Hi friends! Originally, I was going to hold off on posting anything until after the New Year’s celebrations. However, I recently reached out to a group of friends about starting the Whole30. I did not expect any takers, but apparently many of my friends are feeling much like me. Normally I eat a pretty healthy diet, but I have not been doing so well lately. My poor eating habits are likely due to the holidays and stress. There is no denying that it is sometimes just easier to pick something up versus making a healthy meal at home.
I have completed the Whole30 program a few times and I felt absolutely amazing. I certainly do not have the willpower to follow year-round, but it is a great program to reset your body. It is similar to a tune-up on your car. Sad to say, but I know many people that take better care of their car than they do their body! The program allows your body to naturally rid itself of toxins and reduce cravings for all those yummy, sugary treats. I have definitely consumed my fair share of sugar over the last couple of months. Even though my family eats mostly organic, that does not mean it is always healthy!
So, you are probably wondering why I need to complete a Whole30 if I eat a fairly healthy diet and am mostly grain-free. Here’s the thing, sugar is like a drug people. In even small doses, sugar contains addictive properties. Research has even shown that sugar is just as addictive as cocaine. That, my friends, is the main reason why I need to complete the program again. I have become a sugar addict and I need to break the habit. The long-term effects of too much sugar are pretty scary. Sugar has been linked to causing obesity, heart disease and even cancer. Pretty scary stuff!!!
What is Whole30
The Whole30 program is not your typical “fad diet”. During the 30 days, you will not count calories or weigh yourself. You will focus on fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods. To set the record straight, this is not a quick fix program to lose a bunch of weight. This is a system to reprogram your body and reduce inflammation. Inflammation contributes to a lot of different diseases and much the food we put into our bodies causes that inflation.
During the program, you must remove all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol from your diet. Yes, I said alcohol! Come on, it is only 30 days! In return, you will eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from oils, nuts and seeds.
The sugar piece is probably the hardest for me. You cannot have sugar of any kind. This includes some of my family’s staples such as maple syrup, coconut sugar and raw honey. Don’t panic too much, there are still many tasty options to satisfy that sweet tooth craving!
Before you decide to start the program, I encourage you to check out the Whole30 site. It goes in more detail regarding the “rules” and provides a lot of wonderful resources.
What to Eat
I don’t really have an official meal plan put together yet, because I decided at the last minute that I needed to put this post together. The great thing about the Whole30 is that it is all about keeping things simple. There is no need to go too crazy with recipe development. If you are looking for some more meal ideas, you can follow me on Pinterest. I am going to start a board dedicated to Whole30 recipes and resources.
However, we all need a place to start, right? So, I have outlined what I typically ate during my last challenges. to give you a general idea as to what your day should look like meal wise.
Because I am a runner, I typically like to make sure I eat either a banana or a starchy vegetable, such as a sweet potato, for my breakfast. I usually just keep it simple on the weekdays and whip up some eggs with a side of sweet potatoes and sautéed spinach. I always prep either on the weekend or the night before. When I do want to make something, such as on the weekends, here are some of my favorites:
Banana Nut Porridge (this involves soaking the cashews the night before, so plan ahead)
I don’t typically follow any recipes for lunch. It is usually a salad of some sort. As long as you are cautious of what dressing you use, this is a pretty compliant lunch. I love Tessemae’s products and they even have a page dedicated to Whole30! You can certainly make your own, but I am trying to keep this as simple as possible.
I also like to make up chicken salad on Sunday for the week. I will work on putting together a recipe, but you mix up shredded chicken, Whole30 approved mayonnaise, diced celery, pecans and dried cranberries. The cranberries need to be sweetened with fruit juice in order to be in compliant. My kids love this recipe too, so that is an added bonus. I love to get a lot of these types of specialty products from Vitacost because they typically have the best prices and you can shop in your sweatpants.
When I talk to other people, they seem to struggle with dinner. To me, with the proper planning, it is pretty simple to “follow the rules” of the program. My advice is to have a weekly rotation and stick with it for the 30 days. There is no need to overcomplicate things. I try to make the meals as kid-friendly as possible, so that I do not have to make multiple dishes. Here is a rough brainstorm of a weekly meal plan that you can follow.
Pot Roast – I follow the recipe except for the wine. Bummer! I serve it with roasted potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes made with ghee or coconut milk.
Spaghetti & Meat Sauce served over spaghetti squash – I cut the squash in half and steam in my Instant Pot. If you do not have one of these gadgets, you must get one. Make sure the tomato sauce you are using does not have added sugar, as a lot of them do.
Paleo Taco Salad – I use this seasoning recipe when I cook the meat and then load up with greens, tomatoes and avocado. You can’t forget the fat!
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli. I use the pork recipe from this cookbook.
Burgers with bacon and avocado and baked French Fries
Roast Chicken with vegetable of some sort. Make sure you save the bones to make bone broth.
What I noticed when I went through this program is that I really did not need a snack. If you do, you can load up on vegetables or nuts. You will still want to limit your fruits, since they are a source of sugar. If I was hungry, it was usually because I did not eat enough fat that day. Avocados will be your friend. I also have various energy bites that I make if I am craving something sweet. If I do not have any on hand, I always have Larabars in the pantry and most flavors are Whole30 compliant too! I love the key lime pie flavor.
First, you can have coffee! You can either drink it black or add some coconut milk. I also drank tons of water with lemon, kombucha, coconut water, and herbal tea. I like to make a cup of tea in the evening, so I do not think about my typical nighttime treat of dark chocolate.
I am not one to sugar-coat anything, so I certainly will not start here. I felt like crap the first week of my first challenge. My body was not really accustomed to eating this way and I was going through a major withdrawal. I was achy and felt like I had no energy. I drank a lot of water and walked as much as possible. It sucked!
However, it got better after about day five. After that, each day I woke up and felt better and better. I typically have a tough time sleeping through the night and I was sleeping like a rock. I had more energy and was not always hungry. The biggest difference I noticed was the increase in mental clarity that I experienced. It was like my brain was finally working on all it’s cylinders. It is really difficult to explain, but it was such a refreshing feeling!
I did have to take about a week off of running, but I replaced it with some strength training and yoga. I strongly encourage you to move your body as much as possible. This will allow your body to detox faster and will also give you more energy as you are going through the cleansing process.
Who’s Joining Me
Was it worth it and would I do it again? I am here typing up this post, so I think you know the answer. I have been feeling pretty run down the last couple of months and have been using the holidays as an excuse not to complete the program again. Now that the holidays are over, I have no excuse and neither do you.
Who is going to join me on this challenge? Comment below and let me know, so that I can check in and see how you are doing. You can do it and it will be so worth it!