I am loathe to turn down free food. Since I began writing about eating and drinking, I have only ever turned down two items.
The items in question were peanuts (because I couldn't think of a way to make them interesting) and a product from a certain large (behemoth) brewing company (because I don't like them).
Other than that, I will indeed try anything once, even if it means eating a ton of raw kale.
When Urban Remedy first reached out to me about trying one of their "Wellness Kits," they were quick to assure me that this was not another juice cleanse. (They had read my "work" and know that I am not a fan.) Though the kit contains juice, it also contains food (including a daily dessert!), tea, and little vials of tinctures.
I clicked over to read more. Indeed, the word "cleanse" never appears in the copy. Instead this "Beauty Kit" is designed to be "3 days of plant-based nutrition that allows you to give your body a break from inflammatory foods common to the American diet. This kit is rich in antioxidants, fiber and essential fatty acids to support glowing skin and hair."
It's basically three days of eating a lot of plants. Since I am not known for my plant eating, I decided to give it a try. Mainly, I was just really curious about what it all tasted like. (Also, it didn't hurt that their PR guy told me my "Old Gregg" jokes were funny.)
According to the literature accompanying the kit, each day's worth of food works out to about 1,300 calories. That's not a ton, but it doesn't seem incredibly unreasonable, especially since most of my days are spent sitting at a computer, writing. To prevent my brain from going into "oh my god you're depriving me" meltdown mode, I set a few guidelines for myself:
- No weighing. Since this is supposed to be about adding nutritious vegetables for health (and shiny hair) -- and not about weight-loss -- I will not be stepping on a scale.
- I give myself permission to eat foods not included in the kit if I am hungry; eating an apple or some mushrooms is nothing to feel bad about, regardless of what kind of "program" you're doing.
- I am going to view this as I would any other product review; if I don't like it, I don't have to eat it. I will not force myself into doing something that does not work for me.
With those rules in place, I begin the kit.
Uh-oh. I'm afraid I've already ruined it. In the material that was sent to me before starting the kit, it said to quit drinking alcohol and eating read meat (and enjoying life) three days before the program. Given that I have a pretty hefty hangover due to a night of wine, gin, and karaoke (I sang this, if you're curious), it's safe to say that I "forgot." It's also unfortunate that the day I decide to start this thing is the same day that it gets -- as my father would say -- "colder than a well digger's butt in Idaho."
But such is life.
The first thing I'm supposed to do is drink this tea. The Beauty Tea is "made with Chinese herbs that strengthen digestion, reduce bloating, and curb appetite."
Cue my side eye.
Anyway. You steep the bag for 10 minutes, drink it, and then wait 15 minutes before eating. The flavor is confusing. It's bitter and super sweet in a way that reminds me of stevia. According to the ingredients list, there is no stevia. As I drink the tea, the bitter taste dies down; I barely notice it by the end of the cup.
After 15 minutes, my appetite is unchanged.
It's time for my first bottle of juice and vial of stuff.
"Green Berry" is a smoothie consisting of "Black Chia Seed, Pineapple, Raspberry, Blueberry, Goji, Acai, Kale, Spinach, and Stevia." This sounds god awful to me, but it is actually delicious. I taste mostly raspberry and pineapple and -- thankfully -- no stevia. I could drink this smoothie every morning.
Oh right, I'm supposed to drink this vial of stuff too.
These vials are "spikes," little bottles containing "herbal complexes that have been micro-digested into extremely small, highly bioavailable particles using a special fermentation process in a base of probiotics." (And alcohol, don't forget about that.) The one in the beauty kit is called "Youth" and contains resveratrol and probiotics. Both of these ingredients have been called "good for you" by doctors other than Oz, so that's good.
The liquid inside the tiny vial is brown and has some sediment floating around in it. It smells quite earthy. I think about doing it as a shot, but instead decide to dump it in the remaining half bottle of Green Berry. It changes the taste, but not so much that I can't still enjoy the juice.
