Last night my friend texted me asking for tips on starting the Whole30 program, and I couldn’t help but jump at the chance to help her begin a successful journey of her own. You see, I did two rounds of this “way of eating” to reset my system..one before my foot surgery in December 2018 and another this past May. Yes, I did lose weight each time, and yes, I felt totally amazing during the process. In reality, this “diet” has been the only thing that has really worked for me. I’ve tried low carb, high protein diets. I’ve also tried the “eating too few calories” way of living, too. Combined with a daily exercise routine, nothing worked like Whole30, and I truly believe in the process.
What exactly is Whole30?
Taken from their website, “Whole30 is designed to change your life in 30 days—but it’s not a diet, a detox, or a weight loss program. Think of it as a short-term reset, created to help you curb your cravings and bad habits, boost your metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and calm your immune system.” Basically, sticking to a Whole30 diet means you are eating real, whole food for 30 days.
Before I talk about what worked for me, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, health care professional or anything else like that. So what I am sharing below has worked for me, twice. And really…eating healthy, whole foods can’t be bad for you, right?
Where to begin?
Before beginning any lifestyle change, I recommend reading about what you want to accomplish. I spent a few days doing some research on what I needed to do. This included familiarizing myself with the do’s and don’ts list – what foods I can and can’t have. I already knew that alcohol, chocolate and cheese were no-no’s, so I had to mentally prepare myself to get ready to eliminate them from my daily life.
Once you are familiar with the program, research recipes and make your shopping list. There are so many print-outs that you can find online that will help you manage your venture. I will give you a bunch of my go-to recipes at the bottom of this post, but meal prepping is the key to success with this program.
Some of the items I recommend buying: ghee, nutritional yeast, almond flour, arrowroot flour (a great thickener for stews), raw almonds or cashews, cans of coconut milk (no sugar added), cartons of chicken bone broth (no added sugars), coconut aminos (like soy sauce, but not – found near soy sauces or in the organic aisle), and coconut oil. You will begin to see these ingredients in many of the recipes on Pinterest so it’s nice to already have them on hand. To be honest, about 80% of the time I still cook Whole30 recipes, casseroles, and crockpot meals and my family has no idea. And, I still use the above ingredients in my cooking because they are all healthier alternatives to the mainstream versions and I feel good about that.
Meal prep like crazy! Below, I attached a few of my favorite recipes that were on repeat, but there are many more on my Pinterest page under the Whole30 board. I would make several recipes a few times a week and eat the leftovers for lunches. I also made baked sweet and white potatoes to have on hand and trays of roasted veggies to throw on salads or eat as a side dish. Finally, the crockot or Instapot is your friend. I can’t tell you how much I would use the slow cooker to prepare meals.
What were the hardest parts?
The hardest parts for me were cutting out wine and chocolate. Period. But on the flip side, I knew that I only had to get through 30 days without them, and then I could reintroduce them back into my diet slowly. It really helps to have someone who is supportive of your efforts. J was a HUGE supporter and was kind enough to not drink wine in my presence. He ate all of my meals (minus the green vegetables) and didn’t complain one bit!
Going out to eat was also tricky because you never know if there could be hidden sugars in things like chicken marinades or salad dressings. If I did go out, I would always order a salad with olive oil and lemon slices and grilled chicken with spices only.
- Sausage links: I hate eggs (which is counterproductive with this diet) so breakfast was a challenge. To skirt around that issue, I would buy packages of compliant chicken sausage and cut them into coins. Then I would brown them in a pan and put them in a container for future eating. To go with my breakfast, I would grab a handful of the sausage and heat it with my favorite breakfast casserole. I felt the sausage offered some added protein to my meal and helped me stay fuller longer. Note: add another egg if making this casserole. It didn’t really make a difference in the taste outcome.
- Potatoes: Grains are not permitted on the program, but potatoes are! While I was prepping each week, I would clean and wrap both types of potatoes individually in foil and bake them. Once soft, I would take them out of the oven and let them cool. Do not remove the foil. Once cooled, I would place them in large gallon bags and store them in the fridge. When ready to eat, all I had to do was peel away the foil and heat. I love the sweet potatoes with a little coconut oil and pepper and the white potatoes with either ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil.
- Getting my chocolate fix: Technically you are not supposed to take compliant food items and combine them to create something that resembles a baked good. But, I really needed something to take care of my chocolate cravings. These clean chocolate cupcakes were my thing and I can’t tell you how many times I made this recipe! They were a game-changer for me and totally got me through the 30 days both times. To make them stretch, I would bake them in the mini cupcake pans and freeze half the batch. Whenever I needed something sweet, I would grab one or two and not feel guilty. Do not overbake!
- Sparkling water in a wine glass: As I said before, not enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day was rough at times. So to trick myself into thinking that I was having something a little fancy, I would enjoy a glass or two of sparkling water in a wine glass. No, it wasn’t the real thing, but at least I felt my evening beverage was elevated and all it took was a stemmed glass.
- Fruits: The program says to limit fruits, but I still ate fruit with each meal, including one banana a day! A favorite snack was a banana cut into slices with almond butter.
- Coffee or tea? As you are probably guessing, creamer is a no-go on this program. I tried so many times to drink my coffee black and just couldn’t do it, so I resorted to green tea with nothing else in it. I know, another hard thing to give up for some, but worth it in the end! Note: the second time around I did cheat with this creamer. It is dairy free and has a whole list of good things, so when adding it to my coffee I didn’t feel like I was breaking my progress too much. I found it in the organic aisle of Giant, but it’s also available online.
- Snacks: Often I would grab a handful of raw almonds or cashews as a snack, but there are some Larabars that are compliant. I am not a huge fan of them, but found they are good to have when on the go. Compliant Larabars include: Apple Pie, Banana Bread, Carrot Cake Cashew Cookie, Cherry Pie among others.
- Condiments: Whole30 compliant condiments are out there, but can be pricy. Primal Kitchen products are the best. Some can be found in the organic aisle of the supermarket, while many are available on Amazon. I did order a few jars (avocado oil mayo, ketchup, and ranch dressing) early in the 30 days to have on hand for recipes. Again, J and the kids had no idea I was using these products since most were that good!
My Favorite Recipes!
There are soooooo many recipes out there in Pinterestland that are delicious and I did experiement a ton. I have to say, most were excellent and received rave reviews from my crew, but below are some of the favorites (in additon to the recipes I already mentioned above).
Big Mac Casserole – The kids LOVED this!! I mean, a whole 9×13 pan was demolished in a matter of minutes. I did make my own special sauce since I didn’t have the jarred kind on hand.
Kombucha Mocktail – Make sure the kombucha has no added sugar
Zuppa Toscana Soup – I can’t tell you how many times I made this. I love it!
I have so many more recipes, but like I said, these were on repeat. Make a chili with no beans, or a veggie soup using the compliant broth. Also, rotisserie chicken from the store is a good protein source. Just make sure it’s plain and not seasoned or sauced up.
That about wraps it up. I know this may all sound so overwhelming, and I was a little stressed too when I started. But it works. I will forever be a Whole30 fan and can see myself wavering back to it when I feel my body needs a reset. I have also done mini-Whole30 stints at times. In the end, all the planning and prepping is worth it and I hope you think so too! 🙂 xo