Ever since I completed my first month of Whole30 back in January, many have asked me, “What do I need to know in order to get started?” Melissa Hartwig, the co-creator of Whole30, wants us all to say and believe: “This. Is. Not. Hard.” In regards to beginning and completing the Whole30 program, she is right. It. Is. Not! However, what is hard, is trying to explain the Whole30 program in just a few sentences.
So, here’s a perfect description of Whole30 from an article from Woman’s Day: “Whole30 is a nutritional program designed to change the way you feel and eat in 30 days. Basically, you have to remove all of the potentially inflammatory foods and beverages in your diet (think: added sugar and sweeteners, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods and beverages, baked goods, and junk foods) and eat three ‘clean’ meals a day, made with Whole30-approved ingredients (think: meats, seafood, veggies, and eggs).” The article also states that some of the benefits of doing the program are: flawless skin, whiter eyes, boundless energy, better sleep, a better understanding of how food affects you, a balanced mind, and feeling deflated and debloated.
Whole30 provides endless resources to help you get started and succeed. The information is vast, very influential, and I highly recommend their materials to anyone considering the Whole30 program. The two that I found most beneficial before starting Whole30 is The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom. Aside from amazing tips and a wealth of information, half of the book is dedicated to sharing recipes. Who doesn’t want recipes? Also, I would highly recommend visiting the Whole30 website to those who are still wondering what Whole30 is all about. Before we get into all the fun stuff, like the in’s and out’s of products, kitchen tools, stores, tips, and recipes, I want to share with you how and why I began my Whole30 journey.
This is how and why I began my Whole30 journey, and a few tips to get your started.
To be honest, I didn’t initially want to do it. But, my good friend convinced me we should start Whole30 together. So, I bought the book on Amazon, and we just simply began by getting acquainted with the guidelines. My first thought was, “What am I doing? I can’t not eat dairy! I can’t not eat bread! I know I need to cut out the sugar, but cheese and bread too? No way!” Now, eight months post Day 30, I find it a challenge and an adventure to be creative and figure out new and exciting ways to cut out certain ingredients. Don’t get me wrong; I love cheese and bread! But, after cutting these items out of my diet and realizing how good I felt, saying “no” has become a lot easier and more natural.
Along this journey, I have learned a few major lessons. First, I struggled with how I felt both inside and out but never knew how to fix it. I thought I was being and eating healthy, but what is healthy when there is no change? Second, I ran to food for everything. When my emotions were happy, sad, confused, excited—you name it, food was my answer. However, since beginning Whole30, I try to let food be an encouraging topic of conversation and not something that makes me feel trapped and helpless. I want people to know that food should not control you! If you’re like me and feel like food holds you captive, keep reading!
Below are some of my favorite people to follow, kitchen tools, recipes, and other tips and tricks that have helped me on my Whole30 journey:
Instagram has been an incredible tool for my success. Not only can you use the “save to collection” feature which makes it super easy and convenient to save recipes instantly, but I have also used Instagram to follow accounts and people to encourage me on my Whole30 journey. I found the majority of the accounts below by following the first two on the list because they have a new host every week!
I can’t recommend the use of Pinterest enough. There is an endless amount of recipes, tips, boards, and inspiration. You do have to use Pinterest with extreme caution. Something may be labeled as healthy or Whole30, but you have to read through the entire recipe and double check the ingredients. This is extremely important. The food bloggers I follow on Instagram tend to be Whole30 coaches. Therefore, their recipes and boards on Pinterest are usually spot-on.
3. Whole30 Literature
The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
The Whole30 Slow Cooker by Melissa Hartwig (Note: this book isn’t out yet, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. There are instant-pot friendly recipes too!)
Before Whole30 I ran to food for everything. Happy, sad, confused, excited—you name it, food was my answer. Now I try to let food be an encouraging topic of conversation and not something that makes me feel helpless.
4. Kitchen Tools
There are so many items and tools that you could have in your kitchen. However, you don’t have to have all of them in order to eat the Whole30 way successfully. Below I have listed some items that I use all the time and that I would recommend as some of the first things you add to your wish list:
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (10.25 inch)
Immersion Blender (I use the Cuisinart 2-Speed Smart Stick Hand Blender)
5. Go-To Recipes
My husband and I have a long list, but here are our favorites:
Salsa Verde Crockpot Chicken (This recipe is from @wholemeg and is super easy.)
Whole30 Zuppa Toscana Potato Soup with Kale (This recipe is from Kristi Barnes at Farmstead Chic.)
Whole30 Baked Buffalo Chicken Meatballs (This recipe is from Chrissa at Physical Kitchness.)
Spinach and Artichoke Twice Baked Potatoes (This recipe is from Michele at Paleo Running Momma.)
Roasted Sausage and Veggies (This recipe is one that I created on my own and make once a week)
2 sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 pack of compliant chicken sausage
16oz Brussels sprouts (halved)
Toss in EVOO (or another choice of cooking fat) and favorite seasoning
Roast on 350 degrees until lightly charred
6. Tips & Tricks
Organic vs. non-organic
When it comes to the organic versus non-organic debate, I am going to share what we do (this is not a requirement). I purchase organic meats, but not always organic fruits and vegetables. Living on a pastor’s and substitute teacher’s salary, we choose to stick to a budget. For our family, purchasing all organic items isn’t always an option, and that is quite okay! However, the reason why purchasing organic meats are at the top of my list is that what the animal eats and is injected with impacts what you consume. So, don’t sweat it if you aren’t able to purchase all organic, because who really can? Start smart and small.
Make it easy!
You don’t have to make all of your meals with ingredient lists as long as your arm and items that you can only get at specialty stores. But, it’s also not wrong if you want to do that. Make decisions based on what is best for you and your family. Warning: the grocery bill might seem a little high at first. But, you will slowly begin to learn and find the best local stores, prices, and items so that you can stay under budget. Also, repeat meals! If something works, put it in the weekly rotation until you get tired of it.
For the spouse or family member on the sidelines of Whole30…
I asked my husband if he could give a tip from the perspective of the one living with a Whole30er. His advice was to “make sure to empower them [the Whole30er] verbally and to lovingly endure through the meals that you may or may not have liked. Even more, don’t let yourself be an excuse for them to cheat. Meaning, give them all the reason to stay on track and not make a slip-up.” Great advice!
What happens after Day 30?
Whole30 has completely changed my outlook on food and healthy living. I struggled with food becoming an obsession and a huge distraction in my life. Since Whole30, my view of food is that it’s meant to help me, not hurt me. I continue to use the same recipes, follow the same people for encouragement, and expand my knowledge in these areas even though I am not technically “on Whole30.” I will warn you; there will be people who joke with you and say, “That’s not Whole30!” as you are putting a slice of pizza in your mouth. Don’t mind them. Remember, you made this choice for you, to turn your life in a better, healthier direction! It’s okay if you have a slice of pizza every once in a while, as long as the quick and easy route of eating isn’t bringing you back to your old habits. The fact that you are on this road is amazing, and it is a lifestyle, not a fad. Even after one bad meal, the day is not over, and you don’t have to let the rest of the days be a trainwreck. Get back up and be the best you can be!
I am excited for you to begin Whole30, and I hope that you allow this new journey not to be a stressful time, but a time where you are daily pursuing food freedom and how you can live a happy and healthy life. Whether you lose 1 or 10 pounds, know that you are taking steps toward a better you!
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