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Five years ago I tried a juice cleanse and was scarred for life. I was so hungry I could smell a cracker five miles away and wanted to dig through the trash to find it. But when I heard about a soup cleanse, offered by the local company Soupergirl, I was intrigued. Soup sounded more filling than juice, plus small snacks are allowed, making a cleanse more manageable. After eating all the food in November and December (and I mean ALL the food) I decided a soup cleanse was the best way to break into the New Year. Here’s everything you need to know.

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The DETAILS

I elected to do a three day cleanse, but five day ones are available as well. The three day one is $99, which is a reasonable price for a cleanse; most juice ones are around $150 – $200. Soupergirl soups are available at Whole Foods, so you could put together your own cleanse, but ordering the pre-packaged cleanse is helpful because the Soupergirl team puts together a specific plan as to when to each which one, designed to provide you with the most protein earlier in the day to keep you full. All of the soups are made with fresh veggies, herbs and spices. Your soups can be picked up or delivered, and must be refrigerated. You’re supposed to have four soups a day, and the soups are clearly labeled so you know which soup to have when. Snacks like nuts, fruit, and chopped veggies are allowed. You can also have coffee, tea, and up to a glass of wine a day. An information sheet about the cleanse and what foods to avoid (processed foods, meat, dairy) is included.

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MY TYPICAL DIET

I have been a vegetarian for about 20 years. For breakfast, I always make avocado toast, and slice up some fruit on the side. Lunch is usually a veggie sandwich or veggie burger that I made with chips and something else like some chili or salad. Dinner at home can range from pasta to tacos to Thai curry with rice to pita, hummus and roasted veggies. At least three to four times a week I eat out for lunch or dinner and then I get things like fries and dessert and wine and pasta. I eat a lot of carbs. And sugar. And wine. And fried food. Writing this is making me feel very guilty.

THE SOUP CLEANSE

Day 1 
Picking up the soup was exciting, but when I got to work I felt stressed out. Soup for breakfast? This was going to be weird. I’ve had soupy oatmeal and cereal that has become soupy. But never actual breakfast soup. It was a SUPER cold day though, so once my curried red lentil butternut squash soup was heated up and I started eating it, I was reassured. The soup was warm, comforting and tasty. As it turns out, curry tastes good no matter what time of day.

By lunch I was pretty hungry and seriously worried that the soup wouldn’t fill me up, but the white bean, mushroom and kale soup was really hearty. My colleagues commented that it looked like the perfect dish for a winter day.

I got so busy at work I forgot to have my third soup and went straight for the fourth, a carrot fennel soup. I wanted something crunchy so I added a handful of unsalted roasted peanuts. Nuts are an approved snack, so I figured eating them with the soup, rather than in between soups, was acceptable. It was less calories than I usually consume in a day, but hey, it is a cleanse.

Day 2
I woke up really hungry, so the hearty winter root vegetable chili I started the day off with was much needed. I had some bread and avocado in my fridge, so I threw in a piece of avocado toast too which really filled me up.

For lunch, I had the curried lentil chickpea, followed by the split pea. It was uneventful.

Dinner was the sweet potato carrot. By now I was dying for something crunchy, so I had a piece of toast. At this point I realized I am really, really addicted to bread.

Day 3
I was trying to minimize snacks but I had three of them between my soups today. Nuts, bread and some fruit. As noted, the cleanse instructions allow for some small snacks and I made sure to adhere to the list. I worked out last night, so I was ravenous. I really wanted something that wasn’t soup, however I ended up discovering my favorite soup: a black bean and sweet potato, full of texture and the flavors of paprika and chili powder.

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PROS

The best discovery I made during this process is that I actually like soup. I love Soupergirl’s gazpacho, and always get it in the summer at various Farmer’s Markets, but I had never tried their hot soups. Most of them were really flavorful and satisfying. My favorites were the black bean and sweet potato, the sweet potato carrot and the curried lentil chickpea. There were some I couldn’t get on board with, the carrot fennel was too sweet and I didn’t like the texture of the mushrooms in the kale and mushroom one, but the majority were great, especially for winter. The best outcome is that I will now incorporate more soup into my diet: it’s a healthy way to get in some veggies with the added fat of salad dressings or added carbs of a sandwich. The soups are 60-250 calories per container, which is really low considering they can be a meal on their own. Even with a small addition like a piece of bread or some nuts it’s a low calorie meal. I would add something heartier if you are exercising.

CONS

If you go into this and expect to be completely full all the time, here’s a reality check: you will not be. I felt fuller than I thought, especially during the day, and it was great to avoid having a food coma after lunch, but I was hungry in the evening before bed and when I woke up. If you’re the kind of person who can’t handle being hungry at all, this is not for you. If you want to jump start your digestive system, focus on vegetables and fiber and cut back processed foods, you should try it. I’m hoping my bread addiction has been slightly reduced.

THE VERDICT

I am relieved to say I did not experience any of the misery during this cleanse as I did during the juice cleanse (and no diarrhea either!). But, I would supplement the cleanse with snacks, it will keep you from getting too hungry and from getting sick of just having soup. The weight loss is another benefit: I started at 130 and lost three pounds! I’ll take it.

WHY DO IT

After the holidays I felt sluggish and heavy. After days of eating dessert and drinking wine, combined with minimal exercise due to the cold weather, I needed to reset my system. A soup cleanse is a great way to re-introduce small, vegetable-centric meals to your body.

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