How I am surviving (and thriving) during a Whole 30

Originally written 9/18/17

A good friend of mine and her husband decided they were going to do the Whole 30 program for 30 days and asked if Beast and I wanted to join them.  My gut answer: Absolutely not.  We’ve done diet tune ups several times over the last few years.  All of them seemed overly restrictive in some areas (how can fruit really be that bad for you?) and way too inclusive in some areas (I can’t have fruit but I can have bacon bits rolled up in cream cheese?).  I usually last a few days and then Beast powers through until the end.

Because my friend is a good one, I thought I’d look into the program before I told her a strong no.  After just a little research it was pretty clear that this was something I could actually get behind.  Basically it is a 30 day diet tune up that has you focus on real food and helps you identify problem areas in your diet.  You eliminate alcohol, dairy, sugar, and grains but can have proteins and almost all fruits and veggies so it doesn’t feel too restrictive.

We’ve been doing it for over a week now and it hasn’t been that bad at all in terms of overall effort and the food we’ve been eating is really good and satisfying.  Now don’t get me wrong, I would love a baguette, a whole wheel of cheese, and a big home pour of Cabernet right now.  But I feel good and know I will be able to have those things in moderation once this 30 day period is over.

I already know some areas that are my weak points (apparently I tend to carbo-load during my kids’ nap time like I’m going to run a marathon when they wake up).  Shopping and reading all the labels of things you buy to see if they are compliant makes you realize how much sugar is added in tons of foods.  While I think we eat very healthy the vast majority of the time, realizing all those little extras in our meals (sugar, dairy, grains) aren’t always necessary or really good for us has been helpful for sure.

So, overall I would say I’m looking forward to the next 22 days and I’m happy with how I am feeling and eating.

Here are a few quick tips I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks preparing for this challenge and then in the first week of the program.

1) Read the basics and go through some recipes.  I borrowed the original Whole 30 Book from a co-worker and read the basis of the program, which helped me to understand the WHYs behind the different rules.  It also gives you a FAQ guide and timeline for certain things you might be feeling as you go through the program.  Both very helpful.  Finally, it has some recipes to get you started. I also bought the Whole 30 Cookbook, which gave me even more recipes and ideas for my meal planning.  The program website ( is also very helpful and has everything you would really need to know available for free.

This egg dish is from page 12 of the Whole 30 Cookbook (Bistro Breakfast Salad).  It was delicious and a nice way to have something on the lighter side since I’m not a big fan of a gigantic breakfast most mornings.

2) Get some pantry/fridge basics that you will want to have on hand for your 30 days.  For me, coffee creamer, salad dressing, mayo, and spice mixes (including taco seasoning) were a must.  I’ve been really happy with these products.

3) Think through how you can modify your current recipes to be compliant.  Probably a lot of what you make would be just fine if you substituted things for something else (rice for cauliflower rice) or removed added sugar (remove maple syrup from a meat marinade that has otherwise compliant ingredients).  Something that has been a big hit is my go-to taco meat.  I make it as usual other than substituting the regular taco seasoning for a compliant one and not deglazing the pan with a beer.  Instead of serving with rice and beans, I just made twice the amount of meat.  Beast and I ate it with butter lettuce leaves (double them up so your tacos don’t break on you) and got some mini soft tortilla boats for the kids.  They had cheese and sour cream since we had them in the fridge but we didn’t.  It was satisfying and easy modify a recipe that was already in my repertoire.

4) Meal plan a week at a time.  One of the biggest complaints I hear about this and similar programs is how many times people have to go to the grocery store.  What has worked for us is doing a meal planning session where I look through cookbooks and online to decide what we want to have.  As I add items to our meal plan, I add what we would need to our grocery list.  I go to the grocery store on Friday (one of my days off) and then one more time during the week, if needed, to get anything remaining that we maybe didn’t have enough of.  More apples, bananas, onions, or compliant snacks seem to be what we’ve needed on the second trip.  Some people use fancy templates or boards for meal planning.  I use a plain white sheet of paper from my printer and a clip board hung up in my pantry.  Not fancy, but it works.

5) Get some La Croix.  Sparkling water has been my go to when I just plain need something other than water.  Most grocery stores will have lots of flavors on hand.  Coconut has been my favorite and Cherry Lime has been Beast’s.  It has no calories or sweeteners so it is completely compliant.  I think it gives me just a little taste of sweet when I am having a craving.  We’ll be keeping it on hand after these 30 days for sure.

6) Make enough for leftovers.  If you are going to the effort of making great meals every night, give yourself a little break at lunch the next day by making enough at dinner time for leftovers.  This had made things during the day pretty easy.  For instance, I had leftover taco meat that I took to work.  I went to the salad bar to get some greens and tomatoes, topped it with my leftover taco meat, and had a compliant taco salad with minimal effort.

So those are the things that are helping me not only survive Whole 30 but appreciate what I am learning through it.  Hope that helps anyone thinking about doing it!

Happy cooking!


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