Two years ago, I had lunch with a friend who was in the midst of doing the Whole30—a popular, month-long clean-eating program—with a few other people. She asked if I would join them. My response (in between, mind you, sips of Diet Coke and bites of enchiladas)? “There is literally nothing that is worth giving up bread for.” I was perfectly happy to keep eating whatever I wanted, and to allow my food cravings to control me. Meanwhile, I never knew why my skin randomly broke out, my sleep never made me well-rested, and my energy levels were either sky-high or the lowest low. I would never have guessed back then how much richer and fuller my life would be after discovering the Whole30.
The Whole30 is:
- Thirty days of eating only whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods
- Eliminating foods research has shown to be potentially problematic, which means no dairy, no grains, no alcohol, no legumes and no sweeteners of any kind
- A complete life-changer
The Whole30 is not:
- About losing weight (…although you probably will)
- A crash diet
- A fad
- A money scheme (you don’t pay anything to do it, all their resources are free on their website!)
Doing the Whole30 (and then reintroducing all the foods you eliminated) helps you forge a healthy relationship with food. You begin by eliminating dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes and sweeteners from your diet for thirty days. You then enter a careful reintroduction phase that allows you to bring each food group back into your diet, and to gauge the physical and emotional effects of each one. (There’s a bit more to it, sure, but fortunately everything you need is available for free at Whole30.com.)
I get it: Having a healthy relationship with food is hard for most to imagine. We eat when we are bored, happy, sad, stressed, tired, everything! But if you strip away the foods that may be harming your body and/or the ones you find hard to eat in moderation, instead focusing on energy-giving protein, satiating fat and nutrient-dense vegetables, you’ll stop turning to food for comfort. You will start to see food only for what it is, with no emotional strings attached.
These thirty days do require hard work, no question: Lots of cooking, lots of planning, lots of dish-washing, and very few on-the-go and restaurant choices. That’s the bad news. And the good news? Over the past few years, dozens and dozens of brands have created Whole30-compliant products to help you go right to the good, whole food. Yes, it’s more expensive to buy, say, Whole30-compliant almond milk than to it is to make your own, but this article is called “Whole30 Hacks For Real People” and not “The Whole30 For People Who Have Time To Lovingly soak Almonds, Blend Them, Drain Them, And Repurpose The Pulp For Other Recipes Every Single Week”. Don’t get me wrong, the process of making your own meals is a HUGE step in learning to love and eat whole foods. But, honestly, I don’t always have time for that, so I thought I’d share my tips and tricks for saving time and effort while on the Whole30, because that’s the knowledge you’ll really need when you’re on the Whole30 and in a pinch.
HACK #1: Make seasonings in bulk. You’ll find out soon enough on the Whole30 that just about every taco seasoning, Italian spice blend and salad dressing in your grocery store has added sugar. And dairy. And gluten (yep, really). There are awesome homemade recipes for these, but when it’s Tuesday night and you just got home from work and you’re starving, you’re not about to measure out seven different spices to make taco seasoning. It’s just not going to happen. So what’s the solution? Make the blend in bulk! I multiply a spice recipe by ten, and keep the mix in a mason jar. Then, when I’m ready to cook, I just measure out what I need, when I need it (almost always 2 tbsp. seasoning per pound of protein) and I’m ready to go. Easy!
HACK #2: Turn your fridge and pantry into an all-you-can-eat buffet. When your plate consist of only protein, fat and veggies, mixing and matching is where it’s at. I’m not good with planning my week’s meals, mostly because my food mood changes all the time, but packing the fridge with already-cooked meats, pre-chopped veggies and Whole30-approved dressings and sauces makes meal time simple. That way, when it’s meal time, all you need to do is heat up your meat and put it on top of your veggies, drizzle with sauce, maybe add a fried egg, and you’re done. No recipe required!
HACK #3: Keep emergency food on hand. At some point during your Whole30, you’ll find yourself at work/in the car/at an event/what have you, absolutely starving with no meal in sight. Instead of freaking out and eating everything you see or racing to a drive-thru, keep Whole30-compliant emergency food on hand. There are plenty of great brands of beef sticks, fruit and nut bars, nut butter packets to stock up on, not to mention the easy portability of fruits and veggies. I also try my best to have a batch of chicken salad or tuna salad ready to go at home for when I simply need.food.now. It’s awesome to have good recipes and foods prepped, but sometimes things don’t go as planned, and, when that happens, you’ll thank yourself for stashing that bar in your bag for food emergencies.
HACK #4: When all else fails, just go to Chipotle. Yes, really: Chipotle Mexican Grill is quite literally heaven for Whole30-ers. Most restaurants use meats cooked in soybean oil, or add sugar to even an innocent-looking chicken breast. (Rude!) But, at Chipotle, they have two kinds of Whole30-compliant meat on their menu: The carnitas and the chorizo! You can also have the guacamole, salsa verde, pico de gallo, red salsa and lettuce on the Whole30. So, when all else fails and you just can’t with your Whole30 meal-making, just go to Chipotle. No judgment. As the Whole30 cookbook says, let good enough be good enough!
HACK #5: Use “Whole30 Approved” products. The wonderful people at the Whole30 (including the always honest, always kind, and always hilarious Whole30 headmistress, Melissa Hartwig) have carefully vetted certain brands and products that they deem “Whole30 Approved”. That means that products with a “Whole30 Approved” badge on their product label are officially 100% compliant with the Whole30 program. And I totally lean on Whole30 Approved brands to make life easier. Things like fully-cooked sausages, almond milk, nut butters, dressings and soups make getting quality food into your Whole30 day super easy. For a lazy person like me, I love it!
Your relationship with food touches every aspect of your life. If you haven’t completed a Whole30 before, I would encourage you to research it and see if it may be right for you. It takes work and it takes commitment. But I promise you, it will change your life!
A few more Whole30 articles to support you:
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