I first stumbled across the Whole30 program while reading some board posts on Hellobee a few months back. Curious, I looked into the program and what it entailed. The more I read, the more excited I became. It sounded pretty straightforward – for 30 days you eat a very clean paleo diet and eliminate unhealthy and inflammatory foods. Doing this allows you to rejuvenate your body, restore your health, balance your hormones, and create a new relationship with food. No more processed foods, sugar, dairy, grains… just high quality protein, veggies, healthy fats, and fruit.
Since I had already eliminated soy and dairy from my diet due to Little Deer’s MSPI, this seemed right up my alley. That night I shared my plans with Mr. Deer, and he was instantly on board. He’d been doing Crossfit for years, and the paleo diet is very popular in that community. I’m a big grain lover (bread, pasta, cereal, rice… yum!) so I always pushed it aside and said I didn’t want to do it. After learning more about this program though, I was on board and ready to eliminate some foods and give it a go.
So why were we so excited about giving this program a try? To start, I am a firm believer that diets do not work in the long run. Years of battling with food has taught me that it comes down to this: eat when you’re hungry, eat nutritious wholesome foods, and if you’re really craving a treat, eat it and enjoy it. The more I read, the more I found that the paleo diet fits into this mind-set nicely, and the Whole30 program sounded like a great way to kickstart some new and improved eating habits. Mr. Deer and I both had a little weight to lose, so we were also hoping these 30 days could help in that department.
Since I had stopped eating dairy and soy, my seasonal allergies had all but disappeared, so I was curious what other things in my diet were negatively impacting my health that I wasn’t aware of. Mr. Deer and I had both become pretty snacky lately too, and had a little dessert almost every night. Not to mention I always felt tired (shout-out to Little Deer and her night wakings!) and it would be nice to have a bit more energy. I’m also a big planner, so I liked the idea of setting a goal and following a few guidelines for the month. All in all, this sounded like a great way to get back on track with eating well and living a healthy lifestyle.
Before I dig in to the details, I would like to say that I am by no means an expert in all things Whole30, or the paleo diet for that matter. We completed our Whole30 journey three weeks ago, and we learned a lot. The program can seem a bit daunting when you read the list of things to eliminate, but when you start eating real, whole, unprocessed foods, the results are amazing. I hope I can take a little mystery out of this program and encourage you to give it a try. Here’s more information about the Whole30 program, how we did it, and well as a few resources we found to be helpful:
THE WHOLE30 PROGRAM
It’s all pretty simple. The goal is to eat real and unprocessed food at every meal. The higher quality food, the better. Grass-fed beef, wild-caught seafood, organic fruits and vegetables… things of that nature. Things to eat while on the Whole30 include:
- Healthy fats (oils, nuts, seeds)
The ‘do not’ eat list can seem a bit overwhelming when you’re used to eating quick and processed meals, but when you stick to eating the foods listed above it’s not too hard. While on the Whole30 you should avoid:
- Added sugar (real or artificial)
- Grains (corn too)
- White potatoes
- Additives/Preservatives: carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
- “Paleofied” desserts
On the Whole30 site you can find more information about each of these categories. They also get into specifics, like it’s okay to eat certain legumes such as green beans and sugar snap peas. Also some processed foods are ok (certain pickles, olives, chicken broth, coconut milk… just check the ingredients). And as far as the “paleofied” desserts go, it just means don’t try and make a dessert you love by substituting in healthier ingredients. Use these 30 days to help create some new and healthier eating habits.
The program also talks about meal and portion size. I know that I’ve been brought up thinking that it’s healthier to eat many smaller meals throughout the day. I was surprised to read that there’s evidence to the contrary. Eating three, larger meals comprised of good healthy protein, carbs, and fat may actually be better for regulating the body’s hormones. Doing so helps your body use and store fat more appropriately, rather than always running off of carbs. It Starts with Food (the Whole30 book) is really great at explaining all of this, and they provide all the references for the research they use. They list some of the studies and references they use on their site too.
Though the goal is to eat three good-size meals a day, if you’re hungry in between meals then by all means, eat a snack (nuts, fruit, veggies, or a hardboiled egg make great snacks). Often times I found I really wasn’t hungry in between meals though, which surprised me. As far as portions go, each meal should include a serving of protein, a ton of veggies, and some amount of fat (the amount depends on what it is – avocados, nuts, coconut, oil, etc). Fruit is good every now and again, but they point out that almost all the nutrients that are in fruit you can also find in vegetables, without the extra sugar. So eat lots of veggies!
