Last fall we decided to embark upon the adventure that is Whole30. I wanted to recap our experience and answer a few questions for any people who are interested!
First of all what is Whole30?
In my own words, Whole30 is a specific approach to food with the goal of resetting eating patterns, addressing health concerns, and identifying any allergies/food sensitivities. For 30 days you eliminate these 5 food groups – alcohol, dairy, grains, legumes, and sugar – from your diet. These groups are the most common inflammatory food and allergens, so eliminating them allows your body time to heal and reset. At the end of 30 days you systematically reintroduce those categories to see how you feel. Then you can use any information gained to make better food choices going forward. Often times people have remarkable improvement in health after completing a Whole30.
Why did we do Whole30?
In the past few years I’ve been making more intentional choices about our health and home. I’d heard of Whole30 from some friends and my parents who’ve tried it as well as from Ashlee and Mariette. I wanted to try it for two main reasons.
1. I was curious if it would address some health concerns- sleep quality, energy levels, and pain during my cycle.
2. I wanted an opportunity to be creative in the kitchen and try new recipes!
What are my general tips regarding Whole30?
2. Have a buddy if possible. My husband did it with me, and we both enjoyed having a partner for this challenge.
3. Balance new recipes with ones you are familiar with or a simple meat, vegetable, and potato. Don’t try to cook every recipe from the book or online. I tried some new recipes, but I also had many nights where I cooked something I was familiar with already.
4. Have a back up plan for times when you don’t want to cook such as veggie scrambled eggs, big salad, canned fish, etc.
5. Meal planning is CRUCIAL. Take the time to plan out your meals and grocery shop. It takes time, but I found that it was well worth it when we sat down to eat our delicious food every day!
6. Look up Whole30 compliant brands. We didn’t buy too many dressings and sauces, but I’d recommend getting a few things to try during your Whole30. Or make your own!
7. Sugar and forbidden oils tend to lurk in many foods so read your labels carefully!
Did you eat out during Whole30?
This was basically non existent. We had Chipotle once but weren’t really fans of the pork burrito bowl (we are Chipotle chicken people). I’m not sure how people eat Whole30 in restaurants. I feel like you would need to ask a million questions and make lots of adjustments. The book and website have lots of tips for restaurants and travel so I would recommend looking at those. We basically just ate at home the entire time.
What were the highs of the experience?
1. Trying new recipes was so fun! This definitely restarted my interest in cooking and food. It was interesting to see how many meals we could make that did not include dairy or grains.
2. I like that we faced a challenge and completed it. That left us with a big sense of accomplishment. Abstaining from specific foods is a purifying exercise. Though Whole30 isn’t a spiritual quest, at times it felt like it was to me.
What were the lows of the experience?
1. I didn’t experience major shifts health wise. I would say I didn’t notice changes at all, or only small ones in my sleep, energy, and cycle. That was disappointing, but I didn’t have specific expectations going into this process.
2. I had cravings every day, and sometimes that was difficult. I would usually address those by drinking water or tea. My go to snack was nuts and fruit. I know the Whole30 approach doesn’t encourage too much fruit because it doesn’t fill you like proteins…but I like fruit so that’s what I had! I probably could have done a better job at distracting myself when I had cravings.
How has our life changed after Whole 30?
1. We keep trying new recipes. This process gave me a good nudge to trying some new things, and I enjoyed that experience!
2. We are focusing on including lots of vegetables in our meals. I always feel so nourished after a meal with lots of good veggies!
3. We are are limiting alcohol and products with added sugar. I’m cutting out dairy for the first part of 2020.
5. We plan to have THE BEST of foods. For instance, I won’t have a mediocre store bought cookie or ice cream when I could wait and truly enjoy my favorites: Cheryl’s cookies and Jeni’s ice cream 🙂 We find it is better to save the calories and experience for foods we will really get to savor and have outstanding quality.
What foods did I miss the most?
- Breakfast foods – GF pancakes, oatmeal, and banana or pumpkin bread
- Taco shell and chips
- Occasional red wine with dinner (I’m not a big drinker so giving up alcohol was not hard at all)
- Ice cream! (I was surprised that I didn’t miss cheese as much as I thought I would).
How was your reintroduction period? Are there certain foods that you won’t eat again?
Our reintroduction period went fine. We didn’t notice any major reactions from any food groups, though we are committed to continuing to focus on good proteins and produce in our meals.
What were your favorite meals?
I mostly consulted the hard copy of my Whole30 book for recipes or made things I already knew how to cook. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Veggie scrambled eggs
- Frittata with sausage and veggies
- Sausage and sweet potato hash
- Pot roast
- Chicken soup with homemade broth
- Cobb salad with Trader Joe’s Green Goddess dressing
- Harvest salad with raspberry dressing
- Steak kabobs with chimichurri sauce
- Roasted butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and red onion
- Butternut squash soup
- Chili (minus beans)
- Fish, potatoes, and any green vegetable
- Shrimp and zucchini noodles
Overall, do I recommend Whole30?
Though I didn’t experience all of the potential promised health benefits, this experience encouraged us to think carefully about our food and make better choices each day. Also, it is TEMPORARY so if you have doubts just remember that you can reintroduce foods into your diet. Whole30 isn’t permanent (unless you want it to be).
If you have any health issue (large or small) that you think could be related to food, I think Whole30 is worth a try. I imagine it would be extremely helpful to identify any food sensitivities. If you are looking for specific advice I recommend consulting a doctor and/or dietician.
For us the Whole30 was slightly more effort and more intense than our usual eating routine. I already meal planned, but this required slightly more focus (ie I couldn’t just add rice as a side for a meal). Though I do try new recipes sometimes, I tried more during Whole30. We do spend a good amount on groceries, but our bill did go up because we purchased more veggies and proteins. We cook a lot so we do a lot of dishes, and we had slightly more dishes than usual. Overall, I do think this process was worth the effort, and I recommend it to others!