In September of 2020, I decided I would attempt my first Whole30. I felt that over the summer there was an increased consumption of junk food, BBQs and booze and I really wanted a good “reset” so to speak. I had seen in people’s IG bio’s they had done a Whole30 three or four times, so I figured if people were doing them more than once then it couldn’t actually be that bad. I hadn’t googled anything about Whole30 before this. All I knew was that certain things like sugar, dairy and alcohol were a no-no.
Whole30 is a “diet” where for 30 days you cut out certain foods. It goes beyond the sugar, dairy and alcohol to include legumes, grains and certain additives like sulfites and carrageenan. If you’re interested in doing a Whole30, it’s really important that you get all of your information from the actual Whole30 site. Right off the bat it seemed like there was A TON of rules and instructions (there are!) TBD I kinda felt like a gremlin with all the things I needed to follow. I even messed up during my first week by taking my sugar-free pre-workout… it contains stevia left extract which is not allowed! I realized halfway through my first week. Oops!
SO YOU’RE READY TO TRY A WHOLE30?
Here are some things that helped me out:
- Meal planning is key!!!
I found it was way easier to get all my meals planned our and groceries bought the week before. I did this for the entire 30 days. There’s no way I would have been able to stick to it if I wasn’t actively planning things out. This does take up time but I found a ton of recipes and ideas on Pinterest (almost too many at times) so it was just a matter of finding something that I knew I’d eat and wasn’t too complicated or required too many ingredients.
- Make sure you have “approved” snacks on hand
This came in handy whenever I found myself snacky between meals. You’d be surprised at the amount of foods you CAN’T eat on a Whole30 so making sure you do have approved snacks will be helpful. (I mean apples and almond butter is one of my all time favourtie snacks, but even that gets tiresome after a while). I remember being in the grocery store and reading ingredient lists and having to put everything back because it wasn’t “approved.” I think I ended up buying dehydrated apple rings…. *sigh*
I found this website incredibly helpful: naturamarket.com They are a listed partner on the Whole30 site and have a ton of options for snacks, sauces and other condiments.
- Know the rules
If you want to do a proper Whole30, make sure you know the rules. I found some recipes online that were labelled “Whole30 Approved” but included things like soy, and soy is definitely not approved. Your best bet is to stick to the actual website with the “allowed” and “not allowed” food lists.
Things I learned:
I completely underestimated how much I was relying on grains to fill me up. This was probably the biggest takeaway for me, and not that there’s anything wrong with grains. I love rice and oats and bread in general, but I was surprised at how hungry I was after eating a plate full of protein and veggies during that first week. On week two I bumped up my protein amount and the amount of veggies on my plate and that kept me full. Once I finished my Whole30, I kept that in mind and now my meals contain less grains and more veg and protein.
I forgot how much I enjoyed making my own alternative milks (specifically hemp and almond). When I started on my wellness path years ago, I would make almond milk every Sunday. I got out of the habit when it became incredibly convenient to just buy a carton from the grocery store (not to mention a lot cheaper, too). But nothing really froths like homemade almond milk. I followed my recipe here. I’ve gone back to this old habit since my Whole30 last September. I love adding frothed homemade almond milk to my morning coffee now (I used to take it black).
I don’t really eat fish or seafood so my protein options were limited. I got sick of eggs the first week, which sucked because I really needed them as a protein source. I quickly got tired of chicken and turkey (I mean you can only dress up poultry so many ways). I don’t eat a ton of red meat but I did splurge on some grass fed ground beef for a Shepherd’s Pie, which was delicious.
Things I didn’t like about Whole30:
On the actual Whole30 website it discourages people from eating “treats” like Whole30 approved pancakes or brownies, stating “Recreating or buying sweets, treats… is missing the point of the Whole30, and won’t lead to habit change.” I think this statement is BS. If people want to have a pancake or brownie made with whole foods, let them. We should be able to enjoy our meals without any form of guilt attached to them. I understand the concept is that if someone is over-consuming pancakes from a box or mass produced brownies, sure they could probably benefit from reducing their intake. But if they can enjoy those types of foods made with whole ingredients, maybe that’s a better option for them then cutting them out cold turkey.
It’s impossible to eat out. Don’t plan on any UberEats or patios while you’re on a Whole30. I guarantee you that any restaurant you go to will ruin your Whole30. Vegan restos are for sure out of the question because of their reliance on legumes and grains for a complete protein source. And as for your standard restaurant, if something doesn’t have dairy in it, then it most likely has sugar (hiding in dressings, marinades and sauces). OK, sure you could order a plate of naked steamed veggies, but that’s probably about it.
Would I do Whole30 again?
Maybe, but not right away. I ended up having to bring snacks and meals wherever I went, which became tedious after a while and also generated way too many questions from friends and family… asking me what I couldn’t eat and when I answered, it was almost always followed with a, “so then what CAN you eat?” It got old really fast. I might do another one in September again. I started the weekend after Labour Day. We shall see what 2021 brings.
Have you done a Whole30 before? What was your experience like?