It’s coming!! We are in the midst of cookies and heavy cream and all the decadent things, but January 1st is right around the corner, and with its arrival comes the beginning of the Whole30 challenge for me and thousands others. It’s a great time to do it because you have the chance to take a step back from all the sugar you’ve just ingested, and there aren’t really any holiday celebrations for the month of January, so you don't have to be a social pariah.
If there is one thing that failed and successful Whole30ers say makes all the difference, it's preparedness. This post is here to help us get a little more prepared before things get started. Although I've been on the real food eating train for several years, this will be my first Whole30, and every time I take a bite of sugar this holiday season, I feel even more excited to do this. Let's dive in and learn How to Survive Whole30!
What is Whole30?
Start at the beginning: what is Whole30? It’s kind of like a real foods reset program. This elimination diet is similar to Paleo, but slightly stricter, and only meant to be done for a 30-day period. You’re not allowed to make “replications” of most of your favorite foods, such as banana + egg pancakes. You’re also not allowed to feed your sugar demons with Paleo treats - so no chocolate-pecan-date bites! The purpose of Whole30 is to restructure or remove your unhealthy eating habits. I really like this approach because it's a very basic UNPROCESSED way. Whole 30 isn't just about getting your blood sugar under control or reducing systemic inflammation, it is also about re-training your brain to not crave things that cause those issues, such as sweet foods, fried foods, and carbohydrate bombs.
Even in my real food paradigm, I often feel that I'm cheating with things like whole wheat pasta and whole wheat flour and dairy. They don't bother my body, so I don't feel the need to cut them out forever, but they do replace otherwise nutrient-dense food like zucchini noodles, so they're not the best choice on a daily basis. Additionally, they do bother a large number of individuals, so I would like to spend more time avoiding them for the sake of research.
Some people recommend reading the book (It Starts with Food) before getting started, and I think this is a GREAT idea, but it's not included on this list. :)
These are the things I’m doing to get ready for my Whole30 this January 1st. It’s going to be great.
1) Update Instagram:
One of the first things I did when I decided to try Whole30 for the first time was to start following Whole30 and Paleo bloggers on Instagram. (The actual first thing I did was search “Whole30 breakfasts” to see if I could find any non-egg options. Stay tuned for that - yikes.) And I also created a Whole30 Pinterest Board to give me some save-for-later inspiration.
Who to Follow on Instagram:
- And of course, me @frugalnutrition
2) Print a “YES” and “NO” List
Whole30 is not meant to be as fluid as some other diet options, and it is certainly more restrictive than my go-to Real Food + Moderation lifestyle. However, I’m excellent at following rules. I might not be great at following recipes all the time, but rules? I got this. So I recommend you go find a nice Whole30 - compliant list of foods so you have an idea of what you can eat, and what you can’t. It was a little frustrating to realize that some of my seemingly innocuous condiments, such as Dijon mustard would have to be replaced with different brands (white wine = NOPE), but Whole30 (for me), is about going all-in. Nothing half-assed. Bye Trader Joe's Dijon mustard!
- The Official Whole30 Shopping List for Omnivores (whole30.com)
- The Official "Can I Have...?" Guide to Whole 30 (whole30.com)
- Official Whole 30 PDF Downloads (whole30.com)
3) Find Some Recipes + Plan Some Meals
The best laid plans are the ones most likely to succeed, am I right? (See above about following rules.) I recommend planning out a few recipes you’re looking forward to making / eating. You will likely have a lot of inspiration if you followed the above advice (INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST). I also recommend having a breakfast game plan of some kind because you’re likely to become sick of eggs by day 15 or so. That was a challenge for me when I did Paleo the first time, but if you can get yourself to restructure your need for "breakfast-like" foods for breakfast, this will be a much easier task.
