What’s the secret to living past 100? No sugar. At least that’s what health expert Dr. Leila Denmark used to say, and she lived to be 114. She practiced medicine until age 103 and she even refused to eat a piece of cake during her 110th birthday party. While a bit extreme, I think this woman was on to something. And modern-day nutritionists would agree.
The Internet has recently blown up in a fury of 21-Day Fix, Whole30® and Paleo recipes, and for good reason. These eating plans offer tangible results in the form of weight loss, clearer skin, sound sleeping and much more. After some of my friends tried the Whole30 and were happy with their results, I decided to see how this cleanse could help me and if the claims were true.
What is the Whole30?
The Whole30 is a month-long nutritional reset focused on the elimination of inflammatory food groups. That’s right people, that means you cut out all of the good stuff including dairy (my all-time personal favorite), legumes, sugar, alcohol and grains. Corn and peanuts in any form are also on the no-no list.
What Should You Know Going In?
The Whole30 is a major commitment and a time-consuming change. You must factor in time to do your research. I recommend purchasing the Whole30 book as a first step so you can really educate yourself on the method behind the madness. Additionally, it helps to pair up with a friend to make this commitment. I’d suggest partnering with a roommate or significant other; someone you consume most of your meals with to hold you accountable and make the process more fun. My amazing boyfriend agreed to do the Whole30 with me and I don’t know how I would’ve done it without him. (He had to talk me out of giving up and eating peanut M&M’s on a few different occasions.) He also cooked most of the meals due to our different schedules, while I was the planner.
That brings me to my next point…plan, plan plan. It’s important to keep your recipes fun and fresh so you don’t get tired of what you’re eating and fall back into old cravings and habits. Pinterest is full of creative Whole30 ideas and there are a number of blogscommitted to a Paleo/Whole30 lifestyle. Each week I’d spend a day planning out what I wanted to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner that upcoming week to set myself up for success.
Even grocery shopping is more time consuming! Get used to reading labels for EVERYTHING. This part of the experience was truly eye-opening for me because you really don’t realize how much junk you’re consuming on a regular basis until you open your eyes and read!
Lastly, the cooking itself takes time. Meal prep is a really important habit to develop. You’ll need to prepare what you’re eating for breakfasts and lunches during the week. For dinner you can either make a few recipes in bulk or cook easy recipes each night.
How Should You Stock Your Fridge?
As you begin your journey, you’ll want to stock your fridge with go-to healthy staples to make the entire process easier. While you’ll have to make the majority of your sauces, dressings etc. on your own, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s do carry some of the essentials to make the process easier. Some of my favorites are below.
Wholly Guacamole mini packets will become your best friend. Not only are they easy to throw into a lunch, but they’re quite filling. I dipped carrots and celery into this guacamole for a satisfying snack.
TessaMae’s is pretty much the only compliant condiment brand. I recommend the southwest ranch and lemon flavors. There is also a date-based BBQ sauce which is great for grilling and the hot sauce isn’t too shabby either.
Tahini Sauce from Trader’s Joe’s is another great option for dipping veggies. It’s important to have a few different options so you don’t get tired of the food you’re consuming.
Hard-Boiled Eggs were one of my favorite go-to foods during this process. I could make them Sunday and have them ready for the week. They’re filling too!
LaraBars, while not my favorite snack initially, they were generally pretty filling and satisfied my craving for sweets, especially the apple cinnamon. Turns out the lemon flavor was pretty tasty as well. Just be sure you read the labels because not all bars are compliant.
What Are The Best Whole30 Recipes?
With such a plethora of information out there I was really excited but overwhelmed to find recipes I liked and didn’t like. I’ve included links to some of my favorites below.
- Pizza Egg Muffins
- Paleo Mashed Potatoes
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Mush
- Egg Roll In-a-Bowl
- Crockpot Carnitas
- Coconut Chicken Tenders
Where are the best restaurants to go?
It was very challenging to find enjoyable foods when dining out (contrary to what the book says). This was the most challenging part for me because my boyfriend and I are total foodies who love dining out. We pretty much limited ourselves to the three options below, but if you do enough research you can find compliant foods elsewhere.
Chipotle: Order lettuce with carnitas, tomato salsa, red salsa and green sauce. These are the only items not cooked in rice bran oil which is NOT compliant.
La Patrona: This little Mexican joint In Clintonville serves up some delicious fajitas. Enjoy them with just meat and vegetables, hold the tortilla. Top them with some fresh guacamole and you’ve got yourself a meal. Just be sure to confirm what oil they cook their meats in, especially if you visit a different Mexican restaurant.
Northstar: The chopped salad is amazing. Order it without croutons, blue cheese and dressing. I substituted olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. The almonds add a nice crunch and the smoked turkey is delicious. Apples help to sweeten this dish!
Will the Whole30 Change Your Life?
Maybe not. But it will change your body. In the words of motivation speaker James Clear, “If you want to be in the best shape of your life, then losing 20 pounds might be necessary. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of eating healthy and exercising consistently.”
In other words, it’s a lifestyle change, not just 30 days. Through my experience with the Whole30, I found that I toned and flattened my stomach, had more energy during my workouts and even improved my sleep cycle each night. I’d definitely recommend the experience for awareness, however I decided it was a bit too extreme for me to maintain. I’d like to reincorporate healthy dairy items like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese into my diet because they have a lot of protein and I’m a very active person. They key is finding what works for your needs by adapting the framework.
Additionally I’d like to be able to enjoy myself when I go out to dinner, but I’ll definitely be limiting this after I learned a about all the hidden ingredients found in seemingly healthy dishes (aka SUGAR). My boyfriend and I like the basis of the plan so it’s our goal to follow an 80/20 paleo diet, treating ourselves 20% of the time, because life’s too short!
Have you tried the Whole30? I’d love to hear about your experience so feel free to leave a comment!