Going into the long weekend is all about: What are we going to eat? Who’s coming over for drinks? Where are we meeting to watch the fireworks? It’s as if America’s Birthday has become a festival of food (and drinks) and fun–and the best way to enjoy it is to know that you can splurge a little. Maybe more than a little. Ice cream is as American as apple pie.
With that in mind, we’ve devised this 3-day healthy eating (and drinking) plan to help you be super healthy for the next three days, so when Thursday after-work arrives and everyone starts to make their way to ferries, flights, and freeways to get to those long-awaited weekend plans, you can enjoy yourself and not care that this weekend’s menu and cocktails might not be in alignment with your healthiest diet plan. If you plan it right, you can divert from your usual approach to good nutrition without any regrets. What’s life without a little fun?
To ensure that you walk into the weekend (whether it’s a girls’ getaway or a hotel retreat with your honey, a family reunion, or a coveted invite to a beach house by the sea) feeling and looking your best is part of what makes us look forward to the long weekend. With that in mind, you may want to spend the next few days getting healthy, banishing the bloat, perhaps even losing a little weight, and saving the splurges for when things get social and festive.
This plan is meant to give you guidance from now through Thursday, with tips on how to eat to be your healthiest, which means eating a diet of whole foods, mostly vegetables, fruit, whole grains like quinoa, and legumes, which are full of fiber, and plant-based clean protein. The idea is to skip added sugar, processed foods like chips, and ditch meat and dairy (which cause inflammation) and focus on whole plant-based foods. For snacks, count on whole fruit, nuts, and seeds that are high in nutrients and fiber, and keep you full longer. for snacks.
But the secret weapon in your clean eating plan– to be healthy and even shed a couple of pounds–is to drink green tea.
Green tea has been shown in studies to contain a remarkable compound called EGCG, or Epigallocatechin Gallate, which is such a powerful polyphenol that it has been shown in the lab to halt tumor growth in its tracks. Other teas, such as Oolong are also healthy, but green tea has the most EGCG of any other tea.
EGCG has been called a “chemopreventative” polyphenol since it has been shown in cancer studies to hinder growth. The way it does that is to use a “fuel gauge” pathway called AMPK in the body that essentially keeps tabs on when fuel is plentiful (so cells should grow) and when fuel is short (so cells should not grow). While this has major implications for cancer growth, checking it from proliferating, EGCG also manages to help in burning fat.
When EGCG is present, it uses that pathway to signal to your body that “fuel is scarce” which then turns on your natural signals to start fat burning instead of looking for ready energy. This means that drinking green tea, even as little as two cups a day, can help your body burn more fat, especially belly fat. In one famous study that is often cited, subjects who were given green tea extract lose between .2 and 3.5 kg more in 12 weeks than those not given green tea. While 3.5 kilograms doesn’t sound like a lot but this means that by changing nothing else (diet or exercise) you can lose 6 pounds with the help of green tea.
When it comes to brewing your green tea, don’t overboil the water, since if you put the teabag in boiling water it can damage the catechins, according to The Times of India. Instead, boil water and let it cool off for several minutes before pouring your tea.
The latest research also suggests that you drink it after a meal, for best results. Other studies suggest drinking it first thing in the morning, to turn up your metabolism.
Choose a green tea with caffeine since the studies show that for weight loss, catechins and caffeine worked together to help speed up the metabolism. One important thing to note about most of these studies is they were done with green tea extract, not brewed tea. You can drink 2 to 3 cups of tea to get the desired effect. Green tea extract has been shown to lower cholesterol in study subjects and also help lower blood pressure among obese study participants.
Editors’ Note: Before you take any supplement, even one that sounds natural such as green tea extract, check with your doctor and be aware that caffeine is a powerful stimulant.
All the green tea in the world will not work without also eating a healthy diet and getting daily exercise, of course. Green tea is no match for diving into a box of donuts. There is no “magic pill,” not even EGCG, so if you are hoping to be healthy for three days, instead of trying to restrict calories, eat a diet of whole foods, especially plant-based meals full of salad greens, vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and legumes. Here is a plan of action to feel lean and healthy, charged up with plant-based whole foods, as our nation’s birthday approaches.
Prolific author and food philosopher Michael Pollan has said that everything he’s ever learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” That’s about as good as it gets when you try to clean up your act and do a healthy version of a “detox diet” for three days. Eating clean does not mean not eating. The research tells us that detox diets don’t work, but the urge to detox is a healthy one. How to split the difference? Tell yourself: If I could grow it from the ground, I can eat it. Then choose the most natural, minimally processed foods you can find and eat those. And keep portions in check.
The 12 healthiest foods to eat to detox your body while still eating healthy meals.
Nutrient-dense vegetables and greens. When you want to lose weight, add a salad to every meal, or make a meal out of a salad. A study found that people who eat a salad, even if they also eat a full-calorie meal, have lower blood sugar after the meal than if they had left off the salad entirely.
Don’t be shy about starting a meal with a salad, or even if you are full, do add the salad. These high-fiber, nutrient-rich greens help add healthy bacteria to your gut microbiome and neutralize whatever else you are eating, so your insulin does not spike, your body does not get the signal to store fat, and your healthy gut keeps your body moving food through the digestive system at the right speed for burning fuel without storing it or getting hungry.
People who eat dried fruit daily have smaller waists and lower BMI than those who don’t. Meanwhile eating 2 servings of whole fruit a day is linked to being slimmer and healthier than not eating fruit. Fruits that are colorful, ripe, and unsweetened. Don’t be scared of fructose. It burns slowly, like a candle, giving you energy for hours. High fructose corn syrup is something altogether different since it’s a super-condensed version of actual fructose that comes wrapped in a package of fiber, antioxidants, and healthy vitamins that your body needs for energy and to fuel a healthy immune system.
People who followed a brief juicing period of just 3 days had a healthier gut microbiome even two weeks later, a small study found. While you don’t need to replace all your meals with juicing, you can help your body be healthier, and burn more calories, by adding more vegetable juice into the mix. So while we don’t suggest not eating, we do recommend adding a juice meal a day to help cleanse the body and to promote gut health.
When you eat plant-based, everyone will ask you, where do you get your protein? The fact is, vegetables are high in protein, as are legumes, nuts, and seeds. So to follow a plant-based approach, even for just three days, make sure to get a healthy dose of protein in every meal or snack.
First of all: Most people get too much protein in a day. Women only need 45 to 50 grams of protein a day and men need 55 to 70 depending on their level of activity and their overall size and whether they are training for an event. The average American gets more protein than their body needs, and when that happens you either store it as excess calories (and may gain weight) or just don’t use it and it gets passed from the body as waste. Your body “tops off” at the recommended daily amount, so more is not better.
Here are the 20 vegetables with the most protein per serving.
Here are 15 legumes with the most protein.
Here are 11 nuts with the most protein.
Here are 6 seeds with the most protein per serving.
Bottom Line: To be healthy, lose weight and burn fat, drink 2 to 3 cups of green tea a day and eat a whole-food, plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruit, salad greens and clean protein. That’s a great start! If you want to try a 2-week Clean Eating Plan, try this free meal plan and keep going!
Here are the best foods to eat on repeat, to boost immunity and fight inflammation. And stay off the red meat.