Cleanses. They’re all the rage right now. Note the word, “rage.” As in, if you have a friend who is doing or has done a cleanse, there’s probably little chance you didn’t know it. Shortly into the first day, most people are cranky and quite vocal. “I’m doing a cleanse!" "Hey, did you know I'm doing a cleanse?" "I just drank my lunch and I could really use a cheeseburger."
It’s not just food they're missing. Most cleanses are meant to be detoxifying as well. So, no alcohol or caffeine, either. The caffeine-deprivation grumples are the major culprit in the cranky cleanser. But most people I know have cleared their minds (and bodies) by day 2 and are generally pretty cool with day 3. Some start to miss chewing food and others do get hungry if they aren’t drinking enough water otherwise.
To be frank, though I’m a fan of juice, I’ve never been much interested in a cleanse. Until I went to Disney World. We gorged ourselves for five solid days (more details soon!) and by the time we got back to real life, I was ready for a change. With Memorial Day on the horizon, I decided to put it off just a bit, but then I was ready to go the Tuesday afterward.
Luckily, I have a ton of options around here for good, fresh juices. But even more luckily, the folks from Kaeng Raeng sent me a sample of The Beginner to try out, so I had it here ready to go.
The Kaeng Raeng versions are different from the programs of fresh juicers. These are packets of what is mostly dehydrated fruit plus essential nutrients, including lean protein and probiotics (full list PDF). You just add water, drink three a day and you’ve got all you need to keep your mind and body going. It’s all natural, vegan, gluten-free, and GMO-free. Also, it’s made in California from local produce and contains no artifical colors, flavors, or preservatives. It’s just pure, good stuff. Another thing to like about the Kaeng Raeng detox is that beginners can still supplement with eating raw fruits and vegetables, so if you get the urge to eat, you’re still on the track to detoxing.
Also different is that all the juices are fruit-based. Many fresh juice programs have at least one that’s beet or kale or spinach based. Something with some greens, that is. Which almost always requires a heaping dose of ginger to get it down (am I the only one who's noticed the prominence of ginger in juices?).
It’s important to note here that this isn’t a weight loss plan. What a cleanse does for you is sort of hit a reset button on your body. Generally speaking, three days on this plan should help you to feel better and crave less junk food. And because the dehydrated fruits are fortified with protein and vitamins and other essential nutrients (in natural forms), you’re not depriving your body of anything. So it’s a lot healthier than fasting or following a DIY cleanse without guidance from a nutritionist.
So, when we got back from our trip, I prepared to detox. I bought fresh peaches and strawberries and made sure I had apples and baby carrots on hand, plus a carton of almond milk (just in case). Here’s how it went:
Day 1. I started off with the mango peach pineapple “Daybreak” blend. I poured it into a large jar and shook it vigorously with ice water, stuck a straw in it and started my breakfast. The flavor was pleasant-ish and not very strong, but the mix was a bit grainy. That’s because of the dehydrated ingredients. I stuck it out and finished over the course of an hour.
Mid-morning, I got my first craving for salt. And caffeine. I resisted.
For lunch, I prepared the strawberry raspberry pineapple “Joyful.” I’m not a huge fan of raspberries, so this one wasn’t as good to me. I drank it, alternating with baby carrots. Still, it took me a while to get through it because it’s a pretty substantial drink.
Mid-afternoon, I was sleepy. I gave in and had some green tea. But hey, it was organic.
For dinner, I mixed up the blueberry blackberry banana “Into the Blue.” It’s got a strong blueberry flavor and you can taste the chunks of banana. It’s actually pretty good. I also ate a bit of vinegar cole slaw for something to chew.
Day 2. Surprisingly, I didn’t wake up hungry! But I decided to go ahead and have some tea to start my day. I’m not a huge caffeine addict (I don’t drink coffee), but I need it to get out some of the cobwebs.
For the first juice of the day, I chose the Daybreak again, but this time, I put it in the blender with a few frozen mango chunks, half a fresh peach and about 30 ounces of water. I punched “liquefy” and let the blender work its magic. The result? A vast improvement. Actually, a delicious (not just tolerable) smoothie. I drank half around 8am and saved the other half for 10am.
