Whole30 Tips & Tricks
I am not taking part in the January Whole30. I just want to state that very clearly up front. But I have done a January Whole30 -- along with two other Whole30s -- so I thought it might be a good time to throw out some tips and tricks that helped me get through the 30 day elimination diet.
I am a full blown drank the Kool-Aid Whole30 believer. I loved it. My body loved it. My mind loved it. My wallet and dishwasher? Eh, not so much. But getting one under my belt opened my eyes up to some major mistakes I was making that cost me a lot of time, money and sanity. I was making the Whole30 so much harder for myself than it needed to be. I wanted it to be perfect, Instagram worthy. I wanted to make delicious, blogged-about recipes every night.
Holy cow, was that a disaster! I quickly learned the errors in my ways -- as I threw away a fridge full of produce that had gone bad because I never found time to use it.
Besides sharing thoughts from my own experience, I also reached out to my friend Angela Norvitch who throws herself into the Whole30 lifestyle on a regular basis. She is someone I look to for meal ideas and I love some of the ideas she passed along about having a successful Whole30 experience. The common denominator between both of us? Don’t overthink it. It’s supposed to be a good experience for you and if us veterans have learned anything, it is that you are more likely to bail out midway through if it becomes too much work to manage.
I don’t want to trick you into thinking the Whole30 isn’t hard. It is. It takes a commitment — to planning, prepping and resisting your normal eating habits. But with the right mindset and game plan, it can become an easy addition into your life.
shop around for your staples and only buy what you need
I got really excited when it came time to grocery shop for my first Whole30. I thought I needed everything — ghee, coconut oil, coconut milk, almond milk, compliant mayo, every flavor of Tessemae’s compliant salad dressing. It got aggressive quickly. And most of the stuff ended up sitting around forever because as I started to figure out how to navigate the Whole30, I realized I didn’t need or even really want all of it. Sure, I could add something in at every meal but the whole point of the Whole30 is to get down to the basics of eating. And if I’m slathering mayo — even compliant mayo — on everything I eat, I’m not really focusing on the real purpose of the elimination diet.
So start small. Buy a cooking oil you like. I love ghee and found Trader Joe’s has the best priced stuff around ($3.99 for an 8 ounce jar). Test out one new compliant salad dressing or dipping sauce (I’m a huge fan of Tessemae’s and have found Fresh Thyme has the best prices at $4.99 a bottle). Plan your meals around the Sunday newspaper ads and load up your freezer when meat is on sale (meat prices can become a huge dagger in your budget if you let them).
You don’t have to shop solely at Whole Foods to make the Whole30 work. Angie suggested Aldi; I love Fresh Thyme and Trader Joe’s. You can find compliant options at every grocery store across the country but you also don’t want to be stopping at five different stores over the weekend. So do what works for you. Spend money on things that matter to you, like good coffee to ground at home or extra avocados for when you just need to add guacamole to something. And skip things you don’t enjoy. Just because someone else is eating it during their Whole30 doesn’t mean you need to add it into your rotation.
Destroy your kitchen during one massive meal prepping session every week
This is something Angie and I both wholeheartedly agree on. Meal prep is key. If you are making your meals from scratch every day, you are not only going to lose your mind but you are going be constantly doing dishes. Seriously. You will lose any and all motivation you had before the 30 days started once you find yourself watching an hour of dishes a day.
Set aside some time — I like one to two hours over the weekend. I set up my computer, watch some Netflix. It’s actually an enjoyable experience for me and I feel like I’m accomplishing something that is going to help make my week easier. Right now, my meal prep looks like this — I marinate and grill chicken breasts, clean and cut up my veggies and then prepare my salads for lunch. I typically get some prep done for dinner on Monday and Tuesday as well, defrosting or marinating meat and setting aside veggies for sides. I’m only making my kitchen messy once, instead of dealing with the clean up every single day.
Angie is a big proponent of roasting veggies. You clean them, cut them on the same cutting board with the same knife, use the same pan for roasting (maybe switching out parchment paper when necessary). It cuts down on your dishes which cuts down on the amount of work you have to do to clean up at the end and that cuts down on the amount of stress you deal with during each meal prepping session. It’s a win-win for everyone.
You can also use this time to batch cook. Make a giant batch of chili and freeze half of it for a day you don’t want to cook. Wrap up sweet potatoes individually in foil and roast them in the oven. When you want to use them, you just need to take them out the fridge or freezer and heat them up. Think of things that stress you out about food during the week and try to come up with a way to solve that problem.
Find a meal you are comfortable eating every day and stick to it
My friend Rachel turned me onto this tip. Now I get, not everyone is a creature of habit. But committing to the same meal every day takes one decision out of your day. Plus it helps with meal prepping and planning! I typically have the same meal at breakfast and lunch. It wasn’t an easy transition but it is something that has established itself after a few solid years of meal prepping on the weekends. And it takes a huge amount of stress out of my daily and weekly routine.
Worried about getting bored? Use things like hot sauce, compliant ranch dressing and guacamole to spice up your meal. Or plan a meal swap with a friend or coworker who is also doing the Whole30. You each make a compliant meal to split up. Helps break up the boredom!