At the beginning of the year, my youngest sister shared that she was embarking on a Whole 30. I was intrigued and began researching it myself. A week later, my husband and I started our first ever Whole 30. It ended up becoming quite the long distance family affair as my other sister and her husband joined in, Andy’s sister and her husband, my mother-in-law and my parents, all attempted Whole 30s. Some of us made it longer than others but we all embraced this challenge.
I wanted to see if I could do this. I wanted to see if I could flatten my stomach after 3 babies. I wanted to cut processed foods and eat healthier as a family. Those were my reasons for trying a Whole 30.
This is a long post because I wanted to share my experiences (good and bad) with Whole 30 resources for anyone who is considering a Whole 30. If this busy mom who loves chocolate can do a Whole 30, I am proof that anyone can.
Here’s what you need to know about me.
I’m 36 (almost 37) and healthy. I am fairly active (chasing after 3 kids 5 and under will keep you moving lots) but I don’t exercise other than lots of walking. I have a good metabolism and don’t have to concern myself too much with what I eat. Even so, I have struggled to lose the last 5-10 pounds of baby weight from my 3 wonderful babies.
I love chocolate, bread, rice, cheese, Diet Coke, and oh, did I mention, chocolate? Basically, all the things I love most were the things I had to give up on the Whole 30. Thankfully, I was able to keep eating potatoes and sweet potatoes. That helped. I don’t drink tea or coffee, but did have to give up hot chocolate and my occasional afternoon diet soda. Sigh.
(For those unfamiliar with the Whole 30, you are told to abstain for eating gluten, dairy, all forms of sugar (honey and artificial sweeteners included), legumes, alcohol and refined cooking oils. Basically, you are getting rid of all processed foods and eating this way for 30 days.)
I love to cook and bake so am comfortable in the kitchen. However, cutting all processed foods for 30 days meant I was going to have to put all my cooking skills to the test.
I have never done an extreme diet like this. I have actually never really dieted aside from counting calories and cutting portions back occasionally. I knew the Whole 30 was going to be a challenge. I was nervous to start but determined to give it my best try.
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Whole 30 Results:
I am pleased to share that I successfully completed all 30 days of my first ever Whole 30!
Do I feel different? Do I feel any better?
That’s a good question because I didn’t feel bad before I started. My stomach is definitely flatter than it was before I started, and my skin is clearer. Silly sugar for making me break out all these years! I didn’t experience any afternoon slumps where I craved sugar. I also didn’t crave chocolate as much as before I started. Don’t get me wrong. I still wanted chocolate but I learned I didn’t need it. Other than that, I didn’t notice any other changes other than weight lost.
You are not supposed to weigh yourself during the Whole 30 process so I followed their rules and did not. I did not take any pictures, except for this one I texted my sisters halfway through. I was pretty excited that my stomach was less noticeable and I could wear a dress that I hadn’t worn since before kids.
I am happy to report that I lost exactly 6 pounds in 30 days – which takes me down to my pre-baby weight, before any of my three babies. I am thrilled I was able to finally lose those last baby pounds in 30 days by eating good food and not feeling hungry.
I also took my measurements before and after. I lost 1.5 inches on my both my waist and stomach. I lost 1 inch on both my bottom and hips. It is just enough to be noticeable to me and I am happy with it.
Now the important question is what did I learn from my first ever whole 30? I learned a lot about myself and food. Here are the most important things I learned.
Lessons I Learned from My Whole 30:
1. I like food.
Who doesn’t really? But this experience made me realize that food is a social thing and food is one of my love languages. I cook and bake to show my family that I love them. I definitely did a lot of cooking to show my love but I missed baking with and for my kids. You can’t take the baker out of me but I am eager to continue cooking and baking more from scratch as we try to eliminate some processed foods from our pantry. I also learned it’s good to enjoy your food – just make sure you are enjoying good food.
2. It is helpful to do a Whole 30 with others.
I started the Whole 30 at the prompting of my younger sister. Of course, my husband agreed to do it with me. My other sister and her husband started a week after us, and then my parents started a Whole 30 too. Andy’s sister and her husband and his mom all started Whole 30s during the same time. Did everyone finish at the same time? No. Did everyone make it a full 30 days? No. But it was so helpful to have others to text when you were craving something or in a kitchen rut. I got some great recipe ideas from my sisters! Knowing that others are going through the same things makes it a lot easier to handle.
3. Sugar makes you more hungry than you realize.
When I was eating so many real, unprocessed foods, I really wasn’t hungry between meals so I have to contribute some of those hunger pains to really being sugar cravings. I freely admit that I love chocolate. I always have and always will. For that reason, I knew giving up all forms of sugar for 30 days would be challenging. Plus, it really is sad how many foods have sugar added in. (This was one of the most eye opening things about Whole 30). Giving up sugar was challenging but I did it! After thinking about chocolate a lot for the first couple days, the cravings did subside. I still missed the taste of something sweet after dinner and am glad that I can eat sweets again. However, I hope to do it more moderately now.
