Whenever I post about wanting to do a three day Plant Paradox cleanse, I have people wanting to join me and some asking me for details. Not everyone who follows me on Instagram is familiar with the Plant Paradox, and among those who are, there are some who have a hard time figuring out what to eat (don’t we all sometimes?).
In The Plant Paradox book there is a Phase One meal plan (what Dr. Gundry calls the three day cleanse) and that has been useful for me when I’ve done the cleanse in the past. But the longer on this lifestyle, the more I want some new things to try. So I figured I’d share some of my ideas of how to do the cleanse and what to eat, so it doesn’t feel like a cleanse at all.
That means we will eat delicious and good-looking food (because who likes sad food and don’t we all eat first with the eyes?), that will leave us nourished and satisfied.
Of course, if you are at the beginning and still on a sugar and carb-loaded diet, you might experience some weakness and cravings, but that’s what happens to all of us at the beginning. Just do the best you can and think that anything is better than nothing and that you will always have the chance to do it again, whenever you want.
For a better understanding of the Plant Paradox program, the most important thing I ever recommend is to read The Plant Paradox book by Dr. Steven Gundry.
Food for body and soul
I also wanted to make the cooking part easy on us. Not everyone loves or has time to cook every day, two or three times a day, so I’m going with a meal prep plan in mind. Since the main protein allowed in the cleanse are wild-caught salmon and pastured raised chicken (shellfish too or just not animal protein at all, but I want to keep it simple), I built my cleanse meals around the two items, which will be cooked once and served with each of the six meals.
I’m adding one LATER note here, for those of you with histamine sensitivities: please freeze the animal protein after you cook it and eat immediately after reheating it.
To make it easier to follow, I’ve outlined the cleanse in the below points:
Number of meals: there will be 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners. Snacks are allowed if you feel hungry (1/4 cup approved nuts/day or romaine lettuce with avocado). Remember, almonds are compliant only blanched.
Protein: we are allowed a maximum of 4oz per serving, 8oz max per day (I weigh mine cooked) wild-caught fish and pastured raised chicken, so to keep it simple we will have three meals with wild-caught salmon and three meals with pasture raised chicken. If you don’t find pastured-raised chicken in your area, use some other type of fish.
TIP: if you are low on budget, or time-restricted, or just want to make it even easier, you can always use good quality canned fish: Alaskan pink salmon, sustainable caught tuna, sardines. Just make sure they come in containers that are BPA-free. However, this will not work for people with histamine issues, which should avoid canned fish and shellfish in general. Vegans and vegetarians, I sometimes do my cleanse without animal protein, but never use Quorn or Tempeh products (I wasn’t even able to find them, to be honest). What I like to do is replace the animal protein with one portobello mushroom, and you can sprinkle some hemp seeds on top of your veggies for some extra protein.
BREAKFAST: will be a green smoothie (RECIPE HERE, but please skip the coconut oil for the cleanse or replace it with one tablespoon MCT Oil. If you are not vegetarian or vegan, skip the hemp seeds too, you already have enough protein with the salmon and chicken and the point of this cleanse is to keep protein in check). I usually fast for 14-16 hours every day, so I might just skip the smoothie. If you too prefer to fast and skip the smoothie, make sure you have plenty of greens throughout the day. Unfortunately, for those of you with allergies to avocado or histamine sensitivities, it will be much harder to make a smoothie, and I recommend fasting. Or just make it without avocado. Spinach is also considered high histamine, so you can replace it with other greens. It will not be as creamy or tasty, but you will get some greens in.
LUNCH: since a lot of us have work during the day and have to go to an office, I think lunch should be the easier meal to prepare and had, usually a composed plate from your pre-cooked protein, and a side of veggies that are good cold or reheated in the microwave. I personally don’t use a microwave, I don’t mind having my food cold, but to each their own. Do whatever feels better for you.
DINNER: If you have a little more time to play for dinner, you can cook veggies that you can have warm for dinner and you can use the next day for a workday lunch.
