Rock Your Whole30:15 Ways To Master Your First Round!
This week, I began the Whole90** (aka, 90 straight days of the program), and it's caused me to reflect on my first round of Whole30, the incredible changes my body and mind underwent, and the many things I learned in just a matter of weeks. Despite viewing the process as a hopeful experiment and attempting to keep expectations in check, my instincts knew this could be the key to food freedom. For that reason, I felt compelled to take note of the tips that allowed me to successfully complete the 30-day regimen in hopes it would help others win. If this post makes it easier for just one person to get through Whole30, I'll be ecstatic!
1. Make Your "Why" Count
Your reasons for doing Whole30 have to be stronger than the most powerful craving and louder than the criticism of others. Take some time to seriously think about why you're making this change. Wanting to fit into a dress or look good for a reunion are understandable, but they may not sustain you when you're dealing with sugar, caffeine, and alcohol withdrawals! You need to be able to connect to something deeper within yourself. In my post, "20 Crucial Reasons To Do the Whole30, I focused on my health and the desire to make this change permanent, not a passing whim like all the other "diets" I'd been on. I wanted to be a better version of myself and I knew my eating habits would be an integral part a of the process.
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2. Liven up your water
As your fruit and vegetable intake increases, so will fiber levels. To avoid constipation, keep that water flowing. If you're unaccustomed to the flavor (or lack thereof), try adding a bit of mint, cucumber, or lemon. Also, consider incorporating flavored carbonated water into your regimen. It's a nice change from flat and it helps satisfy the desire for bubbles if you're a soda, beer, or champagne drinker. I adore LaCroix—the Cran-Raspberry flavor is particularly tasty—but there are tons of brands to choose from.
3. Cook in bulk
Whether you're cooking for one or a crowd, this step is indispensable! Instead of baking one potato for dinner, throw 3-4 in the oven. Hard boil six (or more!) eggs instead of two. Roast several sweet potatoes and store in the fridge for an easy snack or side dish. Make a slew of chicken breasts and use 'em for salads, hashes, or soups. This will make your life so much easier, especially if dinnertime has snuck up on you and you're too tired to make an entire meal from scratch.
Protip: If you're scared of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, brine the skinless variety in a salt water mixture so they don't dry out while in the oven. (Life's too short to eat dry chicken, am I right?) Check out this post by Gimme Some Oven for perfectly-baked chicken breasts. I swear by it. Just make sure to substitute clarified butter, ghee, or oil for the butter she uses.
4. Eat leftovers for breakfast
Most of what's considered "breakfast food" is off-limits, which can make you feel like there's nothing to eat. Wrong! This option is perfect for those days when you absolutely cannot look at another avocado, egg, or chicken breast.
5. Make over a well-loved recipe
Instead of our usual chili sauce-laden meatloaf, my husband created a mediterranean-inspired variation that absolutely blew my mind! And the next morning, I cubed a couple slices of the leftover meatloaf and used it to make a breakfast hash with potatoes, veggies, and eggs. Win-win! Don't be afraid to experiment and substitute ingredients--you never know what kind of magic can be made.
6. Create a safe space
Ideally, we'd be able to clean out the fridges and pantries, replacing every tempting morsel of food with healthy, Whole30-approved foods. Unfortunately, this isn't feasible for most of us. Still, do carve out a space for compliant fare that's ready to eat. If they're supportive, talk to your partner, family, or roommates about your designated area and how vital it is to your success. If they're disrespectful, it may be best to say as little as possible. I'll talk more about this issue in tip #12.
7. Try something new
I've never been a fan of mixing my fruits and veggies together, but one day, I just needed a change. In the spirit of taking risks and moving out of my comfort zone, I created my own version of a Chicken Waldorf Salad using ingredients I had on hand. It was a huge success and has become one of my go-to meals, whether I'm doing Whole30 or not! This also a great opportunity to revisit foods you thought you hated and try preparing them a different way. Haunted by childhood memories of Brussels sprouts? Try tossing them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasting until tender. If you're lucky, you may even get some crunch from the slightly-browned outer leaves. 😋 Speaking of crunch...