4. You will spend a lot of time in the kitchen during your Whole 30.
I am something who already cooks from scratch but the Whole 30 really made me cook. I spent double (or triple) my normal cooking time during this process and that is not counting all the dishes I did! It got easier as the days went on because I learned to plan ahead more. If you are not someone who cooks, I can understand why this part of the Whole 30 would be intimidating. That said, most recipes aren’t hard but you have to make almost everything from scratch. That is where the time commitment comes in. Just know that everyone who does a Whole 30 is in the same boat and will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen. You aren’t alone in this.
5. Make double batches of food whenever you can.
This help you save a lot of time in the kitchen! From the beginning, I rarely cooked special lunches. Our lunches were always leftovers from dinner. It was just easier this way. I learned to make a big batch of sweet potato fries or breakfast sausage patties that I could easily reheat and add to a meal. A hot breakfast comes together in minutes if you just need to cook eggs because you already have your diced potatoes and homemade sausage cooked.
6. Reading labels is really important.
You will be disappointed in how many forms of sugar are hiding in so many of our foods. Like I said, this was one of the most eye opening parts of the Whole 30 for me. There are products without sugar but you have to read labels and look for them. Now that I have found a couple, it is easy to make switches for a sugar-free pasta sauce and nut butters without added sugar. Those are changes I plan to keep from here on out.
7. Planning ahead is absolutely necessary.
I spent countless hours before we started reading the Whole 30 book, researching recipes online and cleaning out my pantry. That’s not to mention all the grocery shopping at various stores I did before and every week! If you plan ahead and have your first 4 days of meals planned out before you start (with ideas for several more in the coming days), things will go much smoother. I promise. I requested a lot of books from our library and that was really helpful.
8. It is very tempting to cook different foods for your kids but it can be done.
Apparently, I eat a lot off my kids plates. I knew I ate bites here and there but I didn’t realize exactly how much I do it until I knew one bite would cause me to restart. Why do moms do that? I think it was the frugalness in me that didn’t want waste food but I didn’t need to do it. Throwing a couple bites of food away isn’t the end of the world. This Whole 30 really helped me to be aware of what I am eating and how much the little bites add up. Will I change the foods my kids eat going forward? Yes, some of them as we make baby steps towards healthier eating. I knew this was going to be a challenge for my husband and me so I wasn’t going to force our 5, 3 and 1 year old into it. They tried bites of everything we tried and only the roasted brussel sprouts inspired tears. Ha.
9. Learn how to make all the sauces.
The food is good but you will miss the condiments. Mustard is fine to buy but you have to make almost everything else yourself. I didn’t like mayo until I made my own homemade mayo. Homemade mayo is actually good…and that’s good because you have to make homemade mayo to make ranch. I tried a couple recipes before I found an easy ketchup without dates and a delicious ranch we liked. Those sauces helped get us through.
10. I like almonds. And almond butter.
This is worth noting because I didn’t before I started! However, once your food choices are suddenly limited your tastes expand (or adapt?). I also learned that a bite of a chocolate coconut larabar can be amazing if you are in the middle of a Whole 30. Before I started, that wouldn’t been nearly enough chocolate for me. But now? It really satisfies those cravings. And almonds? Those were a lifesaver. I think I bought a bag at Aldi almost every week. I found a jar of organic (sugar free) almond butter at Kroger and that was a huge help to have some with apples when I needed something sweet. Buy almonds and almond butter. You’ll be glad you did.
11. You can make sweet potato chips in the microwave.
When you are missing something crunchy, slice a sweet potato as thin as you can (or use your Pampered Chef mandoline that has been collecting dust to do the same). Put them on parchment paper in the microwave, salt them and microwave for 3-4 minutes or until crisp. It is time consuming but it was nice to be able to make these once or twice when my husband really missed his chips.
12. Stock up on olive oil.
Since it is one of your primary oils, you will go through a lot of it. The best price I have found is at Kroger. Yes, Kroger beats Aldi, Meijer and Walmart for being a better value on olive oil. You will use it to roast veggies, cook meat and make homemade mayo (as well as other sauces). You need to have a supply of olive oil in your pantry for your Whole 30. On the flip side, don’t stock up on coconut milk. I saw it mentioned by many people and bought several cans. I didn’t even use one full can during the 30 days.
13. Some of your favorite recipes can easily be adapted to be Whole 30 compliant.
I only had to make a minor tweak on our chili recipe to make it Whole 30. Serve spaghetti and meatballs over spaghetti squash instead of pasta and you have another compliant meal. Oh, and my meatballs that the kids love? I made them with just hamburger, diced onions, salt and pepper and Andy liked them even better than before! Even better, the kids didn’t notice a difference at all and still gobbled them up. Once again, that is a small and easy healthy switch I’ll be keeping.
