Whole 30. Have you heard of it? By now you must have.
Chris and I are in the middle of doing the Whole 30 diet. If you are not familiar with Whole 30 you can get lots of information here, but in a nutshell it is an elimination diet that you do for 30 days. Out for the 30 days is any type of added sugar or sweeteners, all bread and grains, all dairy products, all wheat and legumes. This basically leaves fruit, vegetables, eggs, meats, nuts (but not peanuts) and potatoes.
Why would someone do this?
I first heard of Whole 30 some months ago and immediately thought, “No way.” I don’t want to go without my coffee and creamer, or morning tea with milk and sugar. I have been having a toasted bagel with butter for breakfast since I was in elementary school, and I didn’t want to give that up. I also didn’t want to take on a lot of meal prep, a term that sounds like me standing in my kitchen and cutting fat off of meat and cubing chicken for hours. No.
However, I have several friends who have done it and hearing about their process was intriguing. Most of them were really angry/annoyed/unhappy at the beginning, and I commiserated with them when they talked about abstaining from pizza, or munching on carrot sticks while others had dessert. It sounded like a real bummer.
But then they would reach a point and start talking about how much better they felt. They felt good. They had more energy, their workouts were better, they were sleeping better, had a clearer mind and better concentration. This part sounded good.
They also lost weight. I know that it varies, but most people lost between 8-15 pounds. In one month!! And not by starving themselves or taking “healthy” diet pills or exercising like crazy, but by cutting out less good food and filling up on actual good food. Also lots of people had significant improvements with ongoing health issues, many reducing or going completely off of medication.
I was really intrigued. The food that I was seeing in pictures looked good, like I would order it in a restaurant sort of good. Switching out my beloved food for different good food didn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Now, for me, the main motivation for trying this out was the “surge of energy” that everyone talks about. I wanted it. There are no surges of energy around here with these three keeping me very busy and one still waking me at night. The weight loss was not a main motivator, but I’ll admit that the thought of losing 10 ish pounds so swiftly was appealing. Also, since I am just coming off of pregnancy and nursing I still have less of a sense that I am the complete boss of what I eat. I still have a little of the “what am I allowed to eat” mindset, so this wouldn’t be that big of an adjustment.
I decided that I was going to do it and then messaged Chris (who was in London at the time) that when he returned we were going to do this thing called Whole 30. He had never heard of it but doesn’t typically shy away from a challenge and I knew I had that on my side. Additionally, we were hopeful that it might help with his ongoing heartburn/indigestion.
We are now more than halfway through, on Day 18/30.
-There are a few meals of the day where neither of us could eat any of our normal things in any form. (Me: Bagel with butter for breakfast, smoothie for lunch. Him: Cereal for breakfast, peanut butter sandwich for lunch.)
-Our favorite condiments were out. No barbecue sauce for him or ranch dressing for me, and we could no longer have half n half or creamer in our coffee.
-A few of our standard weekly meals could not be continued at all or in their current form, namely pizza, burritos, chicken strips, and the bi-weekly mix ins of chili, spaghetti, or pancakes.
-We would need to find good substitutes for all of these. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle because I don’t enjoy cooking, and really hate meal prep and recipe research. Pizza is just so darn easy.
-Dishes. This much cooking/at home eating means that the dishwasher needs to be run every night and there are always a few pots and pans to wash.
How we are doing it
When I first heard of Whole 30 the only thing that I saw were the restrictions. I wasn’t sure what I would eat without those things, and it was really helpful to me to see and read about what things people were eating. We are in our third week of the program and have found a good stride that is working for us.
Every day we have eggs (scrambled or fried), meat (bacon or sausage), and some fruit (a few strawberries/blueberries/banana/orange slices), and orange juice. Sometimes an avocado makes an appearance. That’s it.
I know that some people make breakfast casseroles ahead of time to save time in the morning, or mix things up with sweet potato hash browns, or some combination of eggs, potatoes, onions, and peppers. I’m really happy for those people and their creativity, but keeping this part basic is what makes this work for me/us. Also it’s tasty, pretty, and doesn’t take as much time as I was imagining that it would. Maybe 10-12 minutes to cook 5-6 eggs, as many slices of bacon, slice up a few pieces of fruit, and then I have made breakfast for 2-3 people depending on who wants what that morning. No big deal.
I often have a salad. Romaine lettuce with carrots, almond slices, and dump ranch. Sometimes I add hard boiled eggs, sliced chicken, or crunchy bacon pieces left over from breakfast. The first week I honestly wasn’t very hungry since I went from having a plain bagel to a full breakfast, so I would just have some fruit or apples with almond butter, which is surprisingly delicious and sustaining.
Chris takes a little mixed bag, consisting of a few pieces of fruit and then some combination of carrots, almonds, almond butter, dates, dried fruit and Larabars.
Easy is what makes this work for us, and though it’s not fancy it is satisfying.
This is the one meal that I am willing to invest more time and effort into. I cook something almost every night, and our first week I tried several new recipes.
Day 1: Steak and peppers on the grill with baked potatoes. (It was Mother’s Day, so it called for something special.)
Day 2: Taco boats. Taco meat with homemade seasoning (new) on a romaine lettuce leaf, with homemade guacamole and fried garlic cauliflower rice (new).
Day 3: Seasoned chicken, peppers, and zucchini on the grill, and roasted sweet and white potatoes from the oven.
Day 4: Bratwursts on the grill and fruit.
Day 5: Leftovers of days 3 and 4, with fresh fruit.
Day 6: Sweet potatoes wrapped in bacon (new), fruit.
Day 7: Chicken chili in the crockpot with sliced avocado (new and amazing.)
Things that help
One thing that makes me hate cooking is dealing with the meat, and the blood and meat juice that is all over the plastic wrap and foam plates. Bleh. But we’ve been using a local butcher and it makes such a difference. I unwrap butcher paper in the morning, remove several slices of bacon, and then wrap it back up and put it into the fridge for the next day. We go a few times a week but it is on the way to Hannah’s school so it’s no big deal. Plus I can buy beef already made into hamburger patties and chicken that has already had the fat trimmed off. It’s perfect.
Isn’t it obvious why? Just throw meat or veggies on and you’re golden. Plus it tastes amazing. We almost always double up and then eat leftover bratwursts the next day or I slice the chicken on top of my salad. We grill at least 3 days a week.
Ready to go ingredients
I read a good tip to not feel guilty about taking the occasional shortcut in terms of prep and it was such good advice. I bought diced onion and chopped cauliflower from the fresh section of the grocery store and I have been eyeing the already sliced and loaded vegetable skewers. I don’t mind the cooking as much as I thought I would, but shortcuts like these DO help when you’re also trying to take care of three kids in between it all.
They taste pretty good, are compliant, and are great in a pinch or when you are out and need something.
Finding ways to have a few of our favorite things
On Day 2 I went out and bought a food processor just so that I could make coffee creamer. I also have used it to make barbecue sauce and ranch dressing. It was honestly the best $30 investment that I have made and I use it at least 6 days a week.
You can have them! White or sweet and in various forms. Yum.
Is it hard?
No. I feel like I should first point you to the infamous Whole 30 line about it being hard. But in addition to that, you just get used to it and it’s not really that big of a deal. Is it inconvenient? Yes, it can be. Is it annoying? Totally. But hard? No, it’s not hard.
(This post was written but sitting in my drafts until I could fluff it up with a picture or two, so you’re welcome for the pictures of my salad that have made this whole thing complete. Chris and I have now completed our 30 days, so I will write another post on our results, how we felt about the whole thing, and what we are continuing to do now that we are officially finished.)