So you’ve made the commitment to do this “Whole30” thing everyone is talking about. You’ve heard how many people have had amazing results. You’re tired of feeling sick and tired, sluggish, and bloated from eating all the holiday treats. Maybe you’ve been dealing with some unexplained health issues for a while and you’re ready to get to the bottom of what’s causing your discomfort. Or you feel good, but you want to feel AMAZING. Well, you’ve come to the right place! I will preface this by saying I am NOT a certified Whole30 coach, nor am I any sort of expert on this subject. I am just a girl who has a passion for cooking who has become a huge advocate of the Whole30 program after completing 3 rounds over the past 3 years. I love sharing my insight, experiences, and recommendations with others. It brings me so much joy to see the way this program can seriously change lives. It changed my life in many ways, with the biggest being that it helped me figure out that my body could no longer tolerate gluten. After my first round in 2016, I felt better than I had in YEARS. When I added gluten back into my diet, I felt AWFUL. It got me one step closer to realizing that something was up and to an eventual Celiac Disease diagnosis. It also taught me to read ingredients and the fact that sugar is in EVERYTHING. I am now more aware of everything that I put into my body.
I personally love doing a Whole30 every January – it sets the tone for the year and it’s a great reminder of how much food affects our lives and how we feel, both mentally AND physically. It’s also typically a month without too many activities where you would normally be indulging (vacations, weddings, etc.) which makes things a tiny bit easier (for me, at least!)
Is it going to be easy? No. It’s it going to suck? Maybe. BUT – you can do it! If you read any of the books I recommend below, you’ll hear them say things like “eating this way for 30 days is not hard – beating cancer is hard”. And they are right. You can do anything for 30 days. And it will be SO worth it!
So, where to begin?
READ ALL THE THINGS
It’s important to do your homework. You should go into the Whole30 knowing your “why” for wanting to do this. You should also have some basic knowledge on the program- the do’s and don’ts, the can’s and can’ts, the whys and why nots. I recommend getting The Whole30 The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom as well as It Starts With Food by Melissa Hartwig. Both will give you the basics on the program and a good foundation to get started. The Whole30 website is another amazing resource. You can read things like testimonials from people who have completely the program successfully, ask questions, get meal plans, and find coaches in your area. In terms of cookbooks, I recommend The Whole30 Cookbook, The Whole30 Fast and Easy Cookbook and The Whole30 Slow Cooker cookbook. The Whole30 Day by Day guide is another great tool to keep you motivated, inspired, accountable, and engaged during the 30 days. I believe the mental part of it is just as important as the physical!
DITCH THE JUNK
In preparation for the Whole30, I think it’s a great idea to get rid of anything you think you’ll be tempted to eat that is off-limits. If you get home from work late one night and the only thing sitting in your fridge is some leftover mac and cheese and a bottle of wine, it’s easy to give into temptation! If it’s not there, you won’t be able to have it. Start working through all of those off-limit items or give them away/donate them before January arrives. I promise you’ll thank me later! Read more here on getting your house ready! Speaking of being prepared, it’s really important to shop, meal plan/prep and have staples on hand BEFORE you start (and every week thereafter during the month).
STOCK YOUR PANTRY
When it comes to the Whole30, there are tons of recipes out there for making sauces and condiments yourself- mayo, ghee, ketchup, etc. If you are one of those people who likes to DIY – more power to you! If you are not one of those people, that’s ok, me neither. Luckily, compared to when I did my first Whole30 in 2016, there are so many new products on the shelves and online that you can get to make life a whole lot easier. I’ve listed out a bunch of my favorite staples below:
- The New Primal BBQ Sauce
- Primal Kitchen Mayo
- Primal Kitchen Chipotle Lime Mayo
- Avocado Oil Spray
- Almond Butter (Costco and Trader Joe’s are my favorite compliant kinds)
- Canned Tuna/Salmon
- Ranch Dressing (Sir Kensington’s Pizza Ranch is also amazing! As well as Primal Kitchen’s ranch).
