The Whole30 Thrive Guide
Its the January Whole30 and I'm feeling AMAZING. So I thought I would create this little guide for you on all things Whole30. You thought I was going to call it the Whole30 Survival Guide, didn't you? HA. Nope. Instead, I'm going to share my tips on how to THRIVE on your Whole30 and what resources I personally couldn't live without. But first, lets break down the rules. Here are the exact rules from the Whole30 website and I'm going to break them down further with helpful tips on how to stay compliant.
THE RULES: The non-bolded are my words, and the bold are directly from the Whole30 website.
Yes: Eat real food.
Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.
No: Avoid for 30 days.
Do not consume added sugar, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize. (I want to add something to this: SERIOUSLY READ YOUR LABELS. A couple examples: deli meats, ketchup, bbq sauce, nut milks - Starbucks nut milks all contain added sugar. Really pay attention and take the extra time. You will learn so much and it will seriously open your eyes to the food you have been consuming)
Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking.(And ideally, no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, and all gluten-free pseudo-cereals like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn, and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.
Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin). (Fun fact about peanut butter - it usually contains mold. Peanuts are prone to it. Might make the no peanut butter rule a little easier. Great alternatives are almond or cashew butter)
Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products like milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.
Do not consume carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.
Do not consume baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients. Recreating or buying sweets, treats, and foods-with-no-brakes (even if the ingredients are technically compliant) is totally missing the point of the Whole30, and will compromise your life-changing results. These are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, even if it’s made with coconut flour. (This is an important one. If you are scrolling Pinterest for Whole30 recipes beware of the recipes that say Whole30, if they are recreating junk foods such as fudge, muffins, pancakes, etc - they are out for your whole30. There are tons of recipes out there, and a bunch are not actually compliant.)
Some specific foods that fall under this rule include: pancakes, waffles, bread, tortillas, biscuits, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pizza crust, cereal, or ice cream. No commercially-prepared chips (potato, tortilla, plantain, etc.) or French fries either. However, this list is not limited strictly to these items—there may be other foods that you find are not psychologically healthy for your Whole30. Use your best judgment with those foods that aren’t on this list, but that you suspect are not helping you change your habits or break those cravings. Our mantra: When in doubt, leave it out. It’s only 30 days.
One last and final rule:
Do not step on the scale or take any body measurements for 30 days. The Whole30 is about so much more than weight loss, and to focus only on body composition means you’ll overlook all of the other dramatic, lifelong benefits this plan has to offer. So, no weighing yourself, analyzing body fat, or taking comparative measurements during your Whole30. (We do encourage you to weigh yourself before and after, so you can see one of the more tangible results of your efforts when your program is over.)
The Fine Print:
These foods are exceptions to the rule, and are allowed during your Whole30.
Ghee or clarified butter. These are the only source of dairy allowed during your Whole30. Plain old butter is NOT allowed, as the milk proteins found in non-clarified butter could impact the results of your program.
Fruit juice. Some products or recipes will include fruit juice as a stand-alone ingredient or natural sweetener, which is fine for the purposes of the Whole30. (We have to draw the line somewhere.)
Certain legumes. Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are allowed. While they’re technically a legume, these are far more “pod” than “bean,” and green plant matter is generally good for you.
Vinegar. Nearly all forms of vinegar, including white, red wine, balsamic, apple cider, and rice, are allowed during your Whole30 program. (The only exception is malt vinegar, which generally contains gluten.)
Coconut aminos. All brands of coconut aminos (a brewed and naturally fermented soy sauce substitute) are acceptable, even if you see the word “coconut nectar” in the ingredient list.
Salt. Did you know that all iodized table salt contains sugar? Sugar (often in the form of dextrose) is chemically essential to keep the potassium iodide from oxidizing and being lost. Because all restaurants and pre-packaged foods contain salt, we’re making salt an exception to our “no added sugar” rule.
Now, are you panicking? Please don't. I know so many people who approach their Whole30 experience with a lack mindset. If you look at this list and think, "what the hell can I eat?", you are not going to be successful. Instead, think of all the amazing whole foods you can eat. I have never ONCE been hungry on a Whole30 when I follow the meal template, and make sure I'm getting creative in the kitchen. Here are a few of my tips for kicking your Whole30's ass:
1. Start your Whole30 with an abundance mindset. Think about all the delicious meals you are going to have, the NSV's (non-scale victories), the tiger blood you are going to feel, and all the benefits you are going to get out of these thirty days, like better sleep, glowing skin, better energy, less bloating, clarity, and a new relationship with food, along with new habits to back it up. Bonus: purchase the Whole30 Day by Day journal. It's been a lifesaver for me this round. It lets you fill it in each day, gives you helpful tips and tricks for EACH day from Melissa Hartwig (the founder), lets you write down your meals, and asks you about energy, sleep, and cravings, along with a space to write down 3 NSV. Its perfect.
