Beyond the Detox… and Apple Mango Spinach Smoothies

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Last week, I shared a little bit about my “detox” diet experience a few weeks ago. I went 10 days without any gluten, dairy, sugar, or caffeine. And, I even lived to tell about it!

Sure, I joke about how tough it was, and I had my days, but it really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I’d even recommend giving it a try! (Of course, you should talk to your doctor and all that stuff. I’m not a medical professional!)

I had my ups and downs over the 10 days. I cut sugar out a few days before officially getting started. I knew sugar was going to be tough for me, and I didn’t want to have to tackle everything else while dealing with sugar cravings (and some pretty bad headaches). Around day 3 or 4, I felt great… I’m not sure if it was a mental thing (knowing that I hadn’t had sugar in a whole week!) or not. I was optimistic, had more energy than I usually did, and just felt pretty good.  A few days later, after a busy weekend, I started to feel less than stellar. I wasn’t sick, but I also just didn’t feel like myself and had very little energy. For most of the 10 days, I fluctuated between feeling fantastic and having no energy at all.

The surprising thing to me was that, while I didn’t always have energy, I also didn’t have a lot of cravings for sugar. I honestly think that is what kept me going. Knowing that I was overcoming my sugar cravings was a huge for me.

My 10 Days Are Up… Now What??

My biggest issue with most detox diets (cleanses, elimination diets, etc.) is that they don’t provide much insight into how to live healthier after the diet is over. When I set out on my 10 day adventure, I did so with the intention of using it as a bit of a bootcamp. In addition to identifying any food sensitivities, I wanted to use it to jump start a healthy lifestyle (permanently) and replace some of my bad habits with better ones.

I had no intentions of just going back to the way I used to eat. And, I happy to tell you that I haven’t.

Dairy

I first added some healthy dairy back into my diet. I don’t really drink much milk, but I like to have yogurt and cheese. I also like to cook with some dairy here and there. I didn’t really seem to notice much of a difference when I added some dairy here and there, so I decided it was OK to keep eating it (in moderation, of course). When I do have dairy, I opt for whole, organic (or, at the very least rBGH-free) dairy.

Gluten

Next, after about 15 days or so, I added in some gluten. Again, much like the dairy, I didn’t really notice any real issues with it. But, I also didn’t binge on it. I started with some whole wheat pastry flour incorporated into my otherwise gluten-free pancakes. Since then, I’ve only had wheat (gluten) a few times, usually in its whole grain or sprouted form. I’m really trying to keep it to a minimum, just a treat here and there.

The one thing I did learn from the elimination diet is that I have to find a good balance with carbs, grains in particular. When I didn’t eat enough, I didn’t feel great. But, when I ate too much, I didn’t feel good either. For me, that wasn’t specific to just gluten. I felt the same way with too much rice, too many corn tortillas, and even too much quinoa (which, technically isn’t a grain). I discovered that I really needed to balance them with protein and lots of non-starchy vegetables. When I got the balance right, I felt good. That balance is something I’m still working on.

Sugar

Then there’s sugar. I went close to three weeks without eating a trace of sugar. It was empowering, but I was afraid to add it back in. My problem with sugar in the past has been that when I start eating it, I don’t stop. This time, though, it has been different. I’ve eaten some unprocessed, natural sugars like pure maple syrup and honey. I’ve had a little bit here and there, and I found that it was much sweeter than I remembered. A little bit satisfied my sweet tooth (what was left of it), and I didn’t crave more. I’ve walked through the bakery at the grocery store without even looking at the doughnuts and muffins. I honestly don’t really miss them.

The only exception is that I did bake some chocolate cupcakes for my husband’s birthday last week… That used to be a pretty normal thing around here, but this time, it was a treat. Here’s the crazy part… We both agreed that they weren’t really a treat AT ALL. We both felt lousy and found that our sugar cravings were starting to come back. No thank you.

Caffeine

As for caffeine, I didn’t really drink it before. I skipped it completely for 10 days and didn’t even really notice. I will still probably enjoy the occasional iced tea or regular coffee. I haven’t yet, but I see no issue with it.

Moving Forward

It’s easy to get caught up in a 10 day diet. I think that’s normal. But, I think the plan for moving forward after the fact is just as important, even more important. That doesn’t make it easy, though. The thing about a 10 day diet is that you only have to do it for 10 days. But, deciding to change your lifestyle permanently? That’s not so simple.

So, what’s my plan?