For my lunch juice, I chose the Joyful again and added frozen strawberries and pineapple juice leftover from my failed Dole Whip and liquefied it in the blender again. Another big improvement, though the raspberry taste is still a little too strong for me. Next time around, maybe I’ll put some fresh ginger in it. Though what I would rather put in it is Domaine de Canton (a delicious, delicious ginger liqueur). Again, probably not what the Kaeng Raeng folks have in mind as a booster for their blends. And probably not the best use of the Domaine de Canton (which is best straight or with a little Jack Daniel's Honey. Okay; I'm torturing myself thinking about it, so I'll stop).
Around 1pm, though, I got the sleepies again, despite a full night’s sleep. And a headache. I thought that having my regular tea in the morning would prevent it, but maybe it’s the flushing of the toxins at fault. Okay, that sounds a little hokey, but it’s still odd (turns out, this is fairly common and I should've had more water instead of tea!). And I find myself wanting some toast. Yeah, toast. I had some green tea instead.
Around mid-afternoon, the headache was still hanging around. Not a caffeine-deprivation headache. Perhaps too much sugar from the added fruits and juices. Or maybe I just needed some French fries. And toast.
For dinner, I needed to have something savory and green, so I had an arugula salad with a bit of olive oil, fleur de sel and raw pine nuts. It felt luxurious. I also had some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. And I followed that with the last smoothie of the day. I didn’t add anything to Into The Blue, but I did put it in the blender. Definitely the way to go.
Day 3. Same as yesterday’s breakfast, including the extra fruit because it needed it. I did, however, forget to drink my tea and didn’t suffer for it. That’s a win.
At lunch, I needed to have something savory and fatty, so I had an entire sliced avocado and a small tomato (from my own garden!). I’m not sure salted avocado and plain tomato slices ever tasted so good. I followed that up with my juice with just extra frozen strawberries added (I forgot the ginger!) and drank half and saved the other half for mid-afternoon.
Mid-afternoon, I got sleepy-ish again (I’m not a very active person, though). Not enough to have any tea (and no headache), so I just had the other half of the lunch portion.
Dinner—last one! Thank God, because I am tired of drinking. Which is pretty sad, considering it was only about 24 ounces more than I should be drinking in water each day. I haven’t been drinking as much water as I should (or as I did when I worked a desk job and a trip to the water dispenser was a welcome break from the screen). Anyway, I’m done. I made it! Yay!
Now, I have to be honest; I have made fun of people who’ve struggled through a three-day juice cleanse before. I mean, who couldn’t do something for just three days? But it was more difficult than I thought. And I wasn’t even hungry! I do think having a salad and some other non-sweet fruits helped, so definitely plan for that if you’re the kind of person who gets worn out on fruit fairly easily (and you probably are). I think the biggest challenge for me was having a cold breakfast. I’m accustomed to hot tea and toast, which I like year-round.
Overall, I think the Kaeng Raeng beginner program did what I wanted it to do. It got me out of my junk food addiction leftover from vacation so I can get back to eating my normal, healthy-ish diet. I do still seem to have a heavy dependence on gluten, though, which I’d love to break. Interestingly, it was bread I missed during the cleanse, not cheese! So, right out of the gate on Day 4, I celebrated with some toast. My stomach didn’t seem to be as happy with that decision as my mouth, though.
- The juice smoothies taste much better cold, so use refrigerated water and/or ice. Frozen fruit helps, too but adds calories and sugar.
- Because they’re better cold, it’s best to do the detox when it’s warm outside. Even in late May in the south, drinking the smoothies gave me the chills. I had to get out the space heater again!
- Definitely prepare to need something not sweet between smoothies. Get some baby carrots, avocadoes, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables you like to eat raw or with salt. I found the avocado and tomato to be the most satisfying, but these add fat and calories, too (albeit good fat and calories).
- When you finish the cleanse, take it easy. As I mentioned, I don’t think my stomach was too happy about those two pieces of toast I had for my celebratory breakfast.
Final note: it was worth it and I recommend it. But if you’re any kind of food addict, it’s not going to be easy. You won’t be hungry, but you’ll miss food, probably. But you’ll probably surprise yourself with how strong you can be. And if you typically crave sweet junk food, it’s likely that will be curbed after just three days. I am completely uninterested in anything sweet, including a lot of the chocolate that came back from Orlando with me. So this is definitely a great program for anyone who’s been curious and wanted to try it. It’s not as expensive as a lot of fresh drink programs and if you really hate it, you can just save the packets for an occasional meal replacement (or two, really).