar. And they are only 100 calories and the perfect size to through in your purse, work bag, car or back pack. They come in delicious flavors too – like chocolate chip cookie dough, banana nut or coconut. Have a little more time? Then follow my suggestions for a healthy snack: it should include a carbohydrate (e.g., bread, cereal, fruit, dairy, etc.), healthy fat (e.g., nut butter, avocado, nuts/seeds, etc.) and quality protein (e.g., dairy, soy, egg, meat products or some combination of nuts/seeds). Examples include a yogurt parfait made with greek yogurt of your choice (look for low or no added sugar), granola and some chopped apples or other fruit; a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana; or a handful of carrots with some hummus, whole grain crackers and 1 oz of cheese (about the size of your thumb).

7790ecd6-edf2-4a43-94f4-6343f41dec49Once you’ve arrived to the party, attack the snacks mindfully. Survey what is offered and take what it is you truly want to eat vs. a little bit of everything. Research has shown that when faced with a wide variety of foods, people tend to eat more—regardless of true hunger level. Really try to tune in to your hunger level and whether you really want the chips and dip or the veggies and hummus. Take a little and call it a day. Another tactic – fill your plate with better-for-you options first. I like to encourage clients to follow the 1/2 plate rule – at meals and with snacks. 1/2 of your plate (or bowl) should be fruits/veggies. One quarter grain and the other quarter a lean protein of your choice. This visual will help keep portions in check.

Last – once you’ve had your fill, stand away from the snack table so you aren’t prone to mindless nibbling. You can also hold on to something to lessen your likelihood to munch. Think about it – when our hands are full, it’s hard to stuff our face. Try to really be keyed in to what you are eating when you are eating – focus on enjoying each bite you take.

My next two tips will focus on alcohol and how to survive the day-to-day (hello office donuts). So stay tuned for more and feel free to comment with the tips that you take during the holidays to stay on track! I’ll end each post with one of my favorite holiday recipes – because food! All are holiday inspired but health-ified (still delicious). Cheers!

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

You’ll save over 250 calories, 20g of fat (while also switching to a healthier fat), and gain 3g of fiber per serving compared to traditional chocolate mousse. Have fun with your guests by asking them to guess the mystery ingredient. This recipe is also a great way to use up avocados that have started to turn brown. Enjoy!

New Picture (2)Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado (the riper, the better)
  • 1/4 cup milk (I prefer Fairlife to get an extra dose of protein)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth/creamy. Transfer to a bowl or custard cups and chill for 20 min before serving. Eat within 2-3 days. Makes about 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: 166 calories, 6g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 52 mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 3g protein (if using Fairlife – regular milk has about 2g protein/1/4 cup)

 

Getting Back in the Kitchen in 2017 with Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash

After indulging a little too much this holiday season, I made a resolution to get back in the kitchen more in 2017. I have way too many cookbooks. So my plan is to try a couple new recipes each week. I use recipes as inspiration. I take from them new cooking techniques and ideas and then modify them to create my own delicious dishes. The following recipe was inspired by the acorn squash recipe in the Racing Weight Cookbook. It is a hearty, nutrient rich, high volume meal and a great way to enjoy acorn squash. It not only tastes great but is super easy and will impress your guests with its presentation. I like to pair it with a spinach salad and crusty whole grain bread. After I posted the pic of this dish to Instagram, the recipe was requested by a few people – so here you go. Enjoy!

Allison’s Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squashsquash

Ingredients:

1 acorn squash

1 lb. ground turkey

1-2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 medium onion

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/3 cup shredded mozzarella

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the squash in half from stem to root and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle cut-side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  2. Place the squash halves cut-side-up in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to fill the pan by about 1/4 inch. Place in oven.
  3. Roast the squash until soft and tender when poked with a fork, 30 to 50 minutes. Exact roasting time will depend on the size of your squash.
  4. While the squash roasts, sauté turkey, onion, mushrooms and seasonings until cooked.
  5. Once the squash is tender, remove from the oven and set oven to broil. Carefully poor liquid out of pan. Stuff squash halves with turkey mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
  6. Remove from oven and serve!

Nutrition Information (1 serving = 1/2 acorn squash; 1/2 turkey mixture): 420 calories, 16g fat, 28g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 40g protein

 

 

Chicago Flower and Garden Show Recipes

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Post presentation selfie from the Garden Gourmet stage

Today I had the awesome opportunity to share two of my favorite recipes and my top tips to help you shop, live and eat well with Chicago Flower and Garden Show attendees. I was the featured ‘chef’ at 11:30am on the Garden Gourmet stage. All I can say is despite being super nervous before hand, I had a blast sharing my knowledge and food with this audience. Since I had a bunch of inquiries for the recipes – I wanted to re-share them here so you all could easily reference as well as a couple of my tips. Enjoy!

