The thought of going on a seven-day detox diet can be incredibly daunting. With so many different diets touted online and in books, it’s tough to tell which approach is right for you. And as do-it-yourself detox becomes more and more trendy, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the purpose of cleansing: focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that nurture your body and lighten your toxic load. A seven-day detox diet can be helpful if you use it as a way to begin a healthy way forward when it comes to your eating. But embarking on one every now and again to "right" eating and drinking "wrongs" is not a healthy approach.
Drinking plenty of water can go a long way in flushing out toxins. While you’re on your detox diet, aim to drink eight glasses of filtered water daily. That includes a glass of water (ideally room-temperature or lukewarm) as soon as you wake up in the morning. A helpful hint: opting for lemon water or a DIY infused water may enhance the detoxing effects of your morning hydration.
In general, healthy eating ingredients are found around the outer edges of most grocery stores, while the center aisles are filled with processed and packaged foods that aren’t good for you. Shop the perimeter of the store for most of your groceries (fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, whole grain breads and dairy products), add a few things from the freezer section (frozen fruits and vegetables), and visit the aisles for spices, oils, and whole grains (like rolled oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta).
Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables ― try something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with an herb you haven’t tried like rosemary. You can sauté (panfry) vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish—just microwave and serve. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.
Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size. For more ideas on how to cut back on calories, see Eat More Weigh Less.
Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything. At home, visual cues can help with portion sizes. Your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size of a traditional light bulb. By serving your meals on smaller plates or in bowls, you can trick your brain into thinking it’s a larger portion. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, add more leafy greens or round off the meal with fruit.
Pesticides are toxins, "and I think there's good cause for worry about them," says Purdy. A new study in Food and Chemical Toxicology links pesticide-laced feed to tumors and early death in rats. Organic is ideal, but if that's not possible, pick produce with thick skins that peel off, because they're less likely to be contaminated. (Here's how to save money on organics.)
Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food. You’ll eat fewer calories and avoid the chemical additives, added sugar, and unhealthy fats of packaged and takeout foods that can leave you feeling tired, bloated, and irritable, and exacerbate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.