While it makes sense to talk about what we’re cutting out, let’s talk about what we *are* eating first. One of the biggest changes we have made is that we eat a lot more non-starchy vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, dark leafy greens, and even salads! We eat seasonally as much as possible, and I’m really excited for our CSA to start up in a few weeks. I try to make the veggies at least half of the meal. When you’re filling up on vegetables, there’s not a lot of room for other stuff. That’s half the battle.

The other half of the battle, for me, has been redefining “moderation” for my family. While I don’t believe in cutting anything out completely (except in the case of sensitivities, allergies, etc… but we don’t seem to have any of those), we are really focusing on being conscious of what we are eating, and how much.

For us, that means a lot less wheat and gluten, and even eating less grains in general. Typically, we will only have wheat 1 – 2 times per week, as a treat. We still have pizza night every Friday, but some weeks we will have gluten-free pizza. Other weeks we won’t. My goal is to experiment with new grains and flours to mix it up. That said, baking has become a treat, not something I do every day.

Because we eat healthy forms of dairy, and not a whole lot of it, I feel as though we were already pretty much on track. Because I’m doing a lot less baking, we are using a lot less butter, though, which I think is a good thing. I have also experimented with using coconut oil to cook and bake, and we are enjoying almond milk in our smoothies and oatmeal.

Sugar is now a treat and only a treat… It’s something that we have only about once a week, if that. I’m doing my best to avoid refined sugars, focusing on using more natural sugars like maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, and raw honey. I may make exceptions for special occasions like family birthdays or holidays.  I give myself permission to make something special, if I want to. But, my experience has been so far that I’d rather come up with some healthier options. I’ll keep you posted!

So, there you have it! I’ve laid out my plans for the whole world to see… There’s no turning back now. I still plan to share my favorite recipes and kitchen tips with you. I think you’ll notice a change, but I’m hoping it will be a change for the better… For all of us!

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My New Normal (and a Recipe)

We are happily settling into a new normal around here. Most mornings start off with a green smoothie. My favorite is an apple, mango, and spinach smoothie made with some almond milk. Some days we have a scrambled egg with our smoothies. Other days I’ll make some steel cut oats or even some gluten-free cornbread (though, that is a treat, and not an every morning kind of thing). We eat a lot more salads and vegetables. My grocery cart tends to be more than half full of produce. I’ve started making some sort of fish for dinner at least once a week. Salmon with lemon pepper seasoning is one of our favorites, especially paired with roasted vegetables and a sweet potato. And, when it comes to snacks, I’ve ditched the sweets (no more chocolate chips from the bag!). A small handful of nuts is generally what keeps me going through the day. I also love apple slices with a spoonful of natural peanut butter or some baby carrots and hummus.

A year ago, I would have read this blog post and thought the person who was writing it was losing their mind. Perhaps that’s what you’re thinking.  I never thought I’d be happy eating this way. I love food, after all. And, I certainly didn’t think I’d get my husband and toddler on board. Strangely enough, my husband didn’t require much convincing. We both feel better than we have in a very long time. And, neither of us misses the way we used to eat. While the kiddo can’t speak for herself, she seems perfectly content to eat what we’re eating most days.

And, she loves green smoothies. She begs for them. I consider that a win.

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This smoothie is my go-to for busy mornings… Everyone in the family loves it. There’s no added sugar, and I’ve added almond milk instead of yogurt or cow’s milk, so it’s good for anyone who’s dairy-free. The almond milk makes it just a little bit creamy, and I’ve found that adding an apple to my smoothies adds a bit of sweetness that is missing with a lot of frozen fruit. Other than the fresh green color, you will barely notice the spinach… But, you can feel amazing because you had spinach for breakfast!

Apple Mango Spinach Smoothies
Makes one smoothie

  • 1 medium apple
    (I like to use gala, fuji, or honeycrisp apples, but your favorite will be just fine!)
  • 1 generous handful (approximately 1 ounce) of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 3/4 – 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Remove the core from the apple. Depending on your blender, you may want to peel and dice the apple, as well. If you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix (my personal choice) or Blendtec, simply cut the apple into large chunks (no need to remove the skin!). Put the apple, spinach, and mango into your blender, and pour 3/4 cup of almond milk on top.

Pulse to break up the fruit and get everything started.  Then, mix at a low speed until everything is well mixed. If the smoothie isn’t flowing freely in the blender, add an additional 1/4 cup of almond milk and continue to blend on a low speed. Then, for a smooth and creamy smoothie, turn up the speed on the blender and blend until the smoothie is creamy and smooth. You don’t want to see any chunks of apple, spinach, or mango. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

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