Carrot Pecan Energy Bites

These are actually my coworker’s recipe – that I’ve adopted and modified many times. They may a great snack pre- or post-workout and are easily stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I love making a big batch and sharing with friends after long runs. My other energy bite recipe is a bit more indulgent – but also delicious. Check it out here: https://runningrdn.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/peanut-butter-energy-bites/.

fg 2Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup ground pecans

Directions:

  1. Blend together in a food processor: oats, pecans, cherries, grated carrots, and flax seed.
  2. Pulse in the almond butter, agave or honey, and cinnamon until combined.
  3. Spray hands with cooking spray and roll mixture into balls – about 1 Tbsp/bite.
  4. Role bites in ground pecans then place in air tight container. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Bites keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week. Makes about 20-30 bites.

Nutrition Info per Bite: 50 calories, 3g total fat, 0.3g saturated fat, 3 mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein

Farro, Kale, Citrus and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

I love this salad. It contains all my favorite winter fruits and veggies and really adds a punch of citrus flavor to the plate. Serve along side salmon, chicken or other protein and you’ve got a complete meal. Or have alone as a main course (as I often do for lunch). As a side, this serves about 4-6 or on its own – about 3-4.

Ingredients:farro salad

  • 3 cups kale, cleaned well and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cut into wedges (a regular orange can be used if blood oranges are unavailable)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)

Directions:

  1. To cook farro, place ½ cup uncooked farro in about 2 cups of water (to add more flavor, you could use vegetable or chicken broth).
  2. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain any excess water.
  3. Assemble dressing (see separate recipe). In a large bowl, pour half of the dressing onto the kale and toss/massage well to coat the kale.
  4. Toss the sliced oranges and grapefruit with the kale along with 2/3rd of the toasted hazelnuts, avocado and cooked farro. Make sure everything is combined.
  5. Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over additional dressing, if desired.

Basic Citrus Vinaigrette

(makes just enough for salad)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small jar or medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. If using a jar, shake to blend. If medium bowl, whisk until combined.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made/stored for 1 week. Cover and chill. Shake before using.

Nutrition Info (1/5 of recipe with dressing): 304 calories, 6.6g protein, 18.9g fat, 31.8g carbohydrate, 7.7g fiber, 9mg sodium

My Latest Breakfast Obsession: Overnight Oats

One of the things I emphasize with clients and strive to do personally is get a good breakfast every day. My criteria? It must contain protein – at least 15g – as well as a source of complex carbohydrate (like oatmeal, whole wheat toast, or whole grain cereal), a decent amount of fiber (5 or more grams) and a source of healthy fat. Why? Besides starting your day off on the right foot, this combo is sure to help bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch without feeling the need to snack or visit the vending machine.

My current breakfast obsession is overnight oats. I’ll admit, I’m a little late to the overnight oat party. I’ve seen pics and recipes from friends and colleagues posted to Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for years without actually trying it myself. But once I did, I was hooked. What could be better than waking up, opening your fridge and having a no fuss, already prepared breakfast ready to go? And it meets all my criteria for a good breakfast! Here are 2 variations that I’ve created and love. They are also the perfect post- AM workout or pre- long run fuel. Enjoy!

Almond Butter Banana Overnight Oats

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/4 cup of low or nonfat vanilla yogurt (I prefer Siggi’s because it has more protein/serving than sugar)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat/skim milk (suggest Fairlife for an extra dose of protein)
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp almond (or other nut) butter
  • 1 medium banana, sliced
  • 1 tsp sliced almonds

Instructions:

  1. Mix together oats, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, and almond butter in a bowl then pour into glass or jar (suggested vessel: mason jar)
  2. Top with sliced banana
  3. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  4. In the morning, remove from fridge, mix and add additional milk, if desired
  5. Top with sliced almonds and serve

Nutrition Information*: 485 calories, 18g protein, 15g fat, 74g carbohydrate, 10g fiber

Lemon Berry Overnight Oats

Makes 1 servingovernight oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/4 cup of low or nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat/skim milk
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Juice from about ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ cup frozen berries (like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.)
  • 1 tsp sliced almonds
  • Drizzle of honey, agave or sweetener of choice (to taste/as desired)

Instructions:

  1. Mix together oats, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, lemon juice and zest in a bowl then pour into glass or jar (suggested vessel: mason jar)
  2. Top with frozen berries
  3. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  4. In the morning, remove from fridge, mix and add additional milk, if desired
  5. Top with additional thawed berries, almonds, sweetener (if desired) and serve

Nutrition Information*: 353 calories, 17g protein, 6g fat, 61g carbohydrate, 10g fiber

*Nutrition information obtained using: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Version Current:  September 2015.  Internet:  http://www.ars.usda.gov/nea/bhnrc/ndl

 

Celebrate Citrus with My Farro, Kale, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad!