Recipes to get you started:
- 60 Days of Whole 30 Recipes (nomnompaleo.com)
- Vegetarian Whole 30 Recipes (brit.co)
- 30 Whole 30 Sheet Pan Recipes (therealfoodrds.com)
- Whole 30 Recipes (skinnytaste.com)
- Carrot-Ginger Turmeric Soup (frugalnutrition.com)
- 20-Minute Thai Coconut Beef with Zucchini Noodles (frugalnutrition.com)
- Slow-Cooker Ratatouille (frugalnutrition.com)
4) Secure a Supply Source - For Meat and More
Where will you buy your super high quality meat? This is generally the hardest part of my shopping anyway, and is one reason why we don't eat a ton of meat. The Whole Foods in my area has some good meat options, but they're still not ideal, and they're incredibly expensive. Instead, see if you can get a meat delivery in your area. There might be the option to order 1/4 of a cow from a local grass-feeding farm, but that is a LOT of meat. Instead, we looked into ButcherBox and Moink , which are both nationwide subscription boxes for high-quality, ethically soured, grass-fed meat. I'm sure others will have great things to say about ButcherBox and Moink Box, but I selected Moink because one of their boxes included wild salmon. Our first delivery is scheduled to arrive on January 1st. (v. v. excited.)
And for the "More" part of this list - do you know where you will be sourcing important cooking oils and the occasionally compliant condiments? I highly recommend Thrive Market for canned salmon and tuna, avocado oil, grass-fed ghee, and more. Thrive is an online discount marketplace with a $60 yearly membership fee (think Costco, but with smaller package options). They also have a 30-day free trial, which starts with your first order, as well as $20 off your first 1-3 orders. You can also see if there's a local market, such as Mom's, Earthfare, or Sprout's that has a wide array of health-conscious options. Have a plan for where you will go when you need easy and Whole 30-approved.
- Moink Box
- Butcher Box
- Thrive Market
- Local CSA Share
- Markets: Mom's, Earthfare, Sprout's, Whole Foods
5) Have a Snack Plan
Carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, cucumbers, bananas, oranges, trail mix (peanut-free), side salads, even the occasionally LaraBar. These are all snackables that will keep you from popping into 7/11 for chips/cookies/onigiri (shoutout to Japan!) when the craving strikes. Although there are a lot of beef jerky-type bars and other Whole30 energy bars growing in popularity, be aware that they are still processed (as are LaraBars), so try to consume actual food as much as possible instead.
I highly recommend trying to snack on fruits, vegetables, nuts and dried fruit (in moderation), hard-boiled eggs, avocado, and protein lettuce wraps. But if we're being realistic, we know that emergency desk-drawer snacks are crucial. Grab some Whole 30-approved (lightly processed) snacks and keep an eye on how often you reach for them.
- Epic Bars / Bites and other grass-fed jerky options)
- MeeNut Butter
- Nutpods Nut Milks
- Raw Trail Mix
- Bare Apple Chips
- Larabars (in moderation)
6) Rearrange Your Condiments
Condiments are a little obnoxious because they're deceptive. What could be wrong with Dijon? (See above - white wine.) Take 10 minutes to read the labels on the back of your condiments, and move the not-approved ones outta the way! Put the Whole30 condiments in a prominent place so you know exactly what kind of flavors you’re working with for 30 days. I highly recommend opening up this Whole 30 common additives cheatsheet to get an idea of what we're working with here. In general, I try to avoid additives, so try to get a small handful of simple, basic ingredients, and start making your own condiments!
7) Recruit Your Friends
You + Friend(s) = Greater Chance of Success
Maybe this should be number one. Maybe you’re a lone wolf and you don’t need this. I don’t know, but I think support systems are super important. I love being a lone wolf, I do, but friends foods things are always better. I recruited 3 people to join me, and I lured them into the trap with the promise of a weekly family dinner. I’m quite excited about it. I've been spreading the word far and wide for the last month, and I'll be following along with the other Whole30-ers on Instagram.
Alright friends, here we go!