Be Well: Resolved to a Detox or #Whole30 for the New Year? Read This First
An exclusionary mindset around food can lead to deficiencies and imbalance. A holistic dietician shares why adding to your plate, instead of eliminating, is the first step to sustainable success.
“If fad diets truly worked, we wouldn’t need to repeat them every January.”
A mic drop for the ages, courtesy of dietician Paige Prestigiacomo, RDN, LDN, a sports nutrition resident at Northwestern Health Sciences University.
“When people resolve to lose weight in the new year but don’t know where to begin, all-or-nothing diets with a lot of rules and exclusions sound appealing.”
The problem is, overly restricting calories, nutrients, and/or whole food groups boomerangs into regaining weight because the diet just isn’t sustainable, says Prestigiacomo. “We need adequate calories and nutrients to feel satisfied and stick with an eating plan—and see results—over time.”
She particularly recommends avoiding cleanses and detoxes, which severely limit calories and nutrients in a way that stresses the very organs people set out to “detox.”
“‘Detox’ is what your liver, kidneys, and GI tract do all day, every day. And they need adequate nutrients and energy to function properly. If you want to ‘detox,’ then think about proper nourishment, not harsh cleanses.”
What about a whole food-based reset like Whole30?
“The pros are that Whole30 puts an emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and cutting back on sugar and processed food. Even better, Whole30 requires people to mostly cook their own food and that’s a great thing. The cons are that Whole30 eliminates food groups that are nutritious—and filling—for most people, including legumes and dairy. (She adds the caveat that if people have food sensitivities or allergies to foods, it makes sense to avoid those foods.)
Prestigiacomo explains that any way of eating that labels entire food groups as “bad” defeats the purpose of enjoying the widest variety of nutritious foods as possible. It also creates unnecessary guilt and even shame around meals.
Flipping the Script
So where to start in the midst of so many confusing messages?
Instead of focusing on eliminating foods, which causes feelings of deprivation and can backfire, try this instead: flip the script and find things to add to your diet and routine! Prestigiacomo suggests trying these small-but-important additions, one at a time, until each feels completely normal:
- One serving of vegetables per day.
- Fresh fruit with breakfast.
- Drink more water.
- Exercise (of any sort) for a few days per week.
- Get more sleep.
What about the inevitable holiday or party that bumps the most fervently committed to resolutions off track?
When you’re going to be celebrating a birthday or other event aka living a normal life, she says to make sure to enjoy healthy, protein- and fiber-packed meals earlier that day so you don’t arrive at your event starving. “That way, you’re more likely to keep your indulgence in check, savor it without guilt, and return to normal eating again the next day.”
If you’re noticing a pattern here, of adding nutrients, being flexible, and avoiding all-or-nothing thinking, you’re right.
She stresses that the key to healthful eating success is to choose dietary and lifestyle changes that you can maintain—and actually enjoy!—all year long and beyond.
Need ideas and inspiration? Prestigiacomo shares healthy recipes and beautiful food photos on her blog, Paige for Good Eats (paigeforgoodeats.com), and Instagram, @paigeforgoodeats.
Below is her recipe for Southwest Frozen Breakfast Burritos, a recipe you can prep on the weekend and freeze for fast, healthy breakfasts during the week.
Southwest Frozen Breakfast Burritos
Paige Prestigiacomo, RDN, LDN
Makes 10 burritos
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced1/2 white onion, diced2 large handfuls spinach, coarsely chopped
10 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 cup cooked quinoa1/2 cup salsa1 can black beans, drained and rinsed10 whole grain flax wraps (I love the whole grain flax seed wraps from Sante Fe Tortilla Co. They are one of the only whole grain wraps that bend easily without ripping.)1 cup grated cheese
1. Set a 12-inch skillet nonstick over medium-low heat. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and when oil is hot, add peppers and onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add spinach. Continue to cook until the peppers begin to soften, spinach is wilted, and onions become translucent. Transfer veggies to a mixing bowl.
3. Return skillet to heat and add remaining 1 teaspoon of oil. Add eggs and taco seasoning to the skillet. Scramble the eggs until about 85-90% done. (This prevents them from being over-cooked when reheated.)
4. Transfer scrambled eggs to the mixing bowl with the veggies. To the bowl, add quínoa, salsa and black beans. Mix until evenly combined.
5. Lay a wrap out on a cutting board. Add a heaping 1/2 cup of the egg mixture to a wrap. Add a sprinkle of shredded cheese on top. Fold the wrap burrito style, making sure the egg mixture is nicely tucked in.
6. Wrap with plastic wrap or foil and set aside. Continue with the remaining wraps and egg mixture. Transfer burritos to the freezer.
7. When you are ready to enjoy, remove burrito from wrapping and place on a paper towel to absorb extra moisture. Heat in the microwave for 3-5 minutes, flipping half way (I also recommend using the frozen feature on the microwave to make sure it is thoroughly heated through, without overcooking the wrap).