No Grains (including corn and white potatoes)
No Legumes (including peas, soy, and peanuts)
No “Paleo-ifying” foods (such a paleo doughnuts, pancakes, etc)
Only use Coconut Oil or Ghee for cooking. Olive oil can be used for cold dishes. No other oils.
No cheats, tiny tastes, or days off.
Reading through their book, It Starts With Food, gives helpful insight as to the science of why this “diet” works in beneficial ways for your body, and why a “reset” can be necessary. But, if you’re one of those impulsive, skip-the-directions people, you can be fine just knowing the basics. (I read the book after my 30 days, actually!)
The book does have some good food prep tips, if you need help getting meals planned. But you can also search for Whole 30 meals online. (I didn’t purchase any subscriptions or meal plans, but they are probably out there.)
I loved it. (Yes, I missed chocolate brownies and cups of sweet Chai.) It was worth it, though.
A Whole 30 is the perfect way to identify eating triggers (habits, cravings, addictions, etc), food sensitivities, and address symptoms of chronic health issues (autoimmune disorders, inflammation, irritable bowel, allergies, candida, obesity, diabetes, etc).
Besides taking out the “bad” stuff, a Whole 30 forces you to add in lots of good stuff (or you’ll be really, really hungry and grumpy). Meals are typically composed of substantial portions of protein, good fats, and veggies.
Plus, you “add in” fresh new routines. Used to a treat on a weekly date night, a quick sweet tea fix during the kids’ naptime, a sprinkle of chocolate chips on a snack, or a bowl of buttery popcorn to munch on? It’s so easy to do these without even thinking! Stepping back for a reset makes you realize it.
Now, you need to mindfully prepare your food (it doesn’t have to be elaborate; just be aware of the ingredients and portions, instead of ongoing snacking). Then take your time to chew and taste that big plateful of delicious, nourishing food!
If you are accustomed to sweetening your foods (such as fruit), sprinkling a sweet dressing or cheese on top of everything, or rounding our your meal with grains, your taste buds will need to adjust, in order to fully enjoy the authentic flavors of foods!
Hopefully, you will be so full from your substantial meals, that you won’t be wanting snacks all the time anyway. It Starts With Food mentions that a small amount of fruit at the end of a meal is fine, so if you are wanting to transition out of the routine dessert pattern, that can be helpful.
Focusing on what you can have, rather than what you can’t makes it much easier. (Ever want something just because someone told you no?) Branch out and try something new; I bought a pineapple for the first time!
For the cravings, I loved reading the book Made to Crave at the same time. Lisa’s advice to look at that tempting dessert or buffet, and say “You were made for more than this” was so helpful. Plus, it was an incredible season of raw prayer, deepening my dependence on God, and identifying real longings for Him. It was certainly a season of learning more about myself; why and when I turn to food, and what I choose.
So, no, it wasn’t (and isn’t intended to be) a fad diet. But it probably could be, if you choose not to learn from it, or change your habits. If you end up reverting back to your previous unhealthy eating patterns and food choices, it might be rather pointless. (However, feeling great after the 30 days is a super motivator to continue a healthier lifestyle!)
Still, I recommend not doing the Whole 30 by yourself. It seems so much more manageable when you have the support of family or friends (even if they’re just the ones you connect with online, using the hashtag #whole30).
There is a small section in the book addressing pregnant/nursing mamas. (The “limit protein” advice seemed a bit vague and suspicious to me, since we know expectant mamas need lots of protein, in a balance of course…) But anyway, the rest of it works, such as adding in an extra meal and/or “pre/post-workout snacks.” (I found these extra calories necessary.)
Even though I started this plan not intending to lose weight, I still lost 7 lbs. They say you’re not supposed to weigh yourself during the 30 days, but my preschooler was goofing off playing with the scale, and we decided to “weigh Mama” before I remembered. That was after about the first couple weeks of the Whole 30, and I realized then I needed to increase my intake during the following weeks just to maintain. (I’m still nursing/pumping, too.)
Even though I was grain and dairy-free, I still kept up other Nourishing Traditions principles, such as soaking almonds and cashews and making beef and chicken bone broths and kombucha to optimize nutrition potential.
- Eggs, Sauteed Kale, Sweet Potato Hash, Fruit Salad (such as kiwi, banana, clementine, or berries) topped with Coconut Flakes and a few Nuts
- Apple Omelet (Saute apples in coconut oil and cinnamon and use to fill an omelet) Serve alongside toasted Coconut Flakes.
- Sugar-Free Sausage, Asparagus, Steamed Sweet Potatoes, mixed with Coconut Flakes, diced Pineapple and Cashews
- “Fajita Style” Eggs scrambled with Grated Zucchini, Onions, Garlic and Bell Peppers, topped with Guacamole/Avocado, Olives, and Tomatoes/sugar-free Salsa
- Butternut & Apple Chicken Curry Soup (Purée squash, apples/cider, chicken broth, coconut milk, garlic clove, curry powder, sea salt, and a dash of paprika in the blender.) Stir in any add-in cooked meat (such as chicken, shrimp, or sugar-free sausage), and a bit of steamed cauliflower, if desired. Serve warm or cold, alongside a big salad.
- Taco Salad made with ground beef, guacamole, salsa, mango, olives, tomatoes.
- Chicken Cacciatore (made with tomato sauce, bell peppers, & mushrooms) served over cooked Squash, alongside Green Beans and/or Salad.
- Cabbage-Mango Salad (Shred up the cabbage, add in diced mango, stir together with homemade Whole 30 Mayo, sprinkle in some sea salt and smoked paprika). Serve alongside Egg Flower Soup or Hard-Boiled Eggs, and Steamed Cauliflower.
- Canned Salmon or Tuna (make sure it is soy-free) salad with Homemade Mayo. Serve with Apple Slices, stuff into a Sweet Potato, or dollop on top of Salad Greens.
- Mini Sweet Peppers stuffed with Guacamole
- Medjool Dates stuffed with Almond Butter (on a rare occasion, such as a romantic date night or travel day)
- Baba Ghanoush with Carrot & Celery Sticks
- Guacamole with Veggie Platter (grape tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, etc)
- Sweet Potato Fries with Pesto (dairy-free) or Salsa (sugar-free) or Cashew/Almond Butter
- Toasted Coconut Flakes with Sea Salt (instead of popcorn)
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Beef Jerky (sugar-free, nitrate-free, soy-free)
In the end, I felt great, was eating a lot more veggies, had plenty of energy, and felt a bit of that empowering “I can do hard things!” joy. I highly recommend trying it out!