Serious Eats Goes on a Juice Cleanse
"A break from coffee, a break from heavy food, and a break from wine, beer, and spirits is pretty rare for us."
We've been hearing a lot about juice cleanses these days, online and from friends who have tried them, and friends who are considering them. We've been wary but also curious. Just juice—for three days—could we do it? How would it feel? What do these juices taste like, anyway? Are they super vegetal? Bright and refreshing? Is it enough food, or do you feel spacey, shaky, and hungry if you only drink juice (and cashew milk) all day? Our curiosity got the best of us, and when BluePrint Cleanse offered a free chance to try it out, three of us (Serious Eats editor Erin, SENY editor Carey, and Drinks editor Maggie) signed up. Let the cleansing begin!
Before you get rowdy in the comments section: please know that we're not advocating juice cleanses for any sort of health benefit; we're not nutritionists. There are plenty of opinions on the pros and cons of "cleansing" elsewhere on the Internet. We're just curious about the experience—as we're curious about any eating experience—and wanted to test-drive it for you. We'll have reports to share each day this week.
First, some thoughts from us about preparing for the cleanse.
I awoke on Saturday morning three days before the cleanse to an email from BluePrint entreating me to "Prepare for the cleanse!" and "Start now!" Their suggested menu, T-3: fruit for breakfast; fruit for lunch; warm vegetable broth and a salad for dinner. No alcohol or animal products or caffeine.
So three days out looked like a normal day in my life, inasmuch as my life has normal days. An early, simple breakfast (two hard-boiled eggs and a cup or three of coffee); a work meal (two or three bites of seven different things; plus a cup or three of coffee); exercise (a seven-mile walk and a kettlebell session); and a "work" night (lots of sips of seven kinds of cava). Erin made a few gorgeous salads that I grazed on at the wine tasting, but I did avail myself of the cheese, too; how could I not?
Two days out, Sunday morning, I started taking it more seriously. No more coffee; I brewed an enormous pitcher of iced green tea that I sipped from and tried ignore the headache that crept up by 8am. No more complicated food: beets and greens only. I woke up ravenous the next day, and two meals of beets and bananas didn't really help. A spoonful of peanut butter midday calmed my stomach, but I still felt myself fading by late afternoon. I hope the sheer quantity of juice we'll be downing will stave off these low-energy spells, but I have to admit I'm skeptical.
I'm also not looking forward to the monotony; there are three levels of BluePrint Cleanse, and I'm doing the second, whereas Erin and Maggie are doing the first (it includes a beet-carrot juice, and I'm allergic to raw carrots*). It means that half of what I consume every day will be parsley-celery-kale juice. I love my salads as much as the next girl, but... eee.
* Yes, this is real; yes, this is medically confirmed. And yes, I realize that it's absolutely ridiculous to be allergic to carrots.
One of my favorite parts about this cleanse is the look on peoples' faces when you tell them you're about to start it. "You're... really? Wait. Why." Noses scrunch. They look equal parts confused, disgusted, and relieved that they're not signed up. Why would you drink only non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic juices (and one cashew milk!) for three days straight? Why? Why! Why.
I'm actually looking forward to it. Not excited about the caffeine withdrawals, actually more dreading the seltzer withdrawals (BPC encourages no gassy bubbles), but ready for the challenge. It's rare that we pause our serious-eatin' lifestyles to hit the refresh button for our bodies. No sandwiches for three days straight (very, very rare in the world of SE), no pressure to participate in the hot fudge tasting (goodness, phew), and no review meals (14 dishes for four people?).
Also, it's just three days. Long enough for the body to feel it and react, long enough to miss a few tasty-sounding meals, but short enough that it's always almost over.
On the Thursday before the cleanse started, I began the goodbye-coffee effort. Coffee is a good friend of mine, especially a glass of cold-brew in the morning. I started fridge-brewing tea with mint instead, which actually wasn't too painful after the second day. Except Saturday I caved and bought a Coke Zero. Felt so good, those cold bubbles going down. I knew this was the last for a while.
I am most worried about the caffeine situation this week, but also most looking forward to conquering the addiction. I'm accustomed to a strong shot of moka-pot coffee in the morning (my husband has perfected the art of seriously intense stovetop brews) and then a cup of tea in the afternoon—switching to a cup or two of green tea a day is daunting. So I started phasing that out about four days before the cleanse. Facing the Soho crowds while I attempted to walk (uncaffeinated) to our review meal at The Dutch, I thought I might cry. Sunday—two days before the cleanse—I felt great. So here on T-1 day for the cleanse, why is the headache back?
Foodwise, I finally got myself up to the farmers' market on Saturday (our long hours mean workday visits are tricky), knowing it was a good chance to partake in some gorgeous August produce in the days leading up to the cleanse. So I've been eating lots of vivid tomatoes and drippingly juicy peaches and (non-local) avocados.
What I've heard about the cleanse is mostly rave reviews from my friends who eat and drink for a living. A break from coffee, a break from heavy food, and a break from wine, beer, and spirits is pretty rare for us. Do we need to switch to a juice-only diet to take that break? No. Could there be healthier, less extreme ways to change our diet? Sure. But hopefully this will launch us toward cleaner, more plant-based eating habits long term, and in the meantime, hit the mental and physical reset button.