2. Stock up on emergency food. I like to have Larabars, RX Bars, Seaweed snacks, boiled eggs, carrot sticks with guac ready to grab and go. I want to put a little caveat here. If the Larabar and Rx Bar you consume sets you off wanting cookies, cake, etc and has your sugar dragon running the show - these are out for your Whole30. Practice mindfulness and curate the program to fit your needs, while sticking to the heart and core of the program. This is meant to help you radically change your relationship to food, and you can't do that if you are consuming things that take away your control.
3. Start a herbal tea habit. There are literally hundreds, of compliant and delicious herbal teas. Instead of caving to my sugar dragon, I started drinking a cup of tea instead. Its made a huge difference. Not only do you get a comforting drink, but you get the nutrient benefits from the herbs, the extra hydration and create a new habit. Some of the brands I love: Traditional Medicinals, Stash Organics and Pukka. If you have a David's Tea or Teavana habit, read the ingredients list - a lot of the blends have added sugar, or candy.
4. Find other ways of comforting yourself. I get it, sometimes a cookie or a piece of chocolate (or hell the whole bar) feels hella comforting when you are having a bad day. BUT this isn't a healthy relationship to food. It usually means you are hiding from your emotions. And trust me, I get it - I've been in the binge, starve, binge cycle for years. Which is why I LOVE this program. In a few short weeks, I totally changed how I approached food. Instead of eating junk foods, grab a cup of tea, read a book, go for a walk, or my personal fave: grab a tea/coffee and wander a bookstore - instant mood boost.
5. Be prepared. This one is a huge tip. Before this Whole30 I spent about an hour planning out all my meals for the month. Not kidding. I use a meal planning service called Plan to Eat. You can check it out on my shop page. Basically it lets you drag and drop saved recipes or type in what you are having for that day. I took some time to type in all the Whole30 and Whole30 Fast & Easy cookbook recipes I was going to make, and drag and dropped some recipes I saved from Pinterest and other bloggers. Any recipe that is saved on your Plan to Eat account, will create a grocery list for you. But I prefer to take 20 minutes on a Sunday night to go through my printed plan and the recipes and create my own list. I prefer this only because I can make a list that ONLY has the ingredients I need. So if I have the ingredient, I don't buy it again. I grocery shop once a week on the Whole30, not including emergency runs. Sometimes we run out of eggs or something mid week, and I need a quick pick up. I've had a lot of questions about this step, so I will add a FAQ question area below to answer some of those.
6. Make an announcement. I have my meal plan posted on our fridge, I posted that I was participating on social media, let my hubby know "Hey babe, I'm doing this reset this month and I need your support." He's been instrumental, even going as far as prepping family members before we go for meals out so they know my needs for the month and know that I may be eating differently, or asking more questions. Another huge thing: have a buddy. They don't have to be doing the Whole30 with you, but have someone you can say "Hey, I think I want to quit or eat something not-compliant". This is a tip in itself - before you eat something not on program, tell someone and wait for their response. I can bet you that you are going to change your mind before they answer OR their response will change your mind. Sometimes its helpful just to bitch a little guys, and its why I just created this Whole30 Glowstars group on Facebook. Its totally private and totally free. Having someone else keep you accountable is huge.
I also wanted to share this:
Here comes the tough love. This is for those of you who are considering taking on this life-changing month, but aren’t sure you can actually pull it off, cheat free, for a full 30 days. This is for the people who have tried this before, but who “slipped” or “fell off the wagon” or “just HAD to eat (fill in food here) because of this (fill in event here).” This is for you.
This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.
Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip.” Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a pizza, there is no “slip.” You make a choice to eat something unhealthy. It is always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident. Commit to the program 100% for the full 30 days. Don’t give yourself an excuse to fail before you’ve even begun.
You never, ever, ever have to eat anything you don’t want to eat. You’re all big boys and girls. Toughen up. Learn to say no, or make your mom proud and say, “No, thank you.” Learn to stick up for yourself. Just because it’s your sister’s birthday, or your best friend’s wedding, or your company picnic does not mean you have to eat anything. It’s always a choice, and we would hope that you stopped succumbing to peer pressure in 7th grade.
This does require effort. Grocery shopping, meal planning, dining out, explaining the program to friends and family, and dealing with stress will all prove challenging at some point during your program. We’ve given you a huge number of tools, advice, and resources, but take responsibility for your own plan. Improved health, fitness, and quality of life doesn’t happen automatically just because you’re now taking a pass on bread.
