The Taco Cleanse is quickly becoming the viral diet of 2016 — and I’m here to remind you I started this before Jennifer Aniston did. After interviewing the writers and creators of the Taco Cleanse for some expert advice, I jumped into a week of meat-free, veggie-full tortillas. My typical diet of candy bars and quesadillas was challenged. I experienced major withdrawals and decided that Happy Hours with coworkers were no longer a highlight. (Do you really have to order French fries for the table? Bunch of jerks.) But it wasn’t all bad. There were tacos and tequila involved after all. Here’s how it went, here’s what I wish I knew, here’s how I am changed by tacos.
I was supposed to start the cleanse on Sunday, but then my roommate suggested acai bowls after a night of partying. How could I say no? Let’s pre-cleanse the cleanse with some fruit! So Sunday ended up being a day of preparation. I went to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, where I stocked up on salsa ingredients, cans of beans and rice, four types of tortilla, lots of veggies and a collection of fake meat/proteins (seitan, ground veggie “meat”, tempeh, grain “meat” sausages, etc).
I made myself suffer by walking through the dairy section. Cheese, milk, eggs… I will replace you with cheddar-style shreds. I tell myself to also buy tofu, but ultimately I chicken out. I’m already taking a lot of HUGE risks here. I spend the rest of the afternoon preparing my ingredients for the week. The Taco Cleanse recommends cooking your “taco fillers” at the start of the week, and I cannot recommend this enough! Otherwise, you will starve. Or slave away for each individual taco. Other key tips before starting the cleanse: Salsa is your friend. Make a few different dressings to spice up your taco. Also, keep a pack of tortillas with you at all times.
Today is taco cleanse day! Standing in my kitchen, I am overwhelmed by all these mysterious ingredients. I know how to make a breakfast taco (cheese, eggs, salsa, chorizo), but I don’t know what to do with these veggies. Woof. I decide to take it easy and make a PB, banana and cinnamon taco. Trust me, it’s in the book! It’s perfect when prioritizing sleep over a balanced breakfast taco.
For lunch, I decide to cheat for day number one and I order a soyrizo taco and grilled veggies from fave taco spot, Papalote. Guys… soyrizo is supposed to be imitation chorizo. Lesson learned here: Fake meat tastes like fake meat. Pro Tip: Carrying around my own stash of tortillas, I was able to move the (fake, fake, fake!) taco fillings from the soggy corn tortillas to a fluffy flour tortilla. Point for Vic.
Around mid-afternoon, I experience a energy crash due to lack of candy. Solution: Eat a tortilla. Day one of the taco cleanse, the marketing team goes to happy hour. They order French fries for the table, and this is such a taunt. Friendly peer pressure says “Everything is a taco.” In a moment of weakness, I put French fries in the tortilla and enjoy an all carb taco. I definitely saw the French fries in the cookbook, but I don’t think this is what the authors had in mind…
For dinner, I whip up a veggie taco featuring the Chipotle Butternut Squash and Rewarding Esquites (esquites is similar to elote. It’s corn off the cob flavored with mayo, chili powder and lime juice.) Dinner is delicious, but I deny myself a margarita. You did not earn it, Victoria.
Mood: Feeling a little daunted by the Taco Cleanse. The vegan life is tough. Also, energy is VERY low from lack of sugary candy. My stomach also doesn’t feel quite full… ever. What did I agree to?
I forgot to make breakfast and I stare at my coworker as he eats Cocoa Puffs. But I have my pack of tortillas, so yes… I just eat tortillas for breakfast. Okay, easiest cleanse ever. All-carb diet! I recognize that I am doing a horrible job at the this point, and I need to radically improve. This realization is followed by an intervention in the B+C Kitchen. A colleague is worried about my normal diet and advises me to ask myself before eating, “Is this an exceptional carb?”
On Tuesdays, we get lunch catered at work, so I decide to get creative and modify. I order bean + jalapeño tamales, cut up the tamales and create a little taco. It works!
For dinner, I decide to try the tempeh. What is tempeh? According to my taco bible, it’s a “slab of fermented soy that we enjoy for its high-protein content. It’s loaded with enzymes that cultivate your gut flora and fauna.” Okaaaay. I use some chipotle seasoning to flavor the tempeh and pair it with the Redemption Beans (slightly modified) and Arroz Verde Rice mix-ins from the book. Today, I have earned myself a margarita, AKA a “supplement,” as the book likes to call them. Any cleanse that features tequila is already far superior to all other diets.
Mood: It’s getting better… Energy levels still low. My happiness is closely tied with lack of sugar, so experiencing slight mood swings.
Started the day with the Mighty Migas! If it sounds impressive, that’s because it is. Traditional migas are a well-balanced breakfast staple to any Tex-Mex diet, but go vegan with your migas, and it’s a whole new ballgame. I ordered some tofu because it’s cheating if I don’t try it, and I attempted to make this tofu scramble. I think it turned out all right… but I’m eager for a return to normal egg migas.