MUST HAVES: I recommend to have one romaine lettuce head (the big one, or two of the smaller ones, the romaine hearts that come pre-packed) and half to one avocado every day (if you can tolerate avocado). If you choose to have the smoothie, you are covering almost half of the above because the smoothie has lettuce, spinach and avocado in it. I always use arugula in my cleanse and some other type of green lettuce (not iceberg though, there is not much nutrition in it). Have at least a cruciferous vegetable every day (I have them with every meal).
OILS: your main cooking oils will be avocado oil and grass fed ghee, and I’ll use extra virgin olive oil for salads, but in the Phase One YES list, Dr. Gundry doesn’t include olive oil, although in the original The Plant Paradox book he has Phase One recipes with olive oil (a small contradiction). So I suggest, if you are new to the program, skip olive oil and coconut oil but if you’ve been doing this for a while you can just use avocado oil and ghee for cooking and olive oil for dressing your salads. Totally your choice. Perilla oil is great in Phase One if you can find it.
SALT: don’t forget is better to use iodized sea salt. Redmond Real Sea Salt and Himalayan pink salt are naturally rich in minerals, including iodine. Check the store above for a few options.
SPICES AND SEASONING: Although I love spices, I will keep it simple during the cleanse, using iodized sea salt, pepper, and fresh or dry herbs. I will not use cayenne pepper or paprika, or mixed spice that I’m not sure what they are made of, even if they are generally considered compliant.
EAT GREEN: Put everything on a bed of green leaves. Use romaine lettuce, arugula or curly lettuce, kale, baby spinach, whatever you like. I always have some sort of green leaves with any meal, cleanse or not. BUT, add as much color as possible to your meals. Eat the rainbow, they say.
SNACKS: The meals in this plan are big enough in my opinion and include all the nutrition you need, but if you feel like something in between meals, you can have some avocado and lettuce or 1/4 cup of approved nuts (almonds are compliant only blanched).
SWEETENERS: Although theoretically they are allowed during the plant paradox cleanse, I would not eat anything that tastes sweet for these three days. One of the main purposes of a cleanse is to release us from the tyranny of sweet, and our brains will not distinguish the sweet taste source and will just want more. It’s just three days, you can do it (I’m mainly referring here to adding stevia to your smoothie or coffee because there are no baked goods or desserts included in the cleanse).
DRINKS: Drink lots of water, I recommend minimum 2 liters of water/day. You can also have black coffee and tea. No creamers, no sweeteners. If it’s something you are used to and will make the cleanse easier for you, I think bulletproof coffee should be ok if it’s made with grass-fed ghee.
MACROS: Although the Plant Paradox is not really a low carb diet as per the standards in the diet world, it is still low carb compared to a normal diet, and that’s how the cleanse is different than other cleanse programs. It’s very low in carbs, there are no fruits or sugars allowed (of any kind), it’s high in healthy fats and low in protein. So the secret of having a successful plant paradox cleanse is not only to keep it low carb but also low protein, especially animal protein. That’s why we are only allowed a maximum of 4oz of animal protein per meal (twice a day), I personally try to keep it even lower, at around 3oz. Vegans and vegetarians who want to do this cleanse, you can just replace the animal protein with extra veggies and greens and maybe have a few hemp seeds sprinkled on your salads and meals, or some extra approved nuts.
MINDFULNESS: Remember that health is not all about food. Practice mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or whatever makes your soul happy. Eat slowly and chew well. Be grateful. Connect with nature. Sleep well.
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS: We sometimes forget the Plant Paradox lifestyle is not only about food. For a proper detox / cleanse, try to stay away from toxic cosmetic products and house cleaners, perfumes, fragrances, even blue light. Try to reduce as much as possible your exposure to electromagnetic fields (turn your phone on airplane mode, switch off your wi-fi when sleeping, or just keep your smartphone as far as possible from you). If you find any of the below words on the list of the ingredients of the products you use, don’t use them. More details about safe skin/body care products HERE.
