A couple of times a year, when I’m feeling sluggish, burned out, or simply in need of a mind-body reset, I turn to a tried-and-true solution for getting my groove back: a cleanse. It’s nothing complicated—just a few days that I dedicate to feeding my body with nothing but the most nourishing plant-based foods and juices that are easily digestible, high in phytonutrients, and pleasing to the palate.
Before trying a cleanse for the first time, I was apprehensive; I didn’t want to deprive myself or miss out on some of my favorite foods (hello, chocolate!), but after just three days without sugar and caffeine—and with plenty of fresh juices and homemade soups—I practically felt reborn. Clean eating completely recalibrated my system and got me feeling balanced again, so much so that I now do cleanses a few times a year.
I’m not alone on this. Every year, more than 10 million Americans embark on a New Year’s cleanse to kickstart healthy new habits, but you can try it any time of the year, and tailor your cleanse to match the season. The shift from winter to spring is an especially revitalizing time to give yourself the gift of a healthy restart. This is when I phase out hearty winter stews, root vegetables, and baked sweet potatoes and rotate in tender greens, ripe berries, and annual vegetables like asparagus and peas.
If you’re like me, you’ll notice the benefits of your cleanse almost immediately; you’ll sleep better, your digestive system will run like a well-oiled machine, your thinking will be clearer, and you may even shed an unwanted pound or two, making you feel light and buoyant. Plus, the polyphenols in fresh plant foods support the health of your gut microbiome, and increased fiber intake is correlated with a slew of preventive perks, including staving off cardiovascular disease.
Finding the cleanse that’s right for you is a personal decision based on your own goals and food preferences, but the classic is the juice cleanse: nothing but juices—ideally fresh-pressed—and water, of course. Smoothie cleanses are similar, but more substantial thanks to the addition of plant-based milks, nuts or seeds, and protein powders. A soup cleanse—especially nice in the winter—is another great way to reap the benefits of a cleanse while feeling really sated (I love to incorporate miso soup every day for a probiotic boost). And lastly, there are clean-eating cleanses—fresh salads, simple soups, roasted or steamed seasonal vegetables—that go the extra mile to support your health when you commit to canceling out caffeine and sugar, too.
If you’re dabbling in the idea of a cleanse, you’ll discover a number of readymade options on the market that will deliver fresh food and juices to your door, but they tend to be expensive, so I generally opt for a DIY approach. Want to give a cleanse a try, too? Here are some affordable ways to embark on your own cleansing adventure at home.
Don’t have a juicer or the time needed to make juices at home? Make your local juice bar your cleansing headquarters. Throw an exercise element into the mix by walking two or three times a day to your favorite spot instead of driving, and take a moment to sit and sip your elixir, savoring the moment. This can often be achieved for as little as $20 a day, far less than juice delivery programs.
Make a Trader Joe’s run and load up on frozen fruit to make it extra easy to prepare smoothies at home. If you’re feeling really motivated and want to flex your organizational muscles, portion out your smoothie ingredients into individual reusable containers so that when you’re ready to sip, you just need to toss everything in the blender with your favorite plant milk or juice for quick and easy sustenance.
If you’re trying a soup cleanse, begin by making a huge pot of your favorite soup—I’m a big fan of miso and Indian spiced dal—so that you’ve always got something ready to eat when you’re feeling peckish. Store your soup in Mason jars in the fridge, and simply warm on the stovetop or microwave for an instant, healthy meal.
There’s no better way to kickstart a healthy-eating cleanse than with your CSA delivery. Local, in-season produce is harvested at peak ripeness, and because it doesn’t have to travel far to get to your plate, your fruits and vegetables retain their optimal nutritional value. In winter, try building your meals around phytonutrient-rich cruciferous vegetables; in spring, load up on calcium-filled tender greens; in the summer, reach for juicy tomatoes and vitamin-C packed peppers; and in the fall, try squashes like acorn and kabocha that are loaded with beta carotene.