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Book Reviews: The 21-Day Sugar Detox Guidebook and The 21-Day Sugar Detox Cookbook, by Diane Sanfilippo

Let’s start with a short quiz (an excerpt from the introduction of Diane Sanfilippo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox guidebook):


  • Do you crave sugar all day, every day–or even a few times a week? I’m talking about candy, sweets, chocolate, or lots of fruit.
  • Do you crave carbohydrates? These include bread, rice, pasta, pastries, cereal (yes, even oatmeal!), sandwiches, wraps, and breakfast bars.
  • Do you include something sweet with every meal or snack?
  • Do you experience spikes and dips in your energy levels throughout the day?
  • Do you often feel tired upon waking in the morning?
  • Do you drink alcoholic beverages daily or multiple times per week?
  • Are you trying to burn body fat?
  • Are you following a low-fat, whole-grain-rich diet that just isn’t working?
  • Does the way you eat leave you feeling unsatisfied, hungry, and grazing on snacks every 2 to 3 hours?
  • Do you follow a clean-eating type of lifestyle (including, but not limited to, Paleo, primal, low-carb, vegetarian, Weston Price, and real food), but still experience carb or sugar cravings?

If you answered no to all of the above questions, congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back and carry on with your day, basking in the glow of your radiant good health.

I’m guessing that most of you (myself included) answered yes to at least one of those questions. And if you did, then you’re a good candidate for Diane Sanfilippo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox (21DSD).

About this time a year ago, I began to see a lot of buzz in the whole foods blogging world about a sugar-detox program, The 21-Day Sugar Detox. Apparently the program has been so popular (Diane started it in 2010) and so successful that she has made it available in book form–The 21-Day Sugar Detox guidebook introduces the nuts and bolts of the program and about 90 recipes that are 21DSD-compliant. The soon-to-be-released cookbook, The 21-Day Sugar Detox Cookbook, contains additional meal plans and over 100 recipes that are completely different from those in the guidebook.*

You’re probably wondering what the heck a sugar-detox program is. I like how Diane defines her program, as “a clear-cut, effective, whole-foods-based nutrition action plan that will reset your body and your habits…By focusing on quality protein, healthy fats, and good carbs, this program will help you change not only the foods you eat, but also your habits around food, and even the way your palate reacts to sweet foods.” But maybe that’s a little long. Let’s just say that a sugar-detox program will help your body to eat better, and help your taste buds to enjoy it.


The first book, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, is intended mostly as a guidebook and is divided into three sections. Section 1 delves into some science and biology (in understandable language and with lots of illustrations!), explaining different kinds of sugar and what your body does with them. It also includes a handy preparation check-list to help you get ready for the program, and lots of support resources. Just like in her book Practical Paleo Diane does a great job of anticipating your questions and answering all of them. Also included is a daily log page that you can photocopy and use to track your progress during the program.



Section 2 begins with a short quiz to help you determine which level of the program to use. Levels 1 and 2 are not fully Paleo and include some gluten-free grains and dairy products. Level 3 is strictly Paleo. Diane also includes modifications for pescetarians/vegetarians, pregnant and nursing moms, athletes, and those with autoimmune conditions. Trying to make a program so specifically tailored to so many audiences is usually confusing at best, and diluted and useless at worst. But Diane is so masterful at making her program user-friendly and adaptable to just about anyone that The 21DSD is neither confusing nor diluted. In fact I love that Diane puts so much effort into meeting people where they are and delivers no shame over current eating habits. She is quite transparent about her own history of poor food choices, and her candidness will surely resonate with those who feel judgement from proponents of healthful eating. Once you’ve determined where to begin your 21DSD, you can read about each level in detail. And one of the best things about Diane’s books are the meal plans she includes. She’s already done all of the thinking and planning for your entire 21 days. You just do the shopping and cooking (and, of course, the eating.)


Section 3 is chock full of over 90 recipes to be used on your 21DSD program–breakfast, dinner, sides, snacks, and even some low-sugar treats, they’re all here. The recipes are really so tasty that I’m sure you’ll want to use some of them even after your 21 days are up. Or, if you’re like me, and struggle with sugar sensitivity and touchy blood sugar, you’ll appreciate having these recipes around all the time.


The Sweetie Pie is nuts for Pad Thai, so I made Diane’s recipe for the two of us on a weekend getaway. We left the house in such a hurry that I forgot to grab the shrimp out of the fridge, so we just had the veggie noodles with the sauce, and still we both called it delicious. I’ve also sampled a couple of the breakfast smoothies (which are not just for breakfast, FYI) and a couple of the treats (the Not-Sweet Cinnamon Cookies were just the thing for post-dinner sweets cravings).


The companion book is The 21-Day Sugar Detox Cookbook,  which will be released on December 17 (tomorrow!).  The cookbook gives you another 100+ recipes that are 21DSD-compliant. In her introduction, Diane notes that the best way to support people on the 21DSD is to provide them with preparation and inspirational recipes. The guidebook will give you all the preparation you need, and with the cookbook you’ll have plenty of inspirational recipes.


Diane includes recipes for main dishes (including breakfast), soups, salads, sides, snacks, treats, sauces, and some basics like chicken broth and almond milk. All of the recipes, except for the recipes in the Kitchen Basics chapter, are different from the ones in the guidebook. She even includes a second set of meal plans (different from the ones in the guidebook) using the recipes in the cookbook. So you could, in theory, do a 42-day sugar detox and not repeat the same dishes. Though if you’re the type who’s going to do a 42-day sugar detox, I don’t think you’re the type who will mind repeating the same meal plan. But whatever.



The recipe format in the cookbook follows the same layout as in the guidebook with the same customizable options. Diane is good at pointing out potential stumbling blocks (like nightshades, eggs, nuts) and suggests substitutions and variations for those avoiding such ingredients.

So, assuming I’ve convinced you that Diane’s 21-Day Sugar Detox is worthy of your attention (I hope I have) you might be wondering which book to buy. Do you need both? Is one more useful than the other? My answer: it depends.


Are you already sold on the 21DSD? Confirmed and committed? Ready to jump in with both feet? Go ahead and buy both books. You won’t regret having the extra recipes. Are you kind of on the fence? Want to read more about the program? Understand it a little better? Start with the guidebook. It has everything you need. Are you not interested in the program, but just want some low-sugar Paleo recipes to add to your shelf? Buy the cookbook. There is still an introduction (and meal plans) to help you understand the program, but the recipe section is larger.

If you’re wondering if the 21 Day Sugar Detox is for you, I’m here to tell you that the answer is yes. Whoever you are, and whatever you’re eating. We all have room for improvement. Even if you don’t completely follow the detox diet, these books are packed with helpful information and great recipes that you’ll want to use all the time.

If you’re intrigued, but still on the fence Diane has some excellent resources, and even a 73-page preview of the guidebook, on her website here. And if you’re ready to sign the dotted line, you can join the first 21DSD group of 2014, starting on January 6. You can join the community, get prepared, and get support here.

Review posts are my opinions on items that were sent to me free of charge. The items were given to me, but the thoughts and opinions are my own. I do not provide reviews of every item sent to me and only review items that I find to be truly worthy of recommendation.

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