SHOPPING LIST. Considering all my recommendations for meals, these are the main items that I would include in my cleanse:
12oz wild-caught salmon * 12oz pastured chicken * one avocado for each day * one romaine lettuce for each day * cabbage (I prefer purple because it adds some color) * Swiss chard * Portobello Mushrooms (as sides or to replace the animal protein if plant-based) * Brussel sprouts * asparagus * cauliflower * artichokes * broccolini or broccoli * mixed olives (that are not marinated in non-compliant oils) * arugula red onions * garlic * iodized sea salt * avocado oil * grass-fed ghee (optional, can be replaced by avocado oil) * extra virgin olive oil * a good quality vinegar * lemons (organic if you want to use the zest) * limes *capers.
I’ve used fresh Italian flat parsley and some of the ideas below include cilantro. Bok Choy is also a great vegetable to have during the cleanse. Compliant nuts that I prefer having during the cleanse are macadamia, walnuts, pecans, or pistachios. You need tahini if you decide to make the cauliflower artichoke hummus (I use jarred artichokes that don’t have non-compliant ingredients, you can also use the frozen ones, just roast them before). Artichokes are a great addition to a plant paradox cleanse, so even if you don’t make the hummus, you can add them to your composed bowls or salads.
You need fresh ginger, mint and baby spinach if you decide to make the smoothie for the plant paradox cleanse. Ginger is optional, I like the taste of it in the smoothie though.
How to plan your plant paradox cleanse
My advice is to start by cooking your protein at once unless you have time and enjoy cooking twice a day. Cook 12oz of salmon and 12oz of pasture-raised chicken. Again, for those of you with histamine issues, make sure your chicken and salmon are super fresh (flash-frozen) and freeze them immediately after cooking. Reheat in the oven and eat immediately.
THE SALMON – In my cleanse prep trial this week, I split a 12oz wild-caught king salmon fillet in 3 equal portions, cooked it in a cast iron pan (or any ovenproof frying pan) in avocado oil, skin down, for about 4 minutes and transferred it in the oven at 375F to finish cooking for another 15-20 minutes. The time depends on the thickness of your salmon. Make sure you don’t overcook it. You can have the first serving warm, and store the other two for the next meals.
For extra flavor, make a capers lemon sauce, by warming 4 tbsp of ghee in a saucepan, and adding 1 tbsp of capers, 1 minced garlic clove, zest from one lemon, 1 or 2 tbsps lemon juice, a few tbsps of fresh chopped parsley. Add the sauce to your cooked salmon.
Roast Brussel sprouts and mushrooms at 375F, in avocado oil, salt and pepper, for about 30-40 minutes and add to your salmon, on a bed of greens (I like romaine lettuce crispy hearts for this).
THE CHICKEN – For the chicken, my cleanse prep trial included cooking various parts of a pasture raised chicken, but you can do only chicken breast. My suggestion is to rub your chicken with a mix of herbs and spices – I used dry sage, mustard powder, dry rosemary, sea salt and pepper. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, avocado oil and let marinate for one hour or so. Cook at 375F in the oven, for about 30 minutes, depending on what pieces you use and how big they are. You can check if ready by cutting with a knife next to a bone or on the thicker side of the breast and make sure the flesh is white, not pink. Eat the first portion when warm and use the other two cold, for salads or composed bowls the next days.
At the same time you can cook the vegetables in a different pan, I chose roasted garlic and cauliflower in avocado oil, iodized sea salt and pepper. 375F works perfectly for the cauliflower and garlic. It takes about the same time as the chicken. I used one head of cauliflower and about 8 garlic cloves, skin on.
For the next day’s lunch, fill two halves of avocado with one of the salmon fillets, add on a bed of greens, like arugula and spinach, drizzle olive or avocado oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Add fresh or marinated red onions, a few capers. You might have some leftovers Brussel sprouts and/or mushrooms to add to your bowl.
This is a big portion and you may not be able to eat all in one go, keep the leftovers and have later when you get hungry (you probably will). Another side that goes really well with salmon is sautéed broccolini (baby broccoli). Just sauté them in avocado oil, with one smashed garlic clove, covered (they only need a few minutes, they cook nicely and quick in their own steam). If you can’t have avocado, just add more veggies to your plate.