Citrus fruits are at their peak right now — so what better time to find new and unique ways to use them. My all time favorite? Juicy, red grapefruits from Texas. I literally can not get enough of these when they are in season. I eat them like an orange and devour them in a matter of minutes. Rich in vitamins A and C, I love their sweet, tart flavor. Grapefruits from other parts of the country are also great right now – but after biting into my first Texas grapefruit when I lived there a few years ago, I’ve been a convert. So to celebrate my grapefruit obsession, I created this recipe featuring a variety of other citrus fruit and a couple of my other favorite super-foods (avocado, kale, and farro). I’m also rather obsessed with this citrus vinaigrette dressing. I like to make a big batch and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days and use to top salads or to marinade chicken or fish.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

Farro, Kale, Citrus and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

farro salad

(serves 4-6)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups kale, cleaned well and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cut into wedges (a regular orange can be used if blood oranges are unavailable)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)

Instructions

  1. To cook farro, place ½ cup uncooked farro in about 2 cups of water (to add more flavor, you could use vegetable or chicken broth).
  2. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain any excess water.
  3. Assemble dressing (see separate recipe). In a large bowl, pour half of the dressing onto the kale and toss/massage well to coat the kale.
  4. Toss the sliced oranges and grapefruit with the kale along with 2/3rd of the toasted hazelnuts, avocado and cooked farro. Make sure everything is combined.
  5. Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over additional dressing, if desired.

Basic Citrus Vinaigrette

(makes just enough for salad)

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small jar or medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. If using a jar, shake to blend. If medium bowl, whisk until combined.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made/stored for 1 week. Cover and chill. Shake before using.

Nutrition info (1/5 of recipe with dressing): 304 calories, 6.6g protein, 18.9g fat, 31.8g carbohydrate, 7.7g fiber, 9mg sodium

Hitting Reset in the New Year: Why I did a Juice Cleanse

I despise resolutions. And the first two weeks of the New Year. The gym becomes over-crowded and everyone is on a diet, detox or cleanse–trying to right the wrongs of the last month (or year). I don’t believe in diets (for more about my philosophy about food, nutrition, health and life, check out this interview I did for Lux and Concord: Dieting 101 – Game Changing Tips from a Dietitian) — so why then, would I choose to go on a 3-day juice cleanse? In the middle of a big training push to prepare me for an upcoming half marathon? Because if there’s any question I get more often than others it’s what are the benefits of juicing, smoothies and cleansing/detox diets. I wanted to be able to relate to what my clients and customers go through. I also wanted to dive a little deeper into the SCIENCE – to see if there’s any truth to the benefits often touted like improved mental clarity, increased energy, and better sleep. And let’s be honest — I spent most of December stuffing my face with Christmas cookies and holiday beers. I could use a reset button in the New Year as well. So here’s my overall take on how I felt before, during and after; a brief overview of what the science says; and my general take on the experience overall (you may be surprised). What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

Pre-Cleanse: What am I thinking??

I decided to go with a juice cleanse that took out all the guess work out of it by signing up for the Real Good Juice 3-day Juice Cleanse. Why? I never had to guess at the quantities, proportions, or ingredients. I knew my juices would taste great having had a few of their awesome blends prior to the cleanse and it just made life easier.

IMG_4916.JPG
1 Day’s worth of Juice

Each day I picked up my juices for the next day. Six in total – including one smoothie for breakfast. This was another reason I was drawn to this cleanse over others. Smoothies include some fiber – which is usually lacking in most juice cleanses. Fiber is important for digestive health and helps keep us fuller longer.

A couple days before I cut back a bit on processed foods and focused on staying well hydrated to prepare myself for the next 3 days. To be honest, the only thing I really was concerned about was the lack of caffeine (a valid concern I would soon find out). I went to sleep the night before excited and nervous for the next 3 days.

Juice Cleanse Realization: I’m Addicted to Coffee

Day 1 started out great – I had a big cup of hot water and lemon, drank my smoothie and did my easy workout and actually felt great. I wasn’t even hungry. Every two hours you drink another juice. Each is about 16 ounces which really does fill you up if you are also drinking a decent amount of water as well. The only real side effect I experienced at this point was a lot of trips to the ladies room since I was taking in much more fluids than normal. As the 12pm slump rolled around, the lack of caffeine set in. I was dragging. I’m used to close to 4 cups of coffee/day (before you gasp in shock – this is 4, 6oz cups – that’s like two tall coffees from Starbucks). I could not stop yawning and thinking about a nap. Fortunately, I powered through. By the last juice of the day, I missed chewing. Having calculated out the caloric intake/day, I knew I would need to supplement the cleanse with some solid food to ensure I could also get my workouts in. I spoke with the helpful folks at Real Good and they suggested organic fruits, veggies and raw nuts. I grabbed a large handful of almonds and carrots and a cup of ginger tea. Day 1 was done – and I was beat. I was asleep by 10pm (much earlier than my usual 11:30pm bedtime).

