If you are anything like my family, Christmas tends to be a time of year where unhealthy, heavy foods slip in and portions become much bigger than normal in the lead up to the festivities.
These eating habits can quickly become the new normal if a person isn’t mindful, and it can be late spring or even early summer before they finally realise they need a complete diet overhaul.
That’s why I love to get back to clean eating straight after the Christmas period.
I don’t actually start the detox new years day as I prefer to do it much closer to Christmas, but my main deciding factor is that the Christmas junk needs to be gone. Either eaten, donated or shared with friends, it doesn’t matter, but it MUST be out of the house so you are free from temptation. When all the sweets, cream, meat and other treats have gone, you are ready.
I have done many detoxes in the past, from juice fasts to raw food and I have come to realise one thing. The stricter and more regimented the detox, the less likely I am to complete it, the harder it will feel and the more likely it is that I will be found under a blanket with a family pack of cookies reduced to crumbs on my lap by 5pm on the first day. So I focus instead, not on extreme methods, but on gentle cleansing which can be continued long term.
Although you can choose to do this detox for two days, five days or a week, I personally put no end date on my own detox, instead, just slowly adding a few small extras from the restricted list for occasional use after I feel suitably cleansed. My goal is long term health and clean eating, not fad bursts of cleansing and binging. Because of this approach, we are able to do it as a family. No separate meals needed, the children can – and should – get the same healthy foods to help them grow and develop to the best of their abilities. A juice fast would be a real struggle for a five year old used to eating big meals, but on this gentle family detox there is no need for anyone to be left out.
So lets start with the rules. First the foods that need to be cut out completely:
- Processed and fast food
- Fried foods
- Concentrated Juice
For the entire period of detox these foods must be omitted.
Next the foods we will be eating, and lots of:
- Sweet potatoes
- Fermented vegetables, pickles etc.
- Fresh fruit
- Vegetable juices
- Fruit smoothies
- Almond butter
- Vegetable soups and stews
- Rice cakes
- Chickpeas and other pulses
- Baked salmon
I find that many detox plans call for obscure and unusual, expensive ingredients which are prohibitive to buy and use. I prefer simplicity. You don’t need to have a different exotic meal every single day, it is fine to pick a few healthy vegetable heavy recipes that you love and repeat them several times in a week.
Some of you will be surprised that I have included salmon on my list. The reason for this is that I find that we as a family function far more happily with a small amount of animal protein in our diet. The fats in these foods sustain us and satisfy us, making it far more likely that we will stick to healthy eating rather than turning to sugar filled alternatives to meet that need.
As you know, I prefer to mirror tribal, hunter gatherer practices that have been around for the whole of human existence. We tend to eat vegan or vegetarian five out of seven days, having fish once a week and meat once a week. This is a balance that works well for us, but it is a personal decision that you will need to make for yourself. I will include a meal plan that we use at the end of the post but first a few more tips to get you started.
As busy parents, it can be tricky to detox and make healthy foods from scratch. This is why I recommend using a few cheats to keep you on track. Of course home-made is always better, but if it is the difference between seeing the detox through or giving up, it is sensible to buy a few saviour items.
My ready made favourites are:
Innocent smoothies – Great for filling hungry tummies in a hurry and no added nasties.
Coconut water – Perfect for making tasty smoothies.
Kallo organic vegetable stock cubes, extra low salt – A reasonable base for soups and stews.
Meridian almond butter – A filling and healthy topper for rice cakes, especially useful for children who need extra energy and regular snacks to keep level blood sugar.
Exercise is vital to our health and during a detox it plays a very important role. Fresh air and physical exertion do wonders for our sense of well being. As a family we do an absolute minimum of thirty minutes outdoor walking a day, whatever the weather, and at least once a week we like to head off for a good five mile trek through the countryside or woods.
Walking is by far my favourite way to exercise. It is something the whole family can join in with, builds fitness gradually and gently without putting excessive strain or stress on the body, burns calories, builds muscle and allows you to enjoy the great outdoors at a comfortable pace.
It’s all very easy to tell you to sleep, but as a parent we all know, sleep can be hard to come by. So instead of giving a prescriptive amount to aim for, I will just say this.
