With celebrity allure and promises of fast weight loss and newfound energy, it makes sense that so many people want to give it a go. But because so many people read about cleanses in gossip magazines, not nutritionist’s offices, there is a lot of confusion about how to juice properly. While some cleansing mistakes will just leave you hangry and jonesing for a steak, other mistakes can actually lead to weight gain or a medical emergency. To help you slim down while staying healthy, we chatted with Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based Dietitian and Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group to learn the most major juicing fails and how to avoid them.
You Don’t Pre-Cleanse
Before starting a juice cleanse, jump-start the detoxification process with a two-week pre-cleanse. A pre-cleanse is all about eliminating processed foods like packaged cookies, cereal, soda and deli meats from the diet, explains Kaufman. “This tactic not only promotes all around healthy eating, but it can help people get in in the right state of mind to jump into a full-on juice cleanse. Plus, it’s much easier to fight back against those initial soda and candy cravings while you’re still eating solid foods—trust us!
Going All or Nothing Right Away
If you’ve never done a juice cleanse before, replacing all your meals with liquid will likely leave you beyond tired and ravenous. Instead of sipping juice for breakfast, lunch and dinner while you daydream about solid food, replace just one meal or snack a day with a juice, advises Moskovitz. After this becomes parts of your routine (give it three weeks or so), it will be easier for you to stick to an all-juice cleanse without binging or falling asleep at your desk.
Your Cleanse Is Too Long
“Strict juice cleanses that last more than three days and do not include solid foods are not only difficult to sustain but can lead to protein, fiber, fat, and various other nutrient deficiencies,” explains Moskovitz. “If your cleanse is more than three days, incorporate some solid foods to help your body absorb the nutrients it needs and keep energy levels stable.” If your tummy starts to rumble or the urge for solid food strikes, Moskovitz suggests munching on high-fiber vegetables and salads, antioxidant-rich berries and nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts and walnuts which are rich in healthy fats and protein.
You Don’t Hydrate
Although the fruits and veggies in your juices contain water, it doesn’t mean you should give up plain old H20 altogether during your cleanse. “Hydrating adequately is always important for health. It’s the body's most critical need. Whether you're on a juice diet or not, pay attention to your urine color to ensure you’re hydrated enough,” says Moskovitz. “If your urine is clear, that’s a good sign you’re hydrated; if it’s more yellow in color, throw back a glass or two of water.” Bonus: The extra fluids will help ward off hunger between juices!
You Think Kale is King
People think kale is the king of the juice shop, but it’s important to mix up the produce in your cup to get a variety of different nutrients. “The colors of fruits and veggies are a direct reflection of the nutrients they contain. To ensure you’re getting healthy mix of vitamins make sure to get a variety of colors in your cleanse,” suggests Kaufman. This may mean sipping a green, kale-based drink for breakfast, an orange, carrot-filled juice for lunch and a purple, beet beverage for dinner.
You Don’t Consider Your Health
For most people, a two- or three-day cleanse isn’t dangerous, but people who are taking certain prescriptions or have certain medical conditions should steer clear all together. “I would not recommend cleansing to underweight or immune-compromised individuals, or to anyone who suffers from low blood pressure, acid reflux or blood sugar abnormalities. Those who are taking blood sugar or blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin should also steer clear, as juicing can interfere with medication potency,” warns Moskovitz.
Your Juice is High-Cal Disaster
While some juices like Juice Generation's Supa Dupa Greens have a mere 80 calories and 2 grams of sugar in a 16-ounce serving, other drinks of the same size like Jamba Juice's Amazing Greens have a whopping 420 calories and 54 grams of the sweet stuff. The bottom line: It’s up to you to review the ingredients and nutrition information and make a judgment call. Moskovitz recommends looking for a drink that’s between 50 and 100 calories, has less than 10 grams of sugar and at least 3 grams of fiber. Also, try to pick juices that follow the 80:20 rule, meaning 80 percent of the ingredients are veggies, while only 20 percent are fruits. Limiting the fruit in your drink can help keep insulin levels steady and ward off hunger.
You’re Drinking Pesticides and Chemicals
Though a recent study by Stanford University suggests there’s very little nutritional benefit to eating organic produce, the pesticides used on conventional crops have been linked to a slew of belly issues including abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. If you have access to a juice shop that uses organic produce that’s your best bet— especially if you enjoy juices that contain fruits and veggies that top the dirty dozen list like apples, strawberries, celery, spinach and cucumbers.
You Don’t Alter Your Workout Routine
“While it’s always a good idea to combine exercise and diet, if you are severely limiting your calories (as many people are during a juice cleanse) then you may want to adjust your fitness level,” advises Kaufman. Why? You could faint or pass out. “Take a day or two off from the gym to let your body adjust to your new diet and then determine your energy level for a safe workout.” You may find that you’re not up for your weekly run, but feel confident that you could get through a yoga class safely. Follow your instinct and don’t overdo it.
You Don’t Supplement with Fat or Protein
Juices don’t contain much protein or fat, which can leave you feeling hungry and lethargic. If you find that’s the case, Moskovitz suggests asking your mixologist to add some ground chia or flax seeds to your juices. “Both options will provide extra fiber, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants without changing the taste. Plus, healthy fats take longer to digest and help keep blood sugar levels stable, helping you feel fuller, longer.”