For a mid-morning snack, the beauty kit provides kale chips and an acai-flavored lemonade called "Time Machine." Sadly, the beverage does not cause any sort of temporal displacement, though it is delicious and refreshing.
Day 1's chip flavor is Sour Cream and Onion. They taste nothing like Pringles, but it would be ridiculous to expect them to. The cashew powder gives an illusion of creaminess, if you squint your taste buds; there's a good bit of chive as well.
The main problem is that these aren't so much "kale chips" as they are "kale confetti" and "kale clumps." You have to kind of sift through the smaller kale fragments to get to the clumps. I suspect the fragmentation is due to shipping.
The clumps are delicious, though.
Today's lunch is supposed to be Cauliflower Tabbouleh, but seeing as the Zen Salad opened during shipping, I decide to eat that instead.
This is a surprisingly tasty slaw of kale, napa cabbage, almonds, carrots, sesame seeds, and cilantro. Without dressing, this would be difficult to get down (and very dry) but the dressing really makes it. How could it not? It has sesame oil and white rice vinegar and ginger and cilantro. These are all the things I want in a salad dressing.
I would eat this salad regularly. It's actually pretty filling, though I can't help but imagine how good it would be with some grilled chicken.
My next "snack" is supposed to be Glow Juice with another Youth Spike but I barely take two sips of the green juice before putting it back in the fridge. There's nothing wrong with the green juice -- it tastes like plants and is good for what it is -- but I am freezing and hungover and, frankly, just don't want it.
I'm not really that hungry anyway.
I spend the evening watching Chopped, which sounds like the worst plan ever, but isn't as torturous as I think it will be. Maybe it's because I had a fairly sedentary day, but I don't feel super hungry at any one point. At around 8 pm, I eat my dinner: Zucchini Fettuccine Marinara.
It should be noted that I have no patience for calling strings of zucchini "pasta," but the sauce in this thing was divine. The sundried tomatoes were a good call on Urban Remedy's part; they provide a great caramelized sweetness. I eat the whole thing and feel almost sated.
Almost. This meal does not curb my need for something hot, and I warm up some organic chicken broth. I also eat an apple.
I do not feel bad about it.
The last item for the day is the Raw Chocolate Mousse.
10/10, would eat again. (Which is great, because that is the dessert for Day 3 as well.) The mousse is so rich that I almost can't finish it, but I do because it is chocolate.
Holy dingbats it is cold. I was hoping to peer out my window and be greeted with white, fluffy snow (as the weather man promised), but this does not happen. After I walk the dogs and shower, I notice freezing rain is falling.
I'm glad I have Cauliflower Tabbouleh to keep me warm.
The morning ritual is the same as the day before. Same Green Berry. Same little vial of brown. Same delicious lemonade that I can't get enough of. The kale chips are now "cheesy Italian" and I am surprised by how good they are. Cashews man; what a magical source of fat and flavor.
Lunch is "cauliflower tabbouleh," which is fine, but it would be amazing on a gyro. The tomatoes taste fresh and bright and better than most tomatoes I've had in a while. The cabbage is crunchy and the finely chopped cauliflower could pass for couscous if you weren't totally sure what couscous was. Oddly, I taste pickle juice.
The fact that there are patches of snow on the ground outside is not helping me "feel this" as a complete lunch. It is really well-seasoned, just not very comforting. My husband makes eggs and toast and -- though it smells divine -- I don't feel like stabbing him. I continue to plow through my tabbouleh.
I'm about a quarter the way through my lunch when Sean announces he is going to get another coffee at Peet's. I decide to tag along and get some herbal tea. He suggests we walk the dogs and then take them along for a little car ride; they like car rides.
We get our beverages and then everything goes wrong.
"I don't have the house keys."
We only have one key to the place that we're staying so it's been on its own little key ring, along with the mail key. As a result, it is not attached to the car key.
We spend over an hour retracing all of our steps -- dogs sitting patiently in the back -- in the freezing rain and eventually find the stupid key in the parking lot of our building. (It has obviously been run over, but is still functional.) By the time we get back inside, I am chilled to the bone and starving. There is no way I am eating a cold salad of chopped cauliflower and cabbage.
