I'm a chronic "snacker". Whenever there are cookies, chips, or basically anything processed in sight, I'll eat it, then immediately regret it. I know I'm not going to feel good. Processed foods and foods high in fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol can quickly leave you feeling bloated, fatigued, and, well, blah.
I've decided enough is enough. I wanted to "detox" my body of all of the junk I continually put into it and flush out as many toxins as possible.
To help find the best detoxing plan, I turned to New York City dietitian Maria Bella, founder of Top Balance Nutrition in New York and Miami.
Bella first taught me that I should stop using the word "detox." She explains: "'Detoxing' has become such a fad lately, from juice cleanses to craze diets, but these often have no scientific research to back them up and leave you feeling tired and hungry. The scientific truth is your body has natural detox capabilities when your diet is full of whole foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats."
For 2015, Bella wants us to focus on the "trend" of eating real food. If a whole year of whole foods sounds like a big commitment, Bella has created a "Seven-Day Plan" to recharge and refresh our bodies.
Here are some key concepts:
- Hydrate: Drink at least two liters of water a day. Drinking water helps flush out toxins and sodium that cause bloat. Also, thirst can be confused with hunger, so make sure to drink before and between meals. (Tip: A Venti Starbucks Unsweetened Green Tea counts as three cups of water.)
- Eliminate Sugar and Alcohol: For these seven days, challenge yourself to stay away from booze and sweets. Dare yourself to focus on filling your diet with whole foods instead. Once you let go of these empty calories, you will notice a huge change in the way you feel.
- Protein and Fiber: Your mantra for the next seven days (and ideally forever) is "protein and fiber, protein and fiber!" Pair protein and fiber with each meal and snack to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite satiated. Fiber comes from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Protein comes from lean animal sources, legumes, low-fat dairy products and nuts.
- Veggies, Veggies, Veggies: Unlimited veggies! For these seven days, make sure to eat lots of high-fiber, high-water vegetables (spinach, butternut squash, asparagus, artichokes and cucumber to name a few). These veggies will help promote a healthy liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal system—your body's natural detox systems.
- Fat Doesn't Make You Fat: This old idea has to go. Healthy fats, in moderation, help you lose bloat, lose weight, and offer many health benefits like heart and memory protection, bone health and more.
- Low Sodium: Stay away from prepackaged items and soups that add sodium to your diet. Reducing sodium will allow the body to get rid of excess water and reduce bloat.
Here are seven breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes to kick you off on your 7-day plan.
1 cup Greek yogurt + 1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1/2 banana + 1 tbsp flaxseed + cinnamon
Egg White Omelet
1 whole egg + 1/2 cup liquid egg whites + 1/2 cup mixed chopped onion, tomatoes, spinach (all the veggies you desire!). Cook in 1 tbsp olive oil. Add herbs and spices, such as parsley, dill, cilantro, cayenne pepper or paprika. Serve with 1/2 grapefruit
Egg Avocado Toast
1 piece whole-wheat toast + 1/4 avocado spread on toast + 1 hard-boiled egg on top
1 hard-boiled or poached egg + 1/4 avocado + diced cucumber, tomato and parsley salad + 1 cup berries
Cheese and Turkey Crackers
3 oz sliced turkey breast (Applegate Farms is an all-natural brand) + 2 Laughing Cow cheese wedges + sliced cucumber, spinach and fresh dill on 2 whole-grain crisp crackers
1/2 cup oatmeal, cooked in unsweetened almond or skim milk + 1/2 cup berries + 4 walnuts + cinnamon
300 calories with almond milk; 350 calories with skim milk
1 egg + 1 banana, mashed and cooked on pan sprayed with cooking spray. Add your favorite spices and top with 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, cinnamon and 2 tbsp slivered almonds
Creamy Green Soup With Turkey Sweet Potato Half Sandwich
Soup recipe: Pump Up Your Greens "Creamed" Soup
Sandwich: 1 piece whole-wheat bread + 3 oz turkey breast + 1/2 sweet potato (microwaved for 7 minutes)
Butternut Squash Soup With Turkey and Asparagus
5 oz roasted turkey breast, no skin + 1/2 cup roasted asparagus
Spinach-Artichoke Pasta With Vegetables
Boil one pound of whole wheat pasta in a pot. In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil + 1 large chopped shallot + 4 finely chopped cloves of garlic + 1 10 oz. box of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and halved. Add one cup fresh spinach and ½ cup dry white wine, pour over drained pasta, and serve.
