A few of my Instagram friends have been doing a 3-week sugar cleanse recently and last week I decided to join them. It's a great time of year to do it! And a good break-up with sugar was just what I needed. Why did I want to do it? Because I was feeling like I needed something sweet after every meal. And I wanted to stop the cravings for bananas and chocolate chips throughout the day. I want to be free to enjoy sweet stuff when I want to, but I don't want to be a slave to it! And I could feel that coming on. I also wanted to give my body a boost to fight a bug I've had for a couple weeks. Pathogenic bacteria feeds on sugar, so it's always nice to starve it out and replenish with plenty of good bacteria (via fermented foods and a probiotic supplement) when you're fighting something.
I wasn't sure about the rules of the 21 day cleanse my friends were doing, but maybe something like this? I decided I would just make up my own plan, since I know what my normal diet is already like and my own weaknesses. We don't have any actual white sugar in our house anyway, so I knew the main things I'd be cutting out were honey, maple syrup, and fruit.
Here's what my plan/rules look like:
- No fruit for the first week. Then slowly add back in small amounts as snacks. (Still try to hold back on dates and raisins and other super-sweet dried fruits)
- No baked sweets, no honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar for the whole 3 weeks.
- Only eat whole grains that have been soaked or sprouted. (brown rice, quinoa, gluten-free sprouted oats)
- No processed stuff. (For me, this meant tortilla chips.)
- No peanut butter, gluten, soy, or conventional dairy. (I don't eat these things anyway, but just wanted to mention that they are avoided.)
- Eat plenty of sauerkraut to stock up on probiotics.
- Follow these rules when I'm at home. I knew I was going to be eating meals with other people during the 3-week period, so some small cheats would be inevitable. But I still skip things that are easy to avoid- like dessert and fruit salad.
Well. There you have it. It's been going really well! The first few days were tough. Last year, I did a sugar cleanse and didn't have anything sweet, even honey or fruit, for 4 months!!! So going into this, I thought it would be a breeze. Because I had all that practice last year, you know? Nope. It was so hard. Giving up fruit felt like a huge sacrifice. Every time I went to the kitchen I felt like I had nowhere to turn without fruit! But I figured out some options pretty quickly. If nothing else, doing a cleanse like this is good for me just to get out of my snack rut and remember how much variety we have in food. I don't need an apple every afternoon. I also quickly learned that I had to make heartier snacks, with whole grains and healthy fats, to keep my energy up. The things that really came to my rescue were:
- dirty rice with an egg on top
- quinoa with super-soft kale, garlic, and a fried egg (recipe below)
- warm brown rice with coconut oil, salt, and a drizzle of almond butter
- a cup of thick squash soup with grass-fed beef and rice
- almonds and cashews
- celery slathered with almond butter
Quinoa with tender kale, garlic, & a fried egg
1 T. coconut oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
serving of soaked and cooked quinoa (directions below)
1/4 to 1/2 cup stewed kale*
*Rip kale leaves from the thick stems and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot and cover with chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then turn to low. Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until very tender.
In a small skillet, melt a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add soaked and cooked quinoa and stewed kale to the skillet and toss until warmed through. Chop one clove of garlic and add it to the pan. Lay a fried egg on top of everything. Season with sea salt and pepper.
How to soak and cook quinoa: Rinse 2 cups of quinoa under running water for at least 1 minute (it has a bitter coating). Add to a glass bowl and cover with 2 cups warm filtered water. Stir in 2 T. of lemon juice, whey, kefir, or raw cider vinegar. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours. Drain and rinse well. Add quinoa to a pot, pour water in until quinoa is covered by about 1/2 an inch and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and let simmer 15 to 18 minutes, or until water is absorbed.
Overall I feel really good. Even in between meals! I always feel good when I'm eating nourishing food and keeping sugar in it's rightful place; as a treat. And I've gotten to the point now where I'm fine with just a bit of fruit here and there, so that's a good sign! How are you guys feeling about sugar lately? I think I may do this more often!