Protip: Make the mayonnaise. Seriously. Though I could literally eat it by the spoonful, I resist that urge and use it as a base for chicken/salmon/egg/tuna salad and all manner of sauces/dips.
8. Eat nuts When You're Craving Crunch
As someone who loves chips, crackers, and crusty bread, there were times when I had to do something to keep myself from cheating. Hello, walnuts and pecans! I snacked on these bad boys just about every day. And thanks to the fat content, I only needed a small handful to get by (if you tend to overdo nuts, skip this step). Cucumbers are a good crunch-tastic alternative, too. Try dipping them in Mel Joulwan's Sunshine Sauce.
9. For long days, carry dried fruit (in moderation)
While I enjoy it fresh, dried fruit is so much more portable! I carried a little bag of raisins, apricots, and/or cranberries in my purse for occasions when we might be away from home for an extended amount of time. If your Sugar Dragon is especially strong, though, avoid this tip.
10. Ice your coffee
If you're not used to enjoying it without sweetener and creamer, coffee may seem virtually undrinkable. After several mornings of seeing me struggle to choke it down, my husband offered to serve it over ice and coconut milk to take the edge off. Best. Decision. EVER! We also adjusted the strength of the brew to make it less strong, which saves money and relieves some of the bitterness.
11. Embrace a new routine
Chances are, you'll need to avoid certain folks and/or places while you're on Whole30. No need to beat yourself up or feel conflicted, though—just go with it and enjoy this new opportunity. Personally, I increased my book-reading, took more baths, and decreased my time on social media.
12. keep quiet
I know the book talks about sharing your Whole30 journey with those around you, but I have to object (just a little). If your loved ones are supportive and encouraging, then by all means, allow them to dive in with you! If, however, you have people in your life who are invalidating, rude, and/or fearful of change, I would suggest saying as little as possible so as not to invite unwanted negativity. Don't forget this is about you, your body, and your life; you don't need permission to live it how you see fit. Finding a community online is a great way to connect with other enthusiastic Whole30-ers!
13. Be flexible
If you're in a situation where you're the only one on the program, look for meals that can be easily adapted. For example, we relied on dinners like chili + cornbread and tacos because they could be served with kid-friendly accompaniments on the side. For example, the night we had chili, rather than having to make a separate meal for myself, I simply avoided the cornbread.
14. Ask questions
Braving the meat counter? Don't be afraid to inquire about ingredients, especially the sausages/bacon. Employees don't necessarily take note of what's in every food, especially the ones they don't make. If you're not sure what's in the chorizo, ask them to read the label to you.
If that makes you uncomfortable, check out the prepackaged selection and be prepared to do some homework. I highly recommend the Wellshire Farms makes a sugar-free bacon, so check your local Whole Foods for it. Also, the Garlic Herb sausage at Trader Joe's is delicious and compliant. Finally, most prosciutto is pork and salt, so it's a safe bet (but again, READ the ingredient lists).
Protip: Yearning for a small, but sweet and salty snack? Wrap a date in prosciutto and thank me later. This also works as a fancy appetizer, just in case you decide to do some entertaining.
15. Don't blow your budget
There's absolutely no reason to go broke in order to be the perfect Whole30-er, okay? If you can't afford to buy organic, go conventional. Shop sales, use coupons, buy in bulk—do whatever works for you. In addition to the Whole30 website, there are a number of awesome blogs for compliant recipes! For example, I'm really fond of The Kitchenista Diaries Whole30 recipes, as well as Nom Nom Paleo. They both offer fresh, bold flavors and unexpected ingredients. Further, if you're on Instagram, follow @Whole30, @whole30approved, @whole30recipes! All three accounts regularly feature tasty recipes, tips, support, and encouragement. Lastly, head to your local library to find cookbooks for free; if/when you find one you're particularly fond of, you can buy it knowing it's a good investment.
Protip: Often, the Kindle version of books is cheaper than hardcover, so always check if the one you want is available in that format. You don't need a Kindle, either, just the app.
And there you have it, folks! Each and every one of these tried-and-true tips collectively helped me maximize my Whole30 experience, and I believe they can do the same for you. Have a question or a killer tip to add? Leave a comment below!
**Unfortunately, I had to hit the Pause button on my Whole90 goals. I explain why here.