388 calories, 6 servings
Seared Chicken With Avocado and Cucumber Salad
Season and sear 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast in 2 tbsp olive oil. Serve with 1/2 diced avocado, 1/2 diced cucumber, fresh cilantro and lime juice
Spaghetti Squash With Chicken, Mushrooms and Spinach
Cut a spaghetti squash in half length-wise, scoop out seeds, and place flesh-side down on a pan. Cook in the oven at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until tender. Scrape out the squash with a fork and place in a bowl. In a separate frying pan, sauté cubed chicken breast and mushrooms until chicken has browned and mushrooms are tender. Wilt some fresh spinach in a steamer and add to the chicken and mushrooms for a few minutes. Pour over squash and serve.
Artichoke and Almond Stuffed Chicken Breasts served with healthy sweet potato fries
In a small bowl, combine the artichokes, spinach, almonds, Parmesan, orange zest, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper.
Cut a 2-inch pocket in the thickest part of each chicken breast. Stuff a quarter of the artichoke mixture into each breast. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breasts until golden brown and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
For the fries: slice 1 large sweet potato into 1/2 inch sticks. Spray with cooking oil and mix with ½ tsp dried basil, ½ tsp dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.
Ten-Minute Mexican Tuna Salad
Combine 1 6-ounce can of tuna, 1 minced green bell pepper, 2 minced scallions, 1/4 cup salsa, 6 pimento-stuffed olives, 2 tbsp reduced-fat mayonnaise, 1 tbsp lime juice and 1/2 tsp cumin in a medium bowl. Mix with a fork; season with pepper.
Baked Salmon With Braised Baby Artichokes
Bake a 4-oz salmon steak topped with parsley at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes; serve with braised baby artichokes
Seared Tuna Steak With Vegetable Medley
Sear a 4-oz tuna steak in 2 tbsp olive oil; serve with 1 serving vegetable medley
Steamed Bass With Fennel, Parsley and Capers
Use an Asian-style metal or bamboo steamer to cook the bass, fennel, parsley and capers altogether
Oregano & Lemon Pork Kebabs
For the marinade combine 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 tbsp oil, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp rosemary sprig, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1/4-1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper all ingredients in a resealable plastic bag or non-reactive bowl.
Trim the pork of all visible fat and cut into 1 inch cubes. Place cubes in bag and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. (You can also toss the vegetables in if you like. Mushrooms and zucchini are especially good in absorbing the flavor.). In the meantime soak wooden skewers in water. Wash and cut vegetables for kebabs. Thread kebabs alternating between the pork cubes and vegetables. Depending on the size of your pork cubes and the length of the skewers, you will have 1 large or 2 small skewers per person. Place on indoor or outdoor grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
Beefy Corn & Black Bean Chili
Combine 1 lb of ground round beef and 2 tsp salt-free chili powder blend in a large Dutch oven. Cook 6 minutes over medium-high heat or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain and return to pan. Stir in 1 14-ounce frozen corn and black bean mixture bag, 1 14-ounce can of fat-free, less-sodium beef broth, and 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle chili into bowls. Top each serving with sour cream and onions, if desired.
Mediterranean Style Grilled Lamb and Veggies Over Greens
4 tbsp lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tbsp fresh or dry mint, 1.5 lbs sirloin steak cut into cubes, 8 baby bella mushrooms, 8 small grape tomatoes, 1 medium green pepper cut into 1" strips, 2 small zucchini cubed. Marinate the lamb cubes overnight in a resealable bag (lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, mint, salt and pepper). Skewer the meat and the veggies, turning every 15-20 minutes. Serve over a bed of greens drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
Spicy Black Bean Burritos
Top a spinach tortilla with ¼ cup black beans, ¼ avocado sliced, handful of baby spinach leaves, 1/8 tsp garlic powder sprinkled on top, and 1 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce.
6-oz Greek yogurt + 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds
10 raw almonds + 2 dried figs or apricots
1 Clementine + 1 hard-boiled egg
1 Laughing Cow cheese wedge on a whole-grain cracker with apple slices
Celery stalks topped with 1 tbsp peanut butter + 10 raisins
1/2 cup carrots and cucumber with 1/4 cup hummus
Smoothie with 1 cup raw spinach, 1/2 cup kale, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp flaxseed, 1/2 banana or persimmon, 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, water