You can do this. You’ve come too far to back out now. You want to do this. You need to do this. And we know that you CAN do this. So stop thinking about it, and start doing. Right now, this very minute, tell someone that you are starting the Whole30.
The tough love part is key. And my favourite thing: we are adults and we have complete control over what we put in our mouths. If you make a "slip" it wasn't an accident it was a choice. Its empowering knowing we have total control over the whole thing.
I don't think I could plan all my meals out in advance. What if I don't feel like eating what I planned when that day comes up? Well this one is easy, taking the guess work out of meals and guaranteeing I had the right ingredients in my fridge took a ton of pressure off. If you really don't feel like the meal you planned, make something else AND that meal anyways. Leftovers and planning leftovers are so important.
What cookbooks do you use? I totally recommend the Whole30 original book and the Whole30 Fast & Easy. The recipes contain simple ingredients that you can actually find, and can be made quickly. Plus they are delicious. Some other recommendations are the Against All Grain books. They are currently on my wish list BUT I adore her blog and the recipes she has there as well.
What do you think about the program, and how do you feel? I always tell people the honest truth - I LOVE THIS PROGRAM. I will 100% recommend it to anyone who asks, including clients. I have more energy, sleeping better, and feel totally in control of my food choices. Also - it's delicious and keeps me on a schedule that feels doable and balanced. I'm having a ton of fun experimenting and trying new recipes in the kitchen.
Where do you buy your Rx Bars, Nutpods, etc? This one is easy. I love NaturaMarket for all my Canadian friends - it's free shipping over 49$ and they have a HUGE selection. You can even choose Whole30 in the values section and it will only show you products that are compliant. You can get a link on the home page of my website to check it out. If you live in the states, Thrive Market is a great option too. If you aren't looking for an online option I love Goodness Me, which is my local health food store. But Whole Foods is a great option too.
What books would you recommend? Aren't there 6 Whole30 books? Good question. Ultimately you do not need any of the books to be successful on a Whole30. The Whole30 website has it all included rules, recipes and tips. HOWEVER. I strongly suggest picking up the original Whole30 book, just because it has everything on paper for you. Its a great beginner guide to if you are just learning the basics of cooking (perfect for those of you who finger cook, and just order food). I also suggest It Starts with Food (the geek in me is loving it) if you are someone who needs the science before you will commit to something or making a change. Its loaded with research and information. The other book I recommend is the Whole30 Day by Day. Its a companion journal and it seriously is loaded with information, tips, what to expect and areas to write down your wins or NSV, what you ate, what went well, and gives you little challenges for extra credit. Its fantastic and I could honestly suggest just this book on its own if you could only pick one.
What is bulletproof coffee? Isn't it just a bunch of extra fat? Although this question is not directly related to the Whole30, I felt it deserved being added because it IS compliant. Its also a drink I have multiple times a week. So bulletproof coffee is basically coffee or a herbal tea (like dandelion) that you have with ghee, MCT oil or brain octane oil or straight up coconut oil, and then you blend it. I like mine with coffee, ghee, brain octane, and collagen powder. It turns into this frothy, creamy, delicious latte like coffee without the dairy and sugar. Win. BUT people get really scared when they see that it basically is just fat, and protein if you add the collagen. As a society, we have been scared off of all fats for life, which is extremely detrimental. Bulletproof coffee has a ton of benefits, included brain clarity, energy, reduced sugar cravings, etc. But I think it's best I leave it to the expert. So here is a couple blurbs from Dave Asprey who created Bulletproof Coffee and the brand that Bulletproof has come to be known as today.
From Bulletproof.com: Bulletproof Coffee is a blend of mold-free and mycotoxin-free coffee, grass-fed butter (or grass fed ghee), and Brain Octane Oil (not coconut oil, which is an important distinction). Bulletproof Coffee is carefully designed to:
keep you full for hours
promote mental clarity
increase fat burning
support your hormones
If you’ve ever tried a low-calorie diet you know how unsustainable it is. You starve yourself for a few days, and eventually (probably at nighttime, when the ventral tegmental area – the part of your brain that controls willpower – has used up its energy for the day) your friends order a pizza, your low-calorie plan falls apart, and you eat everything in sight. Plus, because your body slows your metabolism down to match your decreased calorie intake, you end up gaining more weight than you lost. Thus begins a painful cycle of yo-yo dieting.
In the long term, restricting your calories like that won’t help you lose weight. Counting calories doesn’t work because your biology is far too complicated to reduce weight loss to “calories in, calories out.” A better approach is to optimize your metabolism and hormones, both of which contribute to fat burning, while curbing your hunger with food that keeps you full for hours.