- Ketchup (They also have a new spicy version!)
- Buffalo Sauce
- Spicy Brown Mustard
- Almond flour (You can get this at most stores- it’s cheap at Costco and Trader Joe’s, too!)
- Breakfast Blend Seasoning (Primal Palate makes this and it’s amazing on everything!)
- Bone Broth (Bonafide Provisions is another brand I love for sipping. Costco’s chicken stock is also compliant – I use this for cooking.)
- Coconut oil
- Coconut aminos
- Red Boat Fish sauce
- Coconut Milk
Snacks are not encouraged on the Whole30, but if you need some quick grab-and-go type items, I love these:
- Lara Bars -Compliant Lara Bar flavors include: Apple Pie, Banana Bread, Carrot Cake, Cashew Cookie, Cherry Pie, Chocolate Coconut Chew, Coconut Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie
- RX Bars (You can get these at Trader Joe’s and most other grocery stores)
- CHOMPS meat sticks (They also sell these sticks individually at Trader Joe’s!)
- The New Primal Beef Thins
Thrive Market also has an awesome Whole30 Starter Kit which includes a bunch of staples. If you haven’t heard of Thrive before, it’s basically an online retailer where you can get healthy food items for a discounted price. Think Costco meets Whole Foods, but it gets delivered to your door step! You can order as many times as you want during the 30-day free trial, and then you can either cancel, or sign up to be a member for $59 annually. You can click here or use any of the above linked items to get 25% off your first order!
When I did my first round of Whole30 this was one of the hardest parts for me. No cream and sugar in my coffee…excuse me? How am I supposed to survive? This was before Nut Pods and all of the other lovely compliant creamers out there nowadays. About a year ago I started using Nut Pods, which is a coconut & almond-based unsweetened creamer, + a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen in my coffee everyday and I’ve never looked back. I love it so much! Hazelnut is my favorite (when Peppermint Mocha isn’t in season). You can use code MARYSWHOLELIFE to get 15% off your first order on nutpods.com.
Also, check out my “Why Collagen” post to learn more about the benefits of collagen and why I decided to start using it.
STOCK YOUR FRIDGE
Fruits & Veggies
You want to be eating a TON of veggies during your Whole30. You’re probably going to end up loving a bunch of veggies more than you ever thought possible once this thing is said and done. I actually crave roasted broccolini and brussels sprouts now, which I never would’ve thought possible! I always try to buy organic when it comes to the “dirty dozen” (the 12 produce items most likely to be heavily contaminated with pesticides) and then I don’t worry so much about getting organic when it comes to the “clean 15” (least likely items to be contaminated).
Trader Joe’s is an amazing place to get pre-cut fruits and veggies (both fresh and frozen) at a great price. I always make sure to have some cut up carrots, celery, and cucumbers ready to go in my fridge to dip in guacamole whenever a craving hits. Same thing goes for apples/bananas with almond butter! They also have frozen cauliflower rice, spiralized carrots, crinkle-cut butternut squash, the list goes on…
I also have a list of “must have” Whole30 compliant items from Trader Joes on the blog! There’s a few items missing – I need to update it, but make sure to grab the vegan cashew kale pesto!
When it comes to meat and eggs, I try my best to stick to organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised. They’re better for us in general. However I understand (believe me – we live in the middle of nowhere and our grocery store options are less than ideal) that finding quality meal like this is not always an option, whether it’s not sold in your local grocery stores or if it doesn’t fit within your weekly budget. And that’s ok – just do your best! Be more concerned with actually finishing the Whole30 than with how high quality your meat is. However, I will share that we started using Butcher Box about 1 year ago, and it’s been the best thing ever. They deliver organic chicken, grass-fed beef, and heritage breed pork right to your doorstep on either a monthly or bi-monthly basis. They also have sugar free compliant sausage and bacon which is sooo delicious! You choose which types of meat you want, and they send different cuts in each box. It’s been a huge help for me because 1) I don’t have to worry about buying meat (just seafood, turkey, and ground chicken, etc) while grocery shopping, and 2) it forces me to come up with recipes based on what I have in the freezer – a lot of them being things I wouldn’t have normally tried, but ended up loving! You can use this link to get $10 off your first order + free bacon if you want to try it out!
