There's nothing like a week in Vermont, home to cheese and creemees, and a trip to meat city U.S.A: Austin, TX to kick you into health gear. For me, getting back on track means another round of the Whole30.
It may seem like the new fad–Business Insider said it's taking over Instagram and Pinterest!–but I actually did my first Whole 30 two years ago. For those who have no idea what Whole30 actually is, in simple terms, it's cutting out (get ready for this!) sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy. What in the world can I eat? A lot actually, including meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, some fruit, and good fats from oils, nuts and seeds. You can read much more in-depth about it here.
Whole30 may not be for everyone, but it's most certainly for me. I'll be honest and say I wish I could live the lifestyle–because it really is a lifestyle–all year round, but for now I've settled into doing it every few months when I feel my eating habits spiral out of control and, more importantly, when I just feel plain old awful both physically and emotionally. But although I know it will make me feel better, it's certainly not easy. Because wine. And cheese. And chocolate. 'Nuff said. But if you're organized, strong-willed and open to playing in the kitchen, you’re fully capable of doing it. Plus, the benefits always outweigh the struggles, both of which you can read about—along with a ton of recipes and kitchen experimentation—below in my consolidated diet diary:
So I never EVER start a new diet plan mid-week because I'll take any excuse to binge my way through a weekend before I'm getting healthy. This is dumb, I'm aware. But this time around I started on a Wednesday, a feat in and of itself. Of course, I ended up having a friend's last minute birthday dinner. What to do? I ordered grilled fish, greens, and a seltzer while they had gooey, fancy gravy fries that looked like heaven in a bowl. To be honest, I'm glad I didn’t know of the plans ahead of time because I would've postponed my start date.
On Saturday, Day 4, I finally went for a run, but the rest of the day I hit the "I don't care if it's finally summer in New York I just want to sleep all day" phase that you can find on the Whole30 timeline here. However, I did try some new recipes, including Whole30’s green cabbage slaw with Asian dressing and this pork fried cauliflower rice from the One Pot Paleo book that I especially loved. I also made Whole30's Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato side dish, and holy yum, these two dishes were good (and pretty simple too).
While Week 1 ended with getting up early for a run, for the start of Week 2 I hit the snooze button no less than three times. And I never snooze! My pants also feel tight which is annoying, but I know I have to make it through these next few days to get to the good stuff. My willpower is also tested with a breakfast meeting full of carb-loaded, New York bagels. #Igotthis.
Over the course of cooking more at home, I achieved some self-discovery in the kitchen: I suck at making sauces. I made Whole30's halibut recipe (which I subbed with cod), which you can find here.
The final dish was certainly edible, but I'm not quite sure the orange glaze ended up in the right state. Was it the recipe, or my cooking competency? Hard to say, but it’s still worth a shot at making.
Another dish I discovered, which I'll go so far as to say is life-changing, is avocado baked eggs. HOW HAVE I NEVER TRIED THIS BEFORE? It's perfect for a weekend breakfast when you're not on-the-go, and truly, it’s so delicious. With that being said, I'm still working out the timing to get the eggs cooked just right. Pair it with no-sugar bacon (Whole Foods sells some options). Cooking tip: Paleo-style bacon tastes best if you really cook it until it's crispy.
Another dish I made, which is great for both lunch at work and dinner at home, are these paleo chicken fingers.
They actually got rave reviews from my co-workers, which is huge, let me just say—they’re a picky bunch! I use Trader Joe's tomato sauce in a can (always make sure to check your labels!) as a dipping sauce.
I had to do something I NEVER do and that's send my food back, during a breakfast meeting no less, because my omelet had cheese in it. Fail. But let’s be honest, I didn't stick to my guns for two weeks to ruin it just because I'm embarrassed to say something, right? Here’s a harsh, but predictable truth about doing Whole30: it’s very hard to be social. And don’t even get me started on going on a first date sans booze. But hey, if your friends/colleagues/awkward first dates are understanding, then you can make it work, not to mention that you'll feel better when you don’t wake up with a hangover or stuck in a food coma! You can also show them how eating healthy can be tasty, which is why instead of going out to dinner with a friend one Saturday night I cooked for us. I took a risk by trying a new recipe, but wow, it officially tops the list of one of the best things I've ever cooked. Period. Not just on Whole30. I made this Romesco Garlic Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles recipe, and this time, I finally got a sauce right! Plus, my non-dieting friend loved it too. Wins all around. I also follow Whole30Recipes on Instagram and found an easy stuffed peppers recipe.
An easy one-pot weekend dish I made (which is great for lunch leftovers) is this slow cooker sweet potato, kale and chicken stew. I also discovered another easy lunch is shredding (aka ripping apart) a whole rotisserie chicken and adding some pieces with mashed avocado as a fake "chicken salad." If you want to be fancy, you can make your own Whole30-approved mayo, but I'm not fancy, plus I don't like mayo anyway.
By this stage, if not sooner, you realize you have no idea what day it is during your Whole 30 because it's become your everyday normal. This is the best part because you feel great, you look great, you don't feel like you're uprooting your life, and you're happily eating whole foods and cooking new recipes like it's no big deal. Why is that? Oh yea, because it's not a big deal. And it's a good thing too because in my final 9 days I have a July 4 BBQ/kid's birthday party and I don’t even feel like I have to miss out.
I also finally took a trip to the new Bareburger in my neighborhood. From all my Googling, it seems this is the place to go if you're Paleo/Whole30, and now that they don’t use peanut oil, their fries are safe to eat! I got a burger wrapped in a collard green with a side of fries. Such a nice treat to eat out and not worry about every single little ingredient. Added bonus points: it's also fast and cheap. But this is also where you can learn from my mistakes. Despite having read the Whole30 book countless times, I missed the part where you can't have French fries,
even if they're compliant. Fail! But the good news is I didn’t eat anything I'm not technically supposed to, it's just the idea of fries they don’t subscribe to.
In my final days, I also made Whole30's chicken cacciatore and mashed cauliflower. Remember that whole not good at sauces thing? Well, it came back to haunt me, and while my cacciatore sauce was watery and ugly, it still tasted OK. I had a kitchen fail trying to make coconut cream, but again, the mashed cauliflower was good! Again, always remember to check your labels on coconut milk since only a few brands are W30-safe.
With that, I've come to the end of my 30 days. Funny enough, I had no idea I hit the last day until it appeared on my calendar! I feel pretty great, I got a compliment on my skin yesterday, and I can totally have my tight pants on.
A few recipes I didn’t cook this time around, but I made during the winter while on Whole30 and LOVED are:
- Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup
- Pot Roast with Balsamic Onion Gravy
- Super Easy Chili
- Bacon and Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops
I highly you suggest giving these recipes, plus these favorites a shot—whether you’re on the Whole30 program, or not. Yes, they’re that good:
Expert Tip! Here are some go-to food items that save me throughout the program:
- Raw cashews
- Hardboiled eggs (This is my week day breakfast)
- Pickles (I have a few when I get home from work. It's weird, I'm aware.)
- Grapes (Preferably frozen. This is a legit new obsession of mine to have at night.)
- Lara bars (I didn't have any this time around, but they're good to have handy in emergencies.)
Have you tried Whole 30? Share your experience below!