This is for all of you who are on the fence about jumping on board with the Whole30. I feel you! I’ve been there!
I’ve been hearing more and more about the Whole30 program and how it’s changed people’s relationship with food. At first I thought, “I can’t do that! I’m a food blogger. How am I supposed to write about food when I can’t eat any of it!?” Ha, ha! Oh, Jackey, Jackey – if my old self knew what I know now, I would have jumped on board sooner.
So here I am going on week #2 of my first time doing Whole30, and I have to admit, it’s been a whole lot easier than I ever anticipated. “But it’s only been a week!” you say. True, true, but stay with me, please, this is good. The number one reason I feel so confident is that I planned and prepared for success.
I’ve done the requisite homework (reading and stocking my fridge), I’ve prepared myself mentally and psyched myself up. My goal is to get to day 30 feeling like I did my best to succeed by planning for each day. The way I see it, the Whole30 is tough, but it’s a lot easier if you have a plan, and I’m going to give you some real-life tips on how I did just that.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS THIS WHOLE30?
Since I’m not an expert on Whole30, I’ll just give you a little background here and leave you to do some of your own homework after you read this post. In a nutshell, the Whole30 is a 30-day elimination diet. By cutting out certain foods that the program identifies as common allergens, specifically, dairy, legumes, grains and sugar, the diet claims to re-set your metabolism, restore a healthy gut and boost your immune system, all the while replacing bad eating habits with healthy ones. At the end of the 30 days, the idea is to re-introduce the afore-mentioned foods a bit at a time to help you identify which ones are having a negative impact on your body – from common ailments such as bloating, persistent headaches, lack of energy and foggy brain, to possibly more serious health issues.
INTERESTED? DO YOUR RESEARCH AND COMMIT
If you’re considering jumping on board with Whole30, and you haven’t already read up on it, you should definitely check out Step One: Discover Whole30 from the official website.
Pay particular attention to The Official Whole30 Program Rules. In fact, spend a bit of time on the Whole30 website and really dig in to see if this is something you can embrace. For me, a self-proclaimed “veggiephile”, the Whole30 calls for a bit too much meat, so I’ve been making an effort to keep the meat portions small and load up on veggies. I also make a point to always remind myself that it’s just 30 days. I can do anything for 30 days, and I’m pretty sure you can too. Whether its the Whole30, eliminating added sugar for a month or setting any other healthy eating goal for 30 days, there’s not only an end in sight but also the prospect of changing your relationship with food.
Thinking of the Whole30 as an exercise rather than a diet has helped me gather the strength to stick with it.
BUILD A SUPPORT SYSTEM
One of the keys to making this work is having a support system. Having a willing partner, a supportive roommate, a group of like-minded friends, an online community, or in our case, an awesome gym-full of Whole30 participants means built-in support if and when things get a little tough. The whole reason my husband and I decided to do the Whole30, in fact, is that our gym, 212 Fitness, created a January Whole30 Challenge. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of us signed up to participate. But then again, this group doesn’t shy away from a challenge. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, definitely check out this amazing little gym.
BE THE BOSS OF YOUR WEEKLY MEAL PLANS
If you decide that the Whole30 is for you, the next step is to find some recipes and begin planning out your meals week by week. I personally have never been much of a meal planner. I have a hard time deciding five days in advance what I’m going to eat on Thursday – that’s just not who I am. What if I don’t want fish on Thursday? Well, if this is you, I have a little tip to share with you – your days are interchangeable. If you feel like swapping out Tuesday’s meal for Thursday’s because you’re craving chicken stir fry instead of pork chops and kale, then you get to switch those days around, because you’re the boss of your meal calendar. That’s right, you’re the boss, so be all boss-like and switch up those meals. Go ahead.
And because I like to experiment with food. I’ve even managed to completely revise some of our meals just before dinner time using the same ingredients on hand. Suddenly an Italian chicken dish became noodle-free curry pho! Ha!
You might want to add some of my Whole30 appropriate recipes to your meal rotation and snacks list. In fact, you really should, because they’re really yummy. Check these out:
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk (be sure the coconut milk you buy is Whole30 approved)
- Crispy Oven-Baked Potato Chips (store bought potato chips are out, so…)
- Creamy Dreamy Curry Cashew Dip (perfect with the above chips…yum!!!)
There are also some great Whole30 cookbooks and blogs dedicated to creating delicious and unique recipes to keep you on track. A great place to start is The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of the Whole30 program. And while I haven’t yet had a chance to check them out, some other popular cookbooks on the subject are The Nom Nom Paleao cookbook collection by Michelle Tam and Well Fed paleo cookbooks by Melissa Joulwan. Note that the last two are paleo cookbooks, not Whole30, and there are some differences between the two diets (so, again, be sure to read the Official Whole30 Program Rules).
Also, a simple Google search for Whole30 Recipes will yield a treasure trove of options.
