Join the Sunset Fresh Foods Challenge!
After months of holiday treats, meals, and drinks, we here at Sunset are ready to eat fresh. Starting Sunday, Jan. 6, join recipe editor Amy Machnak for 7 days of eating nothing but the West’s fresh, nutritious foods—lots of citrus, greens, almonds, and, for the ambitious, no processed sugar, booze or (gulp) caffeine.
Amy will chronicle her experiences here each day and post Sunset-tested recipes (pineapple-banana smoothies, spiced lentils with caramelized onions and spinach) so delicious, you’ll want to turn to them even after the week is over. Today, a few tips from her on getting started.
When a health-nut friend first suggested I try a dietary cleanse several years ago, one word immediately came to mind: Starvation. But she promised I’d feel amazing afterward, so I was curious. I talked to people I trust, like my family doctor*, my acupuncturist, and my yoga teacher, and found that doing a cleanse doesn’t mean living on water and crackers for a week. And, even here in the juice-fast-crazed West, it doesn’t have to mean drinking nothing but strange liquids that act like a Roto-Rooter on your insides. Instead, it’s a simple chance to eat clean.
And why not? We live in the West, where we’re lucky to have access to fresh foods year-round. Here at Sunset, eating those fresh, whole foods is a way of life—and of course they must taste good.
So, the goal: To set aside the junk food for a week and eat simple, healthy foods that are easier for the body to digest. This way, its energy can go toward revitalizing and rejuvenating the working parts—rather than breaking down a bacon-cheeseburger with fries. Think of it as a mini vacation for the digestive system, a chance to nurture your body in a compassionate way.
After a few timid tests and trials, I now approach this reset week with earnest and omit sugar, wheat, alcohol, caffeine, meat, and dairy (I do allow some eggs and Greek-style yogurt). So what’s left? All the West’s best fruits and vegetables—even in the dead of winter—plus legumes, seeds, and nuts. During the week, I eat as much as I want of these (snacks are highly advised, as long as they’re simple and healthy).
It might seem extreme if you’ve never done it before, but I’m a seasoned pro at this point and find that this works well for me—and I do feel fantastic afterward. You’ll need to listen to what your body needs to find out what works best for you.
For first-timers, I recommend easing into the process by eliminating just one ingredient (sugar or wheat, for example.). You’ll quickly notice how much of that item you eat normally and it will give you a chance to make a healthier choice at mealtime. See how you feel, then experiment with other foods.
Drink lots and lots of water (herbal tea is okay, too). The point is to flush out the yucky stuff that’s just hanging out in your system. Water is the main way that happens, so drink up.
Don’t plan any big physical activities this week; relax, rest, and rejuvenate. Take naps, sleep in, and read a good book. If you need to exercise, take a walk or try a restorative yoga class; you’ll be surprised how quickly you tire. Think of this time as a gift (rather than torture) to yourself. We run full speed all the time, only taking a break when we fall ill and our body forces us to recuperate. Spend a week taking care of you from the inside out.
Most likely, you’ll feel great when your week is up, but remember to go slow when reintroducing your regular diet. No big steaks with blue cheese the first couple of days. And alcohol (if you’ve abstained) will hit you quicker, so be careful after that first glass of Chardonnay.
TOMORROW: Check back for Amy’s guide to getting stocked up for the week—including a list of pantry staples and some basic recipes.
* Before making any major dietary changes, we recommend you check with your doctor, especially if you have serious health concerns.