Bulletproof Coffee checks those boxes. The saturated fat and cholesterol in the grass-fed butter support your hormones (all steroid and sex hormones, including fat-burning testosterone, come from cholesterol) and provide a slow burn of steady energy that’s an upgrade over the carbs in traditional breakfast fare. The Brain Octane’s medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) metabolize into fuel for your brain and promote thermogenesis, increasing your metabolic rate. Plus, coffee itself increases fat burning and metabolism.
All that translates to feeling full for hours while burning fat. Don’t fear the calories or fat in Bulletproof Coffee. They’re doing a lot of good for you. I really appreciate this explanation, and its also relevant for Whole30. The Whole30 Meal template recommends 1-2 tbsp of healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, avocado, etc per meal.
How do you handle Whole30 when you have your period? I'm adding this in because well I think women may be afraid to ask. But 69% of my readers and followers are females. So let me break it down for you. Eating this way is actually incredibly supportive of your cycles. Why? It encourages balanced hormones. Basically your hormones are being supported nutritionally, you are eating whole foods, you are sleeping better, you are taking sugar out of the equation, and often reducing stress by adopting other stress reduction techniques. Which radically support your hormones. But what about cravings? Well I can honestly say by week two of my Whole30 my cravings were gone. Like nowhere to be found. And that stayed the same through my period which started at the beginning of week three. I had a few emotional moments, where my brain said it wanted chocolate, but my body did not. I had a cup of tea, and a nap - what my body really needed and felt great. I do however, supplement with magnesium during this time of the month too. So a cup of natural calm magnesium in lemon-raspberry was a perfect solution - tea and supplement that supports muscle cramping. Another tip (whole30 or no) drink extra water this week.
My FAVE Whole30 Recipes:
This section is small for NOW. I'll be adding more and more recipes as I go. As well as more cookbook recommendations as I continue completing Whole30's.
Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig
Protein Salad p. 161 (my fave combo is grapes, onion, celery, cranberries with chicken)
Basic Mayonnaise p. 179 (Whole30 rite of passage)
Clarified Butter p. 183 (will save you a shit ton of $$ on ghee)
Southwest Scrambled Eggs p.204 (I eat at least 2x per week for breakfast)
Grilled Coconut-Curry Chicken p. 230
Harvest Grilled Chicken Salad p.232 (throws together easy peasy)
Butternut Squash Soup p.266 (fast and a great side or snack)
Salsa p. 319 (a staple in my house, Whole30 or not)
Tomato Sauce p. 324 (I always have a batch on hand)
Chicken Cacciatore p. 334
Stir Fry Chicken p. 340
Shepherd's Pie p. 350
Whole30 Fast & Easy by Melissa Hartwig
Skillet Butter Chicken p. 83
Fajita Beef Skillet p. 97 (Huge winner in our house, toddler approved)
Lemon Garlic Shrimp + Veggies p. 99 (killer and requested MULTIPLE times when I posted it)
Veggie Hash with Eggs p.123
Sheet Pan Shrimp with Sesame Broccoli p. 132
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Harvest Vegetables and Apples p.151 (to die for)
Sheet Pan Buffalo Chicken with Cauliflower p.153
Shredded BBQ Chicken on Sweet Potato Buns p. 238 (my fave meal, literally ever)
Creamy Curried Butternut Squash Shrimp Soup p. 246
Against All Grain by Danielle Walker (website)
Paleo BBQ Sauce (I want to marry this sauce, its fricken delicious. I used it for the BBQ Shredded Chicken recipe)
Living Loving Paleo
Fit Mitten Kitchen
Tuscan Baked Spaghetti Squash (recipe to come soon)
I also wanted to share 2 weeks worth of my meal plans on the Whole30:
I ended up having NO smoothies, I planned them in just in case. But I typically had leftovers on those days or Southwest Scrambled Eggs. As a helpful tip: you don't have to have breakfast food for breakfast. Leftovers are amazing. And perfect for lazy days.
OKAY. And there you have it. I give you basically the Whole30 program with the rules, and some suggestions, my 6 tips for thriving, answer a bunch of your questions, supply you with a list of my fave recipes for you to try and where to get them, and TWO weeks worth of meal planning done for you. This isn't the end of this post though, I will continue to add FAQ, recipes and resources for you as I come across more great ones. But for now, here is a great start. You could get through an entire Whole30 with this information. Seriously.
If you are considering doing one, let's chat OR you can join the facebook group that I linked above. I'm committing to 3-4 Whole30's this year, so lets do one together !