I’ve fallen into too many bad food habits lately (oh, kettle chips, how I love you!), and I need to get back on track. The big 4-0 is coming up this year, and I can’t eat like I did when I was younger. My waistline, my energy level, and my general health just don’t bounce back the way they used to! That’s why I’ve just kicked off my fourth Whole30 challenge.
For anyone who might be unfamiliar with Whole30, it’s 30 days of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods only. No sugar or sweeteners or artificial sweeteners, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, and no alcohol. It’s not a reduced calorie diet, but rather a “short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.”
Even though it’s only 30 days, it’s still a huge change for most people who take on the challenge. Having done this three times before, I wanted to share some of my best tips for getting ready for a successful Whole30.
1. Read the book.
It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways will help you understand how food impacts your body and your health and why you’re making these changes in the foods you eat.
This is also a good time to check the Whole 30 website for any updates, changes, or new information.
2. Check ahead in the calendar.
Look to see what events or special occasions might be coming up in those 30 days. Of course plenty of people can and do, but unless you’re very disciplined it’ll be difficult to stand firm on your birthday or at Christmas time. In our family, we work around birthdays and December is right out. But don’t allow special occasions to become an excuse not to start (so no, Labour Day doesn’t count).
3. Consider the time of year.
January is a popular time for a Whole30 for obvious reasons. It’s the traditional time for making a New Year’s resolution, and after the excesses of the holidays, it’s a good time to cleanse your diet and palate. I’ve done a couple of Whole30 challenges in January, and I’ve also done one in July. The July one was great for all the local, in season produce available and the chance to try foods we hadn’t eaten before. That was the summer I made kohlrabi chips for the family. We visited farmer’s markets on the weekend and used as much fresh, local produce as we could. I found that one easier to cook for than the mid-winter Whole30 challenges.
4. Do it with a partner.
Hubby and I support, motivate, and hold each other accountable. I make all the meals, but his job is to wash the dishes. Doing a Whole30 with your spouse is the simplest way to go, but even if he or she isn’t on board, that doesn’t mean you can’t be! Partner up with a friend, or visit the Whole30 forum to connect with others doing a Whole30 too!
5. Pack up all those tempting, unhealthy foods in your pantry and cupboards.
Get them out of sight, or better yet, get rid of them entirely. After your Whole30, you’re not going to fall back into old habits. You’re going to be eating healthy nutritious foods, so donate what you can and get rid of the rest.
6. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan!
What works for me is to make a list of all the Whole30 recipes we like and then plug them into my meal plan. I like to keep it interesting by including new foods and new recipes in my meal plan. Breakfasts are usually very simple in my house, and lunches are leftover dinner more often than not, so my meal plans tend to focus on dinner. I write my weekly meal plan on a white board sticker on the back of my pantry door. I also use it to leave myself reminders of when to take meat out to thaw.
The last two times I’ve documented Whole30 challenges on the blog, I posted weekly meal plans. This time around, I think I’ll keep track of our own meal plans and do one big 30 day report at the end as a resource for anyone else who might be planning their own Whole30 (or just looking for 30 gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free meals).
7. Start with a clean and organized kitchen, fridge, and pantry.
I don’t know about you, but a messy kitchen stresses me out and makes meal prep take longer. You’re going to be doing a lot of cooking over the next 30 days, so prepare your work space!
8. Prepare food ahead of time.
A week or two before you start, make some “emergency” Whole30 freezer meals for those nights when you run out of time or you just need a break. Stock up on quick snacks like nuts, apples, and almond butter. I try to keep a container of cut veggies in the fridge at all times for a quick crunchy snack whenever I need one.
9. Shop for shortcuts.
Especially at the beginning, Whole30 is more work than most people are used to. Pretty much everything has to be made at home. Buying frozen and/or precut vegetables makes a big difference in meal prep time. Same with boneless chicken (depending on the recipe).
10. Expect cravings and have a plan in place for dealing with them.
Quitting sugar is no different from quitting any other habit. Keep a list of strategies you can use when you’re craving. Lots of people find it helpful to drink some ice water, go for a walk, read a book, or do something else to distract yourself.
I hope at least some of these are helpful for you, and good luck with your Whole30! If you have more tips and suggestions to help prepare for a successful Whole30, let me know in the comments!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This West Coast Mommy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you. This income helps pay for the operating costs of my website – thank you for your support!