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My January Detox: A Chef’s Food Cleanse

January 6, 2017

By Carolina Santos-Neves

It’s the morning of January 1, 2017, and for the first time ever I’ve decided to do a four-week cleanse, eliminating a lot of my favorite things: Dairy, sugar, wheat, mushrooms, starchy veggies, legumes and alcohol.  I’d say it’s pretty challenging, but as a chef, well, this could get interesting.

I’m hopeful that my creative juices will kick in, and that I’ll feel inspired to use my culinary curiosity, cookbooks, Clean Plates, and abundant kitchen equipment (thank goodness for my NutriBullet). I’ll fill you in on my progress during this month, and that within itself is motivation enough.

So why am I doing this? Well, to get healthier, of course, especially after the holiday party marathon that I indulged in. I’ve noticed that upon waking I feel like my face is puffy; my back has these white dots that aren’t sun damage; and my knees feel a bit arthritic, which is odd considering I am in my early 30s. So, this year, it seems important to try and cut back on some obviously less-than-beneficial food habits. Plus, I want to see how my body will react if I take some potential irritants out of my diet. And, if I’m being honest, lately I’ve been feeling a little down on myself. I would also be lying if I didn’t admit that I want to lose 10 pounds. Will I feel better? Worse? Is there something I’m eating that’s not agreeing with me? All questions I want answered.

I decided to speak to someone with expertise before embarking on this journey. Lucky for me, I was able to consult with two close friends about how to approach all of this: I met last week with Dr. Robin Berzin of Parsley Health, a functional medicine practice in New York (and now also in San Francisco and LA). After my hour-long consultation, I was advised to follow the Candida diet, essentially eliminating ingredients that are inflammatory.

I also spoke to my friend Noel Graupner, an Ayurvedic practitioner and plant-based chef about how best to approach this month-long process.

Armed with expert help, I came up with a plan: In general, I like starting my day with a smoothie because I can make it in my NutriBullet and then easily take it with me wherever I go. Making it myself means I can keep track of what and how much I’m eating. For lunch, depending what my day looks like, I’ll be eating soup or salad. Dinner will likely be fish or another protein with lots of green veggies. 

I’m also going to drink at least 8 8-ounce glasses of water every day, sleep at least 6 hours per night, and try and cut down on the caffeine by reducing coffee from 3 cups to 1 cup a day. Finally, I’m determined to walk whenever I can, and exercise in some fashion at least 5 days a week.

That’s the plan, for the entire month of January. Wish me luck—and check back each Friday to see my progress. Maybe you’ll get inspired to join in!


Food & Exercise Diary: Week 1


Monday: 1/2/17


Spinach-Avocado Smoothie; 2 cups of coffee with regular milk (my one cheat); 1 8-ounce glass of water


Chopped Kale Salad with Dijon-Tahini Dressing; Sauteed Garlicky Broccoli Rabe; Almond Milk Cappuccino; 2 8-ounce glasses of water


Pan Seared Cod with Caramelized Onions, Diced Tomatoes, and Kalamata Olives; Smokey Roasted Cauliflower; Mixed Green Salad with Lemon & Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Exercise: 2-hour yoga class and walked, totaling 3.2 miles


Tuesday: 1/3/2017


Spinach-Avocado Smoothie; 2 cups of coffee with almond milk; 1 8-ounce glass of water


Kale and Arugula Salad with Roasted Brussels Sprouts; 1 Boiled Egg; Grilled Chicken & Miso-Ginger Dressing; 2 8-ounce glasses of water


Gingery Fire-Roasted Baba Ganoush; Pan-Seared Chive and Bison Meatballs; Steamed Broccoli with Shallots, Tomatoes and Toasted Cashews; 2 8-ounce glasses of water

Exercise:  1 ½ hour boxing session and walked, totaling 4.10 miles


Wednesday: 1/4/2017


Spinach-Avocado Smoothie; 1 cup of coffee with coconut-almond creamer; 2 8-ounce glasses of water


Oven-Roasted Salmon with Fresh Dill; Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts; Fennel & Cabbage Slaw; Almond Cappuccino; 2 8-ounce glasses of water


Fennel-Cashew Soup with Sumac; Oven-Roasted Trout with Coconut-Oil Roasted Green Beans with Turmeric and Cinnamon; 2 8-ounce glasses of water

Exercise: 55-minute cardio dance class and walked, totaling 3.11 miles


Thursday: 1/5/17


Spinach-Avocado Smoothie; 2 8-ounce glasses of water


Grilled Mahi Mahi Over Mixed Green Salad with Avocado, Roasted Haricot Verts and Purple Cauliflower; 2 8-ounce glasses of water


Pan Roasted Salmon with Toasted Sesame Seeds; Sautéed Baby Kale & Cauliflower with Crispy Capers and Jalapeno-Cilantro Chimichurri, 2 8-ounce glasses of water

Exercise: 55-minute cardio dance class and walked, totaling 8.04 miles


My Week’s Results

I woke up this morning feeling a little better—not as tired as usual, and my face doesn’t feel as puffy. This morning at the gym I realized my knees weren’t hurting me, which I’d like to think is because of my diet.  I haven’t weighed myself yet; I’ll wait until next week to see if there’s been any change. All in all, I’m finding this experience enjoyable, and not as challenging as I would have thought. I don’t find myself being hungry–except for when I wake up, when I’m starving. But once I have my first glass of water, breakfast and coffee, I’m good to go. I’m not actually dreading these next three weeks. What a surprise! Check back next Friday to see my progress and ask me questions on my account or Clean Plates Instagram account. 


Top photo credit: Julia Sherman, Salad for President 

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