SHOP FOR SUCCESS
Once you have your weekly meal plan in place (I’m going at it one week at a time because that’s how I roll), be sure to print out the Whole30 Shopping List. I keep a copy on my fridge and I downloaded the pdf on my phone for easy reference. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referenced this list in the past week. Do it!
I’ve had several people tell me that the reason they can’t see themselves doing the Whole30 is they’re afraid it will take too much time and effort. Okay, I hear you, but listen, most grocery stores now carry convenience produce – think peeled, chopped, spiraled, pre-washed and otherwise prepped – items that shave a considerable amount of time from the cooking process. Some of my favorite stores for finding such produce are Trader Joes, Harmons, Costco and Whole Foods.
If you’re morally opposed to buying prepped veggies, then set aside a couple of hours on the weekend to do all your prep for the following week. You’ll be so glad you did, and you might really take a liking to the habit of prepping your veggies. There’s something really satisfying about knowing your daily meals are already partially made.
Finally, be thorough with your grocery list and stock your fridge for the week so you have plenty of healthy Whole30 approved choices.
COOK BIG DINNERS AND EAT LEFTOVERS FOR LUNCH
I borrowed this idea from the owners of our gym, and it’s brilliant, especially if you work outside the home and don’t have access to your kitchen during the day. To accomplish this one, remember to shop and cook accordingly.
STOCK UP ON HEALTHY SNACKS
Take a good look at the Whole30 shopping list and stock up on your favorite portable snacks – think almonds, cashews, dates, fresh fruit, olives and Whole30 approved Lara bars.
MAKE YOUR OWN NUT MILKS – IT’S EASY!
Finding nut milks without carrageenan (a no-no on Whole 30) isn’t easy, but they do exist, so be sure to read your labels carefully. But making your own nut milks is easy and much more affordable than buying them at the store.
No, really, it’s EASY, especially if you have a high-speed blender like the Blendtec or Vitamix, or another similar brand capable of blending to a smooth consistency. The key here is remembering to soak the almonds and cashews overnight so that in the morning all you have to do is blend with fresh water. My favorite of the two is cashew milk for two reasons – it doesn’t require straining, and it’s so creamy and delicious that I don’ even miss the whole milk I’m used to in my home-made lattes. I am not kidding you. We take our coffee very seriously here, and my number one concern with jumping on board with Whole30 was giving up whole milk in my coffee. Because of my home-made cashew milk, I’m happy to report that is no longer a concern. In fact, since milk doesn’t treat me very well, I might even stick to cashew milk after the 30 days.
If you plan to make your own nut milk, you will need to soak one cup of unsalted, raw nuts in water overnight. In the morning, rinse the nuts and place them in a blender with four cups of water and blend until smooth (it takes about a full minute on high speed). As I mentioned above, cashew milk can be used as is without straining, but almond milk should be strained. You can save the almond pulp to use for cooking, or simply discard it (I put mine in the compost). Your nut milk will last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
Buying nuts in bulk is the easiest and most convenient way to ensure you have easy access to them when you need them. I like the Kirkland brand almonds from Costco, and Terrasoul Organic Raw Cashews from Amazon.
FOR THOSE WHO IMBIBE, REPLACE WITH BUBBLY WATER
So, every now and then (okay, maybe there are more “nows” than “thens”), my husband and I like to mix up a batch of cocktails as we wind down for the evening. When you have a husband that’s known for his delicious margaritas and other concoctions, it’s hard to say no. The man is good with a cocktail shaker, okay?! In the absence of cocktails (yes, of course, liquor is out, what did you expect?), we make sure to have plenty of naturally essenced mineral waters like La Croix to keep things interesting. I have to admit, after all of the holiday celebrating, I’m happy to be giving my liver a break.
And if that last paragraph makes me sound like a lush, take note – I like a little hyperbole for effect sometimes 😉
THE PROOF IS IN THE WHOLE30 PUDDING
Okay, there’s no such thing as Whole30 pudding, that’s why you should stock up on fresh fruit. But the truth lies in the evidence, right? What’s my evidence so far? The way I feel. I’m not going to claim any major changes – I still have a little gut (but I have noticed I don’t feel bloated like I usually do); I still wanted to reach over and snatch my daughter’s sugar-laden boba tea out of her precious little hands the other day in the car; and I still occasionally crave beans and peanut butter (not together). Yes, beans and peanut butter…okay, so I’m weird, and I love legumes and can’t have them right now. (Did you think I could get through this without one little whine? Pfffft!)
But the reality is that between the meal planning, the list making, the stocking of the fridge, etc., I don’t really have occasion or reason to feel deprived. Our food choices keep us satiated, not overly-full. It doesn’t feel like we’re lacking in any way. There are no feelings of “hangriness” of any sort. Plus, as an added bonus, we’re staying away from restaurants and eating at home, which is good for the wallet! All in all, I feel mentally free from the foods that have been difficult to resist recently because we’ve eliminated the unhealthy eating cycles we were on (ie. sweet, salty, sweet, salty…).
I’m optimistic, and that’s half the battle. Best of luck as you embark on your own healthy eating plan! We got this!