In terms of eggs, I believe pasture-raised are truly the best eggs you can get. They are richer in Vitamins A, E, and Omega 3’s and lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. The more orange the yolk, the healthier the hen!
It’s time to say goodbye to the sugary sodas and teas for 30 days. I always take this opportunity to try and increase my water consumption. Add a lemon and drink a glass every morning before you start your day. Sparkling water is also a great option. Waterloo and Spindrift are two of my faves. Kombucha is another option during the Whole30- just check labels to make sure it doesn’t have added sugar! GT’s is a great brand – mostly all of their flavors are compliant and they’re sold at most grocery stores these days. Kombucha is amazing for gut health – it’s fermented tea, so it is packed with probiotics. You can also make your own, but again – this is one of those things that I prefer to leave to the pros 🙂
When it comes to almond milk, make sure to choose a brand that does not include sugar. The New Barn and Califia Farms both make excellent compliant sugar-free almond milks. I linked the brand of coconut milk I prefer up above in pantry staples!
My dad always said, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Dave was right about a lot of things, including this saying! It especially rings true during the Whole30. You need to have food prepped and ready to go. Spend a few hours on Sunday shopping, chopping, prepping, and cooking to save yourself the time and hassle during the week.
To make life a little easier, I’ve linked a bunch of my Whole30 friendly recipes below that would be perfect for meal prepping and reheating! I will be posting what I’m making throughout the month of January, but if you need some ideas to get you started, these are some crowd favorites:
- Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp Bowls
- Breakfast Pizza Casserole
- Whole30 Taco Skillet
- Sausage Potato & Broccoli Sheet Pan Supper
- Mango Avocado Salsa
- Instant Pot Cider Pulled Pork
- Deviled Egg Potato Salad
- Sweet and Savory Chicken Salad
- Cashew Pesto
- Garlic Herb Ghee Smashed Potatoes
- Fool Proof Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Beef & Broccoli with Cashews
- Roasted Chicken & Root Veggies
- Instant Pot Unstuffed Cabbage Soup
- Macadamia N’Oatmeal
- Oven-Baked Meatballs with Prosciutto
- Savory Breakfast Hash
- BLT Egg Cups
- Skillet Shepherd’s Pie
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
- Whole30 Chicken Piccata
- Whole30 Shrimp & “Grits”
- Roasted Rosemary Parsnip Fries
- Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon and Sage
- Instant Pot Pumpkin Turkey Chili
- Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
It’s a great idea to sit down and plan out your month. Schedule a few activities with family or friends that don’t involve going out to eat or drinking alcohol. Go for a hike, have a game night, or have a spa day. SELF CARE! That’s what this month is all about. Buy yourself a couple new books that you’ve been wanting to read. Join a yoga group or workout class. Find a hobby! And know that you’re going to have to say no to some things, and you’re going to be faced with temptation – whether it’s with donuts in the break room at work, champagne at your girlfriend’s 30th birthday, or that 10 pm craving for something sweet and the urge to drive to Dairy Queen. All of these things are going to suck. But you DO have the willpower to say no – just remind yourself of your WHY for doing this and remember how far you’ve come. Is that donut really worth it? You’re probably going to learn a lot about yourself this month. Which is one of my favorite parts of this whole thing!
Ok – that’s it for now! I will probably be coming back to update and add things over the next few weeks. Let me know if you have any suggestions! And as always, I am here as a resource if you have questions, concerns, or just need to vent during your 30 days! You got this!
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