Maybe this means going to bed with the children rather than staying up to go online or do a hobby. Maybe it means resting while the baby naps rather than doing the housework. Whatever you need to do, try to give yourself the maximum amount of sleep possible over the period of detox. It will really help your body to heal and reduce stress which can be worsened by over-tiredness.
Now perhaps this is more information that you were hoping for, but it is vital to share. The whole purpose of detox is to expel toxins from our bodies. One of the biggest ways we do this is through our skin, via sweat. When we wear antiperspirant, we prevent our body from doing this effectively. That is why I strongly recommend that during the period of detox you refrain from wearing it.
It is also a good idea to look at what other chemicals you are putting on your skin through shower gel, bath soaps, face wash and shampoo, and see if there is a cleaner alternative you might switch to.
Take it to the next level and cleanse your mind:
Are you finding yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media? Are you watching TV that you couldn’t care less about simply to fill a hole in your day? TV and internet can be useful tools in our lives, yet they are very easy to become addicted to.
Social media is especially addictive and can prevent us from doing more meaningful things with our time. It can also take away from much needed time where we would otherwise be imagining, daydreaming, reading to our children or talking to loved ones. If you feel that this is the case for you, why not take a break and detox your mind too?
Fill the time with meditation, reading, daydreaming, creating or sleeping. You’ll be amazed how much time you suddenly have without these distractions.
- Fill a dinner plate with two or three of your favourite hydrating fruits (we love melon!) and eat until satisfied.
- Wake up smoothie: 2 bananas, 1 apple, 6 large medjool dates, 1 t-spoon of super-green powder, 1 t-spoon maca powder, large handful of spinach, 500 mls coconut water. You can make this without the maca and super-greens if you prefer.
- Large bowl of brown rice with steamed spinach and kale.
I also start the day with a big cup (or two) of hot water and lemon, along with a large glass of water.
- Big salad. We have this lunch pretty much every day through the spring and summer, and it is great for detoxing. It varies each day but is generally a combination of some of these things – Salad leaves, spinach, cucumber, carrots, red peppers, olives, gherkins, beetroot, red cabbage, sauerkraut, hummus. My son also likes a rice cake or two with hummus on the side of his.
- Vegetable soup (see the dinner section for recipe).
Snacks – Choose from:
- Bowl of rice
- Coconut yoghurt with grapes.
- Almond butter with rice cakes
- Vegetable sticks with Hummus
- Chickpea and lentil stew: One tin of chickpeas, one tin of green lentils, mushrooms, tomato passata, stock cube, three big handfuls of spinach, large carrot, red or orange pepper, mixed herbs, stock cube, paprika. Chuck it all in a saucepan for half an hour and serve with rice.
- Vegetable soup: We use whatever we have to hand but I always add potatoes as they really make it feel like a proper meal. In my version this week we had cauliflower, kale, red pepper, spinach, courgette, potato and carrot. I also had some home-made chicken stock left over so I used that up along with a vegetable stock cube and a big glug of water. Very minimal seasoning, I used mixed herbs, thyme, cinnamon, paprika, white pepper and apple cider vinegar. Cooked on a low heat for an hour and a half, though you could eat it after 30 minutes just fine. We had lots left over so will have again for a second dinner or use it for lunches if we feel like something hot.
- Baked salmon with fresh spinach, steamed asparagus and rice: Wrap the salmon in foil and stick in the oven until pink all the way through.
- Potato and cauliflower soup: 5 large potatoes, one large head of cauliflower, 2 handfuls of spinach, black pepper and vegetable stock cube to season. Boil the potatoes and cauliflower until soft and the water has simmered down. Then wizz with a hand blender until desired consistency. Add more boiled water as needed. Serve with fresh coriander.
- Lots and lots of water!
- Herbal decaffeinated teas. I love the Pukka cleanse tea and the Twinnings detox tea.
- Hot water with lemon as often as desired.
- If I feel hungry between meals or in the evening I have a large glass of smoothie.
Image courtesy of Suat Emanat FreeDigitalPhotos.net