14. You can lose weight when you aren’t counting calories – if you are eating real foods.
I’ll be honest. I probably could have watched my portion size a bit more, but I simply ate until I was full and tried not to snack. If I snacked, it was on almonds, fruit or veggies, hard boiled eggs or olives. I stopped eating after dinner too…most days. All of those little changes help whittle away the pounds.
15. You can do a Whole 30 on a limited budget!
The first two weeks, I did go over our monthly budget slightly because I had stocked up on different household things at the beginning of the month, before I knew I going to start a Whole 30. The second two weeks, I stayed right on budget. For those who are unaware, we currently have a $400 monthly grocery budget for my husband and I, and 3 children (ages 5, 3 and 1). This budget covers food, toiletries, diapers and household supplies. If I can buy plenty of meat and vegetables and unprocessed foods on a tight budget, anyone can! I wrote another detailed post about How to Do a Whole 30 on a Budget here.
Whole 30 Resources:
The official Whole 30 book is very helpful for explaining all the rules and background. I didn’t use a lot of their recipes but it was helpful to read through all of them and get ideas. Either buy a copy or borrow one from your library for your Whole 30. It will be very helpful.
The Whole 30 website also has some great free printables with the rules and sugar guidelines. I printed them all out and kept them in a folder with my recipes so everything Whole 30 was in one place.
The best resource for recipes? Pinterest. Without a doubt, Pinterest was my go-to place for discovering Whole 30 recipes and ideas. Do be careful to read all the recipes carefully because I did see a couple recipes that said they were Whole 30 compliant but used ingredients that weren’t. To check out some of the Whole 30 recipes and tips I pinned, visit my Whole 30 Pinterest board here.
Favorite Whole 30 Recipes:
I tried a lot of new recipes for our Whole 30. Some of them were disappointing (zucchini fritters, ahem) but some were quite good. The recipes I am sharing below are recipes I will make again – even when we’re not on the Whole 30. That’s how good they are.
- Zesty Chicken Bites from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen – My sister told me to make these and we loved them. They are a bit more time consuming but absolutely delicious. The leftovers are great for topping a lettuce salad the next day.
- Crispy Sweet Potato Fries from Pasta to Paleo – These sweet potato fries are amazing! The seasoning compliments the sweetness of the fries perfectly. I will definitely continue making these fries!
- Roasted Potato Wedges from Avocado Pesto – If you didn’t know how much to make perfectly roasted potato wedges, this recipe helps. I vary the seasonings but follow the temperature and time for my fries. It’s handy to know because the kids will eat homemade “french fries” when I cook them this way.
- Harvest Chicken Salad with Herbed Aioli from Paleo Running Momma – Andy and I ate this almost every day for lunch the entire first week. It’s that good. The flavor of the chicken salad is excellent and it’s worth making homemade mayo for this recipe alone.
- Crock Pot Balsamic Chicken from Skinny Ms – I had made this before our Whole 30. It’s a quick and healthy crock pot dinner that tastes good hot – or cold over a lettuce salad.
- Skinny Egg Roll Bowl from Sammi Ricke – This was the easiest recipe I made and so good! It really tasted like an egg roll without the wrapper. Totally worth buying coconut aminos for this recipe!
- Sweet Potato Apple Breakfast Bake from Paleo Running Momma – This was the perfect breakfast option when you get sick of eating eggs every day for breakfast. I like it with mashed sweet potatoes too, and doubled the recipe the second time to have breakfast for a couple days.
- Almond Joy Lara Bars from 40 Aprons – You really aren’t supposed to eat things like this on the Whole 30, but I made a batch my last week for Valentine’s Day. They were so good! I rolled them into little bite sized balls and managed to eat just one or two after a meal and it was the perfect bit of chocolate to satisfy me.
- Homemade Taco Seasoning from Kate Moving Forward – I had made this seasoning before and needed it for the Whole 30 so we could have taco salad. It has a great flavor and I plan to keep making my seasoning instead of buying it from now on.
Whole 30 Tips:
If you are considering doing a Whole 30, go for it! I think it is a good challenge that anyone can benefit from at least once. Will I do it again? I honestly don’t know but I am glad I did it at least once.
Research, plan and read up on everything Whole 30 before you start. Start a Pinterest board with all your favorite Whole 30 resources (like this article!) so you can reference those resources and recipes later.
Give yourself grace. The Whole 30 is pretty rigid saying you must start over with one taste of something that is not approved. I mistakenly ate pasta sauce with canola oil and a Larabar with vanilla extract. Gasp. I did not start over for those minor “mistakes.” It is up to you how rigid you are going to be. My personal take? If you make a minor variance like one of these (and it’s not sugar), give yourself grace and move on.
Stock up on almonds, almond butter, olives, olive oil, lots of fresh vegetables, and the occasional Larabar.
Be ready to shop at different stores to get the best deals and spend more time in the kitchen. You can do this!
While 30 days may seem like forever in the midst of a Whole 30, it really is only one month of your life. Give it a try and see how you feel and what you learn. I think you’ll be glad you tried.
Have you completed a Whole 30? What tips would give to others considering the challenge?