Another meal I put together using the pre-cooked chicken was a bowl of sautéed swiss chard (you find the recipe for the sauteed Swiss chard here), half avocado, a few olives, marinated red onions and one of my favorite salads ever, cabbage salad (I used purple but the white one can be as good). To make the salad just finely slice the cabbage, massage it on the cutting board with salt, add it to a bowl and add avocado or olive oil, apple cider vinegar, pepper (all to your taste).
You keep hearing me mentioning these marinated red onions, which is in fact a recipe by the famous @NoCrumbsLeft (on Instagram). I don’t really measure anything, I just finely slice two halves of red onion and add them to a jar with extra virgin olive oil, a good quality red wine vinegar (about 1 tbsp) and lots of dry oregano. I keep it on the counter for a few days and use both the onions and the marinade to top every single meal.
If you have time for more experimentation and cooking, I recommend okra chips and cauliflower and artichoke hummus. To make the okra chips (which by the way have powerful anti-lectin properties), wash and dry them, cut them length-wise in half, season with salt and pepper and if you want some garlic powder, and bake for 20 minutes at 450F, on parchment paper. Cook them first open face down for 15 minutes, flip each piece and cook for another 5 minutes, but keep an eye on them as they will burn easily). I have posted the cauliflower and artichoke hummus previously, so you can find the recipe HERE.
LATER EDIT: While I’m actually doing my plant paradox cleanse (basically I did it twice, once for testing all these meals and once for real), I have to improvise because I don’t feel like having the same foods I had last week, so these are two of the non-planned meals I included in my real cleanse. I had one of the cooked salmon fillets I hadn’t used, so I made what I would call Turmeric Cauliflower Rice with Mushrooms and Salmon.
I sliced the mushrooms and added them to a pan with avocado oil and cooked for few minutes until they started releasing moisture; I grated a thumb-size turmeric root and added it to the mushrooms pan, and added the cauliflower rice and cooked for a few more minutes. I like when the cauliflower is al dente, so I only cook it for 3, 4 minutes. Added the shredded pre-cooked salmon at the end, some salt and pepper to taste. Had it next to a romaine salad, with red radishes, half avocado, red marinated onions, all drizzled with olive oil and lemon.
For the lunch today (as I type this), I did not feel like having any animal protein at all, so I made Sautéed Bok Choi with Maitake Mushrooms (or Hen-Of-The-Woods). I needed two pans for this as the bok choi takes a lot of space. I sautéed the bok choi in avocado oil, covered, for about 8-10 minutes.
The mushrooms were sautéed in avocado oil, with one whole (peeled and smashed) garlic clove, until golden brown (it takes about 8 minutes (I also covered them with a lid while cooking). Finished with a drizzle of Modena balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Served with half avocado, marinated red onions and drizzled with lime and olive oil. I also had some olives on the side.
For a printable version of the Plant Paradox YES and NO list please check this LINK. The list is not split on Phases, so some of the foods on this list are not allowed in Phase One.
To conclude this long piece, my advice is to keep it simple during the Plant Paradox cleanse. You don’t want to get overwhelmed with cooking. Also, don’t forget not everything is about food, avoid endocrine disruptors, sleep 8 hours a night, consider practicing mindfulness during the cleanse, maybe try some easy, slow yoga, meditation, walking in nature, a creative activity, reading, listening to your favorite music, be grateful and do whatever makes your soul happy.
If you are a visual person like I am and don’t care for specific measurements and cooking instructions, you may get a few ideas of how to prepare your food to look good from these visuals.
TIP: Use Portobello mushrooms to replace the animal protein if you are going plant-based.
Mushroom and cabbage steaks can be prepared in the oven, in the same dish/pan: season with salt, pepper and add some fennel seeds to the cabbage, and cook in avocado oil for about 25 minutes at 400F. Finish with a 3-minute broil at 450F. Asparagus can be broiled at 450F, for about 7 minutes, in avocado oil, with salt and pepper. You can serve all with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
And if by any chance you want to go super fancy during the cleanse, you should try this Salmon Avocado Tartare recipe, it’s delicious and believe it or not, makes for a good candidate for a Plant Paradox cleanse.
Some more ideas and Phase One compliant recipes you find on my blog (skip the mayo in the poke bowl below):