And that’s the Whole30 in a nutshell. You basically eat healthy and yummy portioned meals, three times a day, for 30 days. Not too bad right?
Once we knew the “rules” of the program, there were a few things we did to prepare ourselves for our Whole30 adventure. You can truly find all the information you need online, but we wanted a bit more detail and really wanted to dig-in to this program and understand the reasoning behind it all. To get started we decided to:
1. Read over the Whole30 site
This site gives you the breakdown of the entire program, plus it has lots of great resources including:
- Meal planning templates
- Printable handouts
- Discussion boards and forums for questions
- Shopping lists
- More information about which foods to eat and which to avoid
2. Buy and read the book It Starts with Food
This is written by the husband and wife team that started the Whole30 program. It was a really quick and easy read, and I enjoyed it. They did a great job of breaking things down and making it really simple to understand and follow. It takes you through nutrition information, hormones, inflammation in the body, unhealthy foods, healthy foods, meal planning and more. They have some recipes and resources at the end too. I think this gave us a great jumping-off point and really helped keep us stay motivated because we understood why we were eliminating certain foods and why they weren’t the best option for our bodies.
3. Find new recipes
Though oftentimes you can rework some recipes that you already use, we wanted to find some new ones that really utilized the Whole30 principles. If you google “paleo recipes” you’ll find a ton out there. Some may not quite fit the Whole30 guidelines, but you’ll know once you read through the ingredients. Our favorite places to find recipes included:
- Nom Nom Paleo: This gal is awesome, and she really puts together some yummy meals on her website. If you have an iPad I HIGHLY recommend you get the nom nom paleo app. It has shopping lists, recipes, and other resources. For every step in a recipe she also includes a picture which is really handy. We probably used this app daily throughout the Whole30 program.
- Make Ahead Paleo: Though we got this near the end of our Whole30 adventure, I found it to be a great recipe book and one we frequently reference throughout the week. One of the problems I ran into with the paleo way of eating is that it seems like you’re cooking constantly. With this book, she lays out great crockpot recipes, strategies for batch cooking, and meals to freeze. I’m all about saving time in the kitchen, so I thought this was great.
- It Starts with Food: Like I already mentioned, the Whole30 book itself comes with recipes. They may not have pretty photos, but there’s definitely some good ones in there.
4. Think about the meat
Though you can find grass-fed beef and wild-caught seafood in grocery stores, it is extremely hard to find bacon, ham, or deli meats that do not contain at least a teeny bit of sugar. Through the Whole30 site we found US Wellness Meats, and found that we could buy additive-free meats on their site and have it delivered to our home. Though they have quite the selection, we decided on just getting some bacon and a ham (yum) and finding the rest of our meat locally.
5. Create meal plans
Because you are no longer able to just pop a frozen meal in the microwave and call it good, we decided to create weekly meals plans. The few days that we didn’t have meals laid out were tough, so I definitely recommend getting organized. We usually did our meal planning for the week on Saturday night or Sunday morning, then did our grocery shopping on Sunday. We planned out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and some snacks and food to have for Little Deer. We would also write down what days we would use to prep meals or when to start the crockpot. I think being organized like this really helps set you up for success. And I’ll be honest, as much as I like being organized, I really don’t like meal planning! For some reason it stresses me out (probably thinking about all the cooking and dishes that would be coming my way), but Mr. Deer was great at keeping me on track and actually planned many of the days himself.
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I hope I’ve piqued your interest in the Whole30 program! In Part II I’ll talk about how we did for those 30 days, the challenges we faced, our results, and how we’re eating now.
Have you done the Whole30? Does it seem like something you’d like to try?
Paleo! part 2 of 71. Paleo Baby! by Kristin @ Paleo Plus One
2. Whole30 Adventure - Part I by Mrs. Deer
3. My Whole30 Experience (So Far...) by Mrs. High Heels
4. The Whole30 Made Easy by Mrs. High Heels
5. Toddler Paleo Lunches by Kristin @ Paleo Plus One
6. The Wonderful Pressure Cooker by Kristin @ Paleo Plus One
7. Changing the Way We Eat by Mrs. Bee