Later at work, I cheated. I succumbed to my sugar addiction and ate some chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cups. My mood instantly improved, but this guilt is too much, so I’m admitting my weakness here. For lunch, I grabbed veggie tacos from a restaurant down the street. OKAY… these tasted waaaay better than everything I’ve been cooking up.
Later for dinner, I skipped a friend’s party because of the Taco Cleanse. Later, I find out he made me tacos.
Mood: All the regret! Let me party, Taco Cleanse! Also, regret from cheating with candy.
Perusing The Taco Cleanse cookbook, I spied “The Minor Cleanse.” It’s the taco take on a “The Master Cleanse,” also known at the lemonade diet. This version involves tequila, so what could go wrong? The little cleanse shot consists of 1.5 ounces of tequila, a pinch of cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of agave nectar and a lime wedge. The book recommends starting the day with the “minor cleanse” to get your energies flowing. It’s Thursday, so I take a shot before work. Outcome: Energies are definitely flowing.
To not drink on a empty stomach, I follow up the cleanse shot with leftovers from yesterday’s migas meal. At work, I eat some plantain chips (they’re in the book) as a snack, and use my catered work salad to make a pseudo-taco. Remember: Anything is a taco!
For dinner, I am lazy and just combine the veggie ground meat with some leftover rice, beans, lettuce, corn and salsa. I still really miss normal meat. This tastes like grass. Only salsa and jalapeños can mask the fakeness.
Mood: Starting the day with a cleansing tequila shot was an experience… and I didn’t hate it.
It’s Friday! I’ve almost made it through a full work week on the Taco Cleanse and I am getting the hang of this. I make the PB + banana breakfast taco combo (because I like to sleep in on Fridays) and head into the office. Lunch is fairly simple: a taco fixed with some of my leftover rice, corn, beans and ground veggie “meat” from the week.
The real highlight of the day was my Tater Tot-cho Tacos! I have been waiting for this all week. The book markets it as nachos with tater tots in lieu of tortilla chips. Put tot-chos in a taco and it’s a true game changer. The recipe features tortillas, soyrizo, the book’s Elevated Nacho Cheese, cashew crema, guacamole (swapped for salsa), diced tomatoes, cilantro, scallions and jalapeños.
Mood: Today is a good day. It’s Friday and I’ve got tot-chos and an agave margarita. Spirits are high, experiencing a taco nirvana and listening to Pitbull. Dalé!
Almost done, almost done! I’m craving pizza and ice cream and BBQ and cereal. Definitely cereal. But, I also make a delicious breakfast taco to start the day. Some beans + rice, some esquites (that’s the flavorful corn), a chipotle “breakfast sausage” and jalapeños. Oh, and the fake cheese makes an appearance. This doesn’t quite compare to the pancakes my roommate ordered at brunch, but it’s spicy and my body loves it!
Also, I find that energy levels are back to pre-cleanse norms… maybe even higher. I go for a hike with pals here in the Bay Area, and we grab tacos for lunch! How does everyone else make veggies taste so good?! I still haven’t figured this out.
For dinner, I make the chipotle-style seitan. Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten, which is made by isolating gluten from flour. Truthfully, I still don’t know what this means. But imitation meat is on the menu tonight! The book has a menu for homemade seitan, but this premade Whole Foods one sounds a bit safer (AKA I don’t trust myself). I pair the mystery protein with beans, lettuce and corn for a simple taco. In hindsight, I should’ve made the Smoked Brisket and Jalapeño Mac + Cheese Tacos from the book.
Mood: Feeling elated because the end is near, but I’m also a taco master! Energy levels = high! General life outlook = more positive than normal.
And we made it to the final day! Honestly, this day wasn’t too exciting. I made veggie tacos for breakfast, I added mushrooms to my lunchtime taco and I used the last of the tempeh, squash and jalapeños for a taco dinner. I celebrated with a shot of tequila with my roommate and then a healthy dose of chips and salsa.
Then… I maybe went and got a slice of pizza. Oops?
Mood: Feeling like a winner! The pizza tastes VERY unhealthy, and my body is confused, even though I added copious amounts of chili flakes. Still, the tequila is refreshing as I toss it back, and I feel very accomplished.
For seven days, I only ate vegan tacos. It was hard because my typical diet does not include vegetables, and I am the furthest thing from a vegan. (Give me carnitas!) But it was also amazing. Partly because tequila was involved, but also because my body was purged of unnatural sugars and cut off from an excess of carbs. My energy levels started off rocky, but I felt pretty high on life + tacos by the end of the week.
I achieved taco nirvana. I gained a greater appreciation for Pitbull (JK… the love was always there.) And I radically expanded the range of my diet. Hello, bell peppers, my new friends! I DO recommend this diet, especially if you consider yourself a taco aficionado. So give it a shot and spice up your life for a week. Add some “supplements” to your day, and make #TacoTuesday a forever thing.
Are you trying the Taco Cleanse?! Let us know how it’s going by tweeting @BritandCo!