Instead, I heat some organic vegetables (broccoli, carrots, onion, mushrooms, and chopped ginger) in some organic chicken broth. It warms my stomach and I feel much better.
I feel so good, I'm inspired to drink my Glow juice and do my little Spike shot. I really enjoy the green juice this time. It taste fresh and healthy and I feel oddly energized.
Today's supper is more spiralized zucchini, only this time with pesto. The pesto is pretty delightful. Good amount of basil and garlic and just enough salt. I haven't had a lot of raw, vegan meals in my life, but I would think that the key is excellent seasoning. In this regard, Urban Remedy is really nailing it.
Today's dessert is a "tiramisu." Obviously, there are no lady fingers. It's good though, but it's kind of like a really good flavored yogurt. You know when you have a key lime pie yogurt that tastes as close to a key lime pie as something can get while still being yogurt? This is like that, except a lot richer and creamier. Still not tiramisu, but delicious enough that I only have to eat half of it to feel like my cravings are satisfied.
I spend the rest of the evening reading in the tub and sleep very well, not kept awake by hunger.
Tea, smoothie, little vial, etc. It's almost a routine now. Today's kale chips are labeled "BBQ" which is a pretty bold declaration for kale chips.
They do not taste like BBQ. They taste sweet and salty and are very edible, but BBQ they are not. I don't really separate "snack" from "lunch" today, and just kind of throw it all on one plate. It makes for a pretty pleasing meal.
The last salad in the Beauty Kit is the "Shredded Kale Salad" which comes with a bright apple cider vinegar-based dressing. The simple, garlicky vinaigrette is so nice, I hardly notice I'm eating beets.
I do notice though, because beets taste like sweet dirt, not in a bad way, but they do.
The last part of the day is a repeat of Day 1; green juice, brown vial, zucchini marinara, and chocolate mousse. I would be lying if I said I ate it enthusiastically, but the flavors are still good enough to take me to the end of this kit.
I'm not mad about it either.
How do I feel?
I feel fine. I don't feel greatly energized or "clean" or anything, but I feel good, like I've been eating a lot of vegetables, which makes sense. Compared to how I felt when I did a (very ill-advised) juice cleanse, I feel amazing. Three days of only juice left me bloated, angry, and sick from all the the fruit sugar, but this kit made me feel like a slightly healthier version of my normal self. I didn't notice a huge difference in my hair, but my skin showed improvement. (I normally breakout on my back, but the skin looked much calmer and had noticeably less blemishes.)
Would I buy it?
This kit is convenient. Given the fact that I work from home and have the luxury of being able to prepare my own food, convenience isn't as important to me as it might be for other people.
The $250 price tag is pretty steep (slightly more expensive than a three-day Blueprint cleanse), but given the amount of prep work that goes into making raw, vegan meals and desserts that taste good, it might be worth it for someone who is looking to jump start healthier eating habits with three-days worth of organic, plant-based food.
All of that said, I personally wouldn't spend the money to do this kit again. There are however some items that I would buy individually, as they were delicious. These are:
The Zen Salad: The dressing was simply phenomenal and the crunchy slaw and almonds made for a surprisingly filling meal.
Time Machine: Really great lemonade. I thought I loathed stevia-sweetened beverages, but I would drink this every day.
Cacao Mousse: I never thought I would say this: but this vegan, date-sweetened mousse actually satisfied my evening dessert craving.
Cheesy Italian Kale Chips: I'm one of those people who loves kale, and these were truly addicting. They're just a really good salty snack.
Overall, this kit gets major points for keeping me mostly full. I never once felt the psychotic hangriness that historically accompanies these types of "programs." It didn't convince me to go vegan or anything, but it did teach me that raw vegan food can be tasty, if you know how to prepare it.
If you're like me, and don't have a huge desire to overhaul your eating habits, this kit isn't for you. But, if you're thinking about doing a juice cleanse as a way to get lots of plant-based nutrition in your body, do not do that. Do this instead. This has food.
Food is always good.