The preparation phase of your diet cleanse is one of the most important steps in ensuring success. By following these preparation steps, you will have an easier time overcoming and foreseeing challenges along the way.
Step 1: Set a date
Find a period of time spanning the length of your chosen cleanse that does not include much travel, big events, or other obstacles that could block you from sticking with your diet cleanse. For example, if you choose a month that includes a week-long vacation with relatives, a wedding, and camping trip weekend, then being able to cook your meals might not be feasible. Making sure you have access to a kitchen and quality ingredients is a must during this time since cooking and meal preparation will be a main focus.
Step 2: Have the right supplies
Since the majority of your meals will be home-cooked, it’s important to have a good set of cooking supplies to create a variety of recipes. Along with cleaning up your gut, this cleanse is also an opportunity meant to learn life-long cooking skills so you can sustain these changes beyond your cleanse period.
Some of the cooking equipment you might want on hand:
- A variety of pots and pans
- A knife set
- Cutting boards
- Food processor
- Pressure cooker
- Crock pot
This equipment can help you reduce time in the kitchen and easily plan ahead. You may also expand your recipe library, try new foods, and make cooking more enjoyable for the long-term. Certain cleanses require more specific cooking supplies. For example, The Shift Cleanse requires a blender for morning smoothies and a large pot for soups.
Another important item is a variety of tupperware containers. Ideally, these containers would be glass, non-toxic, and specifically for reheating foods. A variety of sizes ensures you can store leftovers in the home and pack meals outside the home. During the colder months, a soup thermos is also a great option, especially when a microwave is not accessible. Simply heat up your meal before leaving the house, seal it in your thermos, and enjoy a warm lunch or dinner wherever you are.
Step 3: Pantry Clean-Up
During your diet cleanse, you may have to remove food items that were previously a large part of your diet. Having these challenging foods around in plain sight increases the chance of slipping up, especially during an elimination cleanse when the purpose is to find out whether these foods cause negative reactions. First remember, this is not forever! It would be a shame to make it 3 weeks through your cleanse, slip up on eating a tub of ice cream because it was in plain sight, then have to start over from the beginning. So let’s make it easier for you and get these foods out of the way. There are many options to deal with these foods, and you need to decide what works best for you, whether that be hiding the food in your house, giving it away, or throwing it away. Whatever you choose, by having these tempting foods out of sight, you will make room for nutritionally-dense foods that fit with your cleanse guidelines.
Giving your pantry a healthy overhaul is another great way to ensure these new eating habits last past the cleanse period. Your nutritionist can show you ways to re-organize your pantry and fridge, what kinds of staple items you can keep on hand, spices, oils, and sauces that will enhance health and flavor, and many more tips to creating an environment conducive to healthy meal planning. Planning a time to grocery shop for these specific items can be done ahead of time since they can last for a while before spoiling.
During the appointment before you start your cleanse, your nutritionist will go over some meal ideas that fit with your cleanse guidelines. There are several options to plan your meals. You could create an entire week-long meal plan that includes meal ideas and recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each day, or you can come up with more general meal ideas that can be customized later on based on your food preferences. For those who need more help in the kitchen, planning more may work better. However, for those who prefer more freedom to customize their meals, the nutritionist can help you brainstorm adaptable ideas that could become several meals.
Once you have a meal planning strategy, you will want to plan your grocery shopping. We suggest grocery shopping once per week so you and your nutritionist can come up a grocery list to keep you on track. As the week comes to an end, you will have the option to repeat that same week of meals, or schedule a time with your nutritionist to come up with a new set of meal ideas. This pertains to most cleanses other than The Shift Cleanse, which includes set meals and grocery lists. Having a meal plan in place makes the process easier, less stressful, and leaves more time to focus on your day-to-day life.
So you have come up with your meal plan and know what to grocery shop for. Now it’s time to plan how to prepare and cook these meals. For some individuals starting a cleanse, cooking might not be a big part of life. For others, this is a daily occurrence. So the most important part to ensure success is coming up with a plan that works for you, your schedule, and your lifestyle. Determine a day out of the week where you can prep bigger items to enjoy throughout the week when time is limited. For example, if you work Monday to Friday without time to cook during the weekdays, choose your weekend to prep a big batch of soup, or individually portion out lunches in tupperware containers so you can grab and go. A very important step in your cleanse process is taking the stress out of meal planning! That is why your work with the nutritionist is so important.
Let friends and family know about your cleanse before starting so you have support from the very beginning. Studies have shown that the success of making dietary changes is higher when the support of others is involved (1). Who knows, maybe they will want to join in too! When it comes to the people inside your home, such as partners, roommates, children, etc., getting them prepared is just as important as preparing yourself. Whether you cook for yourself, or for others, it’s important to communicate your plans and goals with those in the household so they can be prepared to support you. If you cook for yourself, this could look like finding time where you will be able to use the kitchen more often. If you cook for others, this could be a time where those individuals might need to compromise their typical meals, or make their own, so you can stick to your guidelines successfully. At this time, it is OK to ask for support!
Be ready for questions about your diet cleanse. “Why are you doing a cleanse?” “Why this cleanse and not another?” “What is this cleanse supposed to do for you?” Your decision to participate in a cleanse is a huge step and may invite some vulnerability and anxiety, but your nutritionist is here to support you. This is when your goals become very important. Whenever you find yourself questioning your cleanse decision, or when comments from others get you down, return to your goals and check in with your nutritionist to keep you motivated and committed!
Mary Bailey is the Registered Dietitian at Heart Spring Health in Southeast Portland, Oregon. She completed her 1,200 Dietetic Internship hours with a variety of experienced RD’s throughout the Portland area, covering a wide variety of conditions and populations. She received her Masters of Science in Holistic Nutrition through the National University of Natural Medicine where many of the ND’s at the clinic also completed their education. Along with continually learning, Mary spends her time exploring the outdoors, cooking, spending time with friends and family, and traveling. Learn more about Mary
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