Day 2: woke up at 8am. I slept 10 hours. I haven’t slept that good or soundly in years. I wanted a cup of coffee – but didn’t want to give up just yet. I grabbed my smoothie, a cup of hot water with lemon and did some work. Today was going to be tough. I had a hard 9 mile speed workout planned. After about an hour I tied on my sneakers and made my way to the treadmill for  my workout. About 1/2 way through I had to stop for a bathroom break. On my way back to the ‘mill I started seeing spots. I knew I needed to take a longer break. I was determined to get through the workout though. Fortunately I live in a building with a gym so I went back to my apartment, grabbed the next juice for the day and downed it along with an apple and almond butter. I immediately felt better and an hour later, completed the workout. I wouldn’t recommend this. If you are planning to do a cleanse – definitely cut back on your exercise plan. The rest of day 2 was easier than expected. I taught a cooking seminar where I had to make and sample food. I surprisingly wasn’t hungry and continued to drink the juice every two hours. I still felt exhausted though and it was another early to bed evening.

IMG_4923
End of Day 2 and my Favorite Juice of the cleanse: Juicy Liu – a blend of almond and cashew milk

Day 3: OK. I miss food. But it’s day 3 – the last day. I can do this. Oddly enough – I found myself craving things like oatmeal and kale salads – and NOT burgers, pizza and French fries. It’s like my body was craving healthy food. I still struggled with caffeine withdrawal but this day was definitely easier than the previous two. I had a short, easy run that I finished with no problems. Another early to bed evening – and 3 of the best nights of sleep I’ve had since I was a probably a teenager. 

Post Cleanse: What I Learned

Following the cleanse I woke up and made my now go-to breakfast: oatmeal, sliced banana and a spoonful of almond butter. I also made my usual pot of coffee but found I could only stomach 1/2 of what I normally would consume – and even that caused the caffeine jitters. I laced up for an 8 mile progressive run that went better than expected. I ran faster than I have in months. I felt invincible. My energy level was through the roof. I also felt lean. I checked the scale – about 3 lbs down. I didn’t do this to lose weight – and know that much of the weight I likely lost was water weight – but still, important to note.

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First meal post cleanse

The cleanse taught me to rely less on caffeine during the day and I’ll sleep better. It helped me feel a little better about the last month of over-indulging and it just felt good to fill up on super foods for 3 days. I felt inspired and since have eaten better, had much more control over my appetite and cut back my coffee consumption to just 2 cups/day (12 oz total). Would I do it again? Yes – it’s something my body needed and craved and following big training pushes and/or leading into a new training plan, I think it’s a good way to really reset and focus on getting my body ready for the work to come. 

What about the Science?

I know many of my dietitian friends will question my sanity in choosing to do something like this. Yes, we have livers – and their primary function is to detoxify our body on a daily basis. I know – I get this. But I also know what my friends, colleagues and family do and I want to make sure I’m as knowledgeable as possible about what real people are actually doing. And to be honest – I kind of think there is a place for cleansing if done right. The juice cleanse is a small, 3 day sacrifice that can lead to huge transformation if done right. Case in point: I no longer drink 4 cups of coffee, have cut my alcohol intake in half, and my appetite is much more tame now. It caused me to look at my habits – and make changes. Breaking the cycle of consistently eating a diet too high in saturated fat, refined carbohydrate, processed foods, excess caffeine and alcohol can and will cause you to look at what you are doing and make positive changes – even if small – that will have lasting impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

A brief pubmed search found virtually no scientific evidence or studies looking specifically at cleansing and long term outcomes. One study, published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, came close – found that individuals placed on a very low calorie, vegan diet  plus regimented supplementation for 21 days had improvements in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. This wasn’t juicing, per se but the change of caloric intake and diet composition is as close as I could find to what I was getting when I did the Real Good Juice cleanse.

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First workout post cleanse – feeling super energetic

So, while the jury may still be out in the scientific community on the benefits, in general, I think that there might be a place for a cleanse if done right and under supervision/with the guidance of a dietitian/nutritionist and/or doctor. I can only share how I felt after (great) and how it changed me personally. A special word of caution – a juice cleanse isn’t recommended for certain populations (e.g., Diabetics, those with eating disorders or immunocompromised) so if you are considering one – please